Puffy Combs on the Records
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER OWNED
My mother bought me a James Brown single, “I Got Ants in My Pants (And I Want to Dance),” and I used to put it on my little PlaySkool record player all the time, and dance to it all day and night. I was a ham, so nobody had to ask me. If my mom had friends over playing cards, I’d turn the record player on in the middle of the game and do the James Brown whether they asked me to or not.
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER SLOW-DANCED TO
“Always and Forever,” by Heatwave. I was twelve years old, at a house party. My heart was beating real hard and my underarms were sweating, but I just went with the movement. I had practiced at home before, wrapping my arms around myself.
MY FAVORITE GOSPEL RECORD
There’s a whole bunch, by people like the Clark Sisters, Commissioned, John P. Key. Gospel reminds me of my grandmother. She would take me to church; I remember falling asleep on her lap in a church with no air conditioning and just praying that she would never get up and catch the Holy Ghost. She never did. My grandmother was my best friend, but she died three years ago. (pulls up sleeve to show tattoo on his left wrist) That’s her name, Jessie Smalls.
THE RECORD I BOOMED IN HIGH SCHOOL
My car had the loudest system in Mount Vernon in 1987. I had a black Volkswagen Rabbit, and I put speakers in the back of the trunk, and I would just blast EPMD’s “You a Customer” through the neighborhood. It was loud but nasty–no surround-sound, just noise. I got a bunch of tickets for it.
A RECORD I USED TO PRACTICE MY RAPPING
The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” At the time, rap wasn’t played on the radio, you just heard it in the streets and on mix tapes. So when I heard it had been pressed on a record, I went out and bought it.
A RECORD THAT MOVED THE CROWD WHEN I WAS A PARTY PROMOTER
When I wanted something old-school, Slick Rick, “Children’s Story.” But I wasn’t just the promoter–I was the entertainment coordinator. I was into the whole science of throwing a party. Like, it’s the worst if you go to a party and the air conditioner is not on. Or when you have a lot of beautiful women but the lighting is bad and you can’t see what they look like.
THE RECORD WHERE I APPLIED SCIENCE TO MUSIC
Mary J. Blige’s first record was when I came up with the science of hip-hop soul. The culture was hip-hop-motivated, but the music was not a reflection of what the kids listened to. Radio stations weren’t playing hip-hop, just R&B, so I wanted to have people sing on top of hip-hop beats.
A RECORD I’D LIKE TO SAMPLE
“Bennie and the Jets,” by Elton John.
MUSIC THAT’S GOOD FOR SEX
All of R. Kelly’s joints. He’s the hottest love-making artist out there, and my most favorite producer/songwriter. I think it’s because he’s so spiritual.
MY FAVORITE TRACK ON MY NEW ALBUM, NO WAY OUT
“I Wish This Pain Would Go Away.” It’s not saying I want to die–it’s the opposite. But I’m tired of life hurting me, I’m tired of women hurting me, I’m tired of shit not being fair. I’m not complaining–it’s just about how we all have times when we sit in our room and cry, no matter how old we are.
MY FAVORITE BECK RECORD
The one with the psychedelic dancing, “The New Pollution.” How the fuck do you come up with “New Pollution”? He came in the studio with me last week. We freestyled, played around, tried a couple of different ideas. You know the problems we’ve had with black and white or rappers and rock ‘n’ roll, but he treated me with love. We were from two different worlds, but he wasn’t trying to be me and I wasn’t trying to be him. I was Puff Daddy, and he was Beck. There’s no human being on the earth like Beck.
THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G. RECORD I CAN’T LISTEN TO NOW
I don’t listen to any of it, really, it bugs me out too much. But I like seeing other people enjoy his music at a party, I like seeing Biggie getting the love he deserves. There’s one joint that really scares me, “They Pray for My Downfall.” We were just angry at everything that day, and it felt like we left our bodies. You hear me yelling on that record and the reason it fucks people’s heads up is because they know it’s real. You don’t want be in somebody’s face yelling like that. You don’t even want to see that, see the way the eyes look. I was mad because of the East/West shit–that was so embarassing to me, it had nothing to do with me, it was so out of my character, but it was taking over my life. I really think I was insane that day.
THE RECORD I’D BRING TO A DESERT ISLAND
Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On.”
THE RECORD I LISTEN TO WHEN I FALL ASLEEP
I sleep four hours a night. By the time I get home, I’m so tired, I just leave the television on. I like the sound.
THE FIRST TIME I HEARD ONE OF MY OWN RECORDS ON THE RADIO
It was the first record I ever made, Father MC’s “Treat ‘Em Like They Want to Be Treated.” I didn’t get excited. I guess I knew mo money, mo problems was about to begin, and it almost scared me. I appreciate my success, but I haven’t been enjoying it. I recently won an award, songwriter of the year for ASCAP, and I got depressed. I don’t mean to whine. Maybe I got a problem. The only thing left I enjoy is seeing people dance. Two or three thousand people in a club, smiling and happy with the music–that’s what I love. I don’t do it for the money, even though you gotta pay me in order to do it, you know what I’m saying?
The last time I was happy–and this is going to sound crazy, but I’m not just saying it for the drama of the story–was the last night me and Biggie were together, the night he died. We just sat there and talked to each other all night. You ever be in a zone with one person? The whole world is around you, but it’s just you and this person. It was like that. For some reason, the whole vibe was a happy, happy night. (shows right wrist, which has a tattoo in memory of the Notorious B.I.G., weaved around an ugly scar) That scar’s from a freak accident a year ago. I was reaching for a wineglass out of my girlfriend’s hand, and a diamond bracelet–not the one I’m wearing now–caught it and a piece of glass stuck in my wrist. It cut all my tendons and nerves, so I couldn’t move my fingers. They had to sew it all back together. The press didn’t really get on it, although some of them said I tried to kill myself. I went to rehab for five months, but I still don’t have feeling in my right hand. It’s hard: there are certain things I can’t do with my son, and I can’t even tie my shoes sometimes.
By Gavin Edwards. Originally published in the September 1997 issue of Details.