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"I don't want to be a boutique label. I've outgrown that. I'm a grown-ass man right now. I want to be a major."

DIDDY'S BACK IN THE MIX

Roy Trakin Samples Sean "Puffy" Combs

Sean "Puffy" Combs has been making up for lost time. Since his acquittal in last year's gun-possession case, the man who now calls himself P. Diddy has undertaken a whirlwind of activity, including a tour with NSYNC, hosting the American Music Awards and continuing with his Sean John fashion line. He's now releasing a new album, his last for Arista under its deal with Bad Boy, P. Diddy & Bad Boy Records Present… We Invented the Remix, which contains his hottest record in awhile, the multi-format smash "I Need a Girl (Part Two)" featuring Usher. Now he's about to go out on tour with Ja Rule, Fabolous, Busta Rhymes and Fat Joe. For Combs, it's a return to his roots, the way he first got into the business, remixing Jodeci's "Come and Talk to Me" by blending it with an EPMD sample to create a hybrid that stormed both traditional Urban and the hip-hop charts. It's a method he's perfected with the likes of everybody from Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey to Sting, Jimmy Page, the Smashing Pumpkins and Limp Bizkit. HITS' own extremely fly Roy Trakin hits the man up for some samples.

What a difference a year makes.
All types of just crazy, incredible, beautiful, wonderful, happy things have happened to me musically. Just having this opportunity to still be doing what I'm doing, having a record climb up the charts the way it is. I'm like—woooo!—it just feels good, man.

It has to be better than what you were going through.
It's better than what I was going through and bigger than what I could have imagined. Especially with this new record, "I Need a Girl," the way it's reacting with the kids, the way the girls are loving it and the way it's reacting in the clubs. Across the board, from the mix shows to Top 40 radio… I never would have thought I would have this kind of listening audience in just a few weeks.

It's from the last album, but it's really a whole new song.
Technically, it's a remix. That's why we called the album, We Invented the Remix. Our remixes are not quote-unquote regular remixes, they're basically new songs.

You did popularize the notion of the modern remix.
Hip-hop has a "braggadocious" tone to it, so it’s kind of fun when we say we reinvented the remix. It's something that's supposed to come across tongue-in-cheek, but at the same time, there are very few people who have remixed the range of people I have.

Many people would say that's your major skill.
To be honest, it's how I got my start. It's nothing I'm ashamed of. I didn't go to school for music. I don't play an instrument. I started out doing what I knew how to do. I tried to use it as a tool to bring different forms of music, like R&B and hip-hop, together. Just mesh things. A lot of times, people are more open to doing that with a remix than they are with an original composition. And it's changed their outlook toward certain styles of music or sounds. I've seen artists whom I've done remixes for change their whole style of music. And it opens them up to a new audience as well.

Why did you go out on tour with NSYNC?
My thinking was, it's good for people to scratch their heads. Listen to Hot 97: On Funkmaster Flex's show, you'll hear NSYNC and Britney Spears. Go into the most notorious hip-hop clubs and you'll hear them, too. On Z100, KIIS… You'll hear Puff Daddy and Jay-Z alongside Britney, NSYNC, Staind and Linkin Park. I think our audiences are coming together, and that's another reason why I make music. I make music to break down barriers. I like performing in front of people that aren't necessarily my audience when I walk in there, but when they leave, they're my audience.

What is the current situation with Bad Boy and Arista?
We're definitely leaving Arista—our contract is up. We're parting ways as friends. It's really about going to the next level. That's why I decided not to renew. I don't want to be a boutique label. I've outgrown that. I'm a grown-ass man right now. I want to be a major. I plan on becoming one of the next super powers. When I speak of things in the music industry, a lot of people sometimes scratch their head and wonder. But that's what I want them to do. I've proven myself over the years. And I will continue to. I'm real confident. I've been training, getting ready for this day for years. To be able to graduate to major status, to put out young music for people all over the world—whether it's rock, pop, R&B, soul, jazz, gospel… International music. You'll see a lot of things come from the Bad Boy label. I'm primed right now to shake things up and break some records.

You're still hungry.
I'm starving right now. There's something going on in music. We're not doing too good. And if we don't keep that passion and vigor, then it's all gonna fail. The game needs some excitement. We've gotta figure some things out. Our music is getting downloaded, we're getting hurt. I have that enthusiasm for myself and my company, and if anybody else wants to get with me out there, then c'mon, let's get down together. This is our industry. This is what we love to do. I've been doing this for 12 years now, I'm blessed to be doing it, and I hope I'll be doing it for another 50 years.

Do you have any time for a personal life? Are you seeing anybody?
I do, but right now, I'm keeping that personal. I'm just chillin', taking it day by day.

How's your relationship with Jennifer Lopez these days?
We're great friends. It's all good. I wish her the best of luck. No doubt. Everything is beautiful.

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