INTERVIEW: Sean "Diddy" Combs

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 16, 2009 6:00PM

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Special to Chicagoist from Drew Fortune

I’m sitting on a black leather couch at the Hard Rock Hotel, waiting for his highness to appear. Various industry types, entourage and sycophants buzz around me, their faces glued to iPhones. Photographers rush to set up backdrops and check light meters. A custodian is seized and told to turn off the hotel Muzak. She stares back, her face a mask of frightened confusion. Two women in skin-tight, purple dresses mill about sullenly, apparently waiting for instructions or the night to begin. Meanwhile, I sit on the couch, notebook in hand, taking all this in. It’s 5:15 pm, and this is pretty much the world I imagined Sean “Diddy” Combs to inhabit. Despite all the flashbulbs and arms weighed down with watches that would cost me five years’ salary, it seems like a lonely place. There seems to be a curious detachment, even with the text messages and last minute venue changes that keep his posse in a constant state of flux. It’s as if no one is really there, but simply going through motions. I’m reminded of Bret Easton Ellis’ skewering of socialites in Glamorama. ”We’ll slide down the surface of things.”

My interview has been pushed back from 1:45 to 5:15pm, and I’m still waiting. I’m approached and told that Diddy is coming down with a cold, and to stick strictly to the pre-determined interview questions. Diddy is in Chicago supporting Ciroc Vodka’s Last Train to Paris promo tour, and I’m still not sure exactly what that means. Apparently it’s a lot of photo ops, with Diddy the face of Ciroc and sophisticated holiday partying.

He’s also promoting an upcoming release from Dirty Money, his new band, with no actual release date. Diddy’s recent foray into the world of the Home Shopping Network and seemingly never ending seasons of I Want to Work for Diddy certainly haven’t won him any street cred lately. Say what you will, but the man is certainly a mogul. Suddenly, he appears, looking dapper in a tight brown designer sweater and jeans. As he passes, I get a whiff of his cologne (did I mention that he also markets a cologne called I Am King)? I’m told once again to make sure to stick strictly to my stock questions and to keep it brief, before being whisked quickly into a room to meet Diddy. As is de rigueur for the day, I’m escorted to another leather couch. Diddy sniffles, sneezes and looks tired. I get the impression that if I deviate and ask something semi-interesting, I’ll wake up with a lump on my head outside the Hard Rock Hotel. And now, without further ado…here’s Diddy.

CHICAGOIST: What do you have planned for tonight? Are you a fan of Chi-town?

DIDDY: Yeah, I’m a fan. I’ve never really stayed here for a long period of time, but I’ve been coming to town for years. I’ve always had fun when I’ve been here. Tonight is really a celebration of us starting our promo tour, and the whole Dirty Money movement.

C: What is a “sophisticated holiday celebration” according to Diddy?

D: (laughs) I think it’s mostly when everybody drinks responsibly, and nothing gets sloppy. But, for me, it’s just about celebrating at home. A lot of people think you have to go out to celebrate, but it’s really just about celebrating with a good, tight knit group of people. That’s the way I like to do it all the time. People think I love clubs, but I really love a good laid back celebration at home. Before that I was always in the club, so it’s really something that I just discovered two years ago. It’s all about having people at the house who are cool friends, having drinks, music and dancing when you want to dance. You know, jumping in the pool when you want to jump in the pool and being free. I just saw John Mayer’s new video, and that’s a good example of an intimate celebration. Just a couple of friends doing what they want to do.

C: How about New Years?

D: New Years I’ll probably be in Miami, L.A. or Vegas, I’m not sure yet.

C: Is it mainly club stops for the Ciroc tour?

D: Yeah, it’s a lot of clubs but also some liquor store stops. It’s a lot of meet and greets with the top customers and things like that to show appreciation.

C: What makes a Diddy party truly special?

D: Man, I would say it’s the music. We always have the best DJs, but it’s also the energy and the atmosphere. You know when the Ciroc is flowing it’s on.

C: How did you get involved with Ciroc?

D: People brought us together, and we sat down together and fell in love. It’s the smoothness. I don’t like things that have too much of a bite. I like things that are smooth to the palette, and Ciroc is the smoothest to me.

C: Are you a good bartender?

D: Yeah, I’m pretty good.

C: Do you have a signature drink?

D: My favorite to make is the Diddy. We have a drink called the Diddy, which is Ciroc and lemonade. Then we have the O.G. Diddy, which is Ciroc, lemonade and Welch’s Grape Juice. We also got the Dirty Money, which is Ocean Spray White Cran, peach and Ciroc. Yeah, that’s good for the holidays as well.

C: I wanted to talk about the album for a bit. Was it good to be back in the studio?

D: Yeah man, it feels good to be back in the studio. I’m ready to finish up the album so I can get back to the stage.

C: What’s the creative process like for you? When did you start laying down tracks for this one?

D: It’s been about a year and a half or two since I started writing this one.

C: Are you a late night session kind of guy?

D: Yeah, I’m the type of guy that only really starts to wake up until around 6 or 7pm.

C: Got any New Years’ resolutions?

D: (laughs) No man, I’m all good.

C: What would make 2010 a great year for you?

D: Oh man, I guess just being focused, and taking advantage of every second. I’m just looking forward to really working hard to have some incredible results. You get out of life what you put into it.

C: It’s been a good decade huh?

D: Yeah. Most definitely.