Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs has done it again.
Though his star-studded Bad Boy Family Reunion at Barclays Center was billed as a tribute to The Notorious B.I.G. — a three-hour-plus extravaganza stretching from Friday night to what would have been the late rapper’s 44th birthday on Saturday morning — it also served as a way to remind people of Combs’ legacy as a hip-hop hitmaker and to refocus it on the more lasting themes of love and happiness.
In case it wasn’t clear enough, Combs even danced to the Al Green classic of the same name during a break when he also showed off his moves to Drake’s “One Dance” and Rihanna’s “Work.”
Combs stressed that the importance of paying tribute to “the greatest rapper” was what got Jay Z to skip his daughter Blue Ivy’s recital and fly “5,000 miles” to attend and perform on Diddy’s “Angels” remix, as well as deliver a blistering version of his own “Public Service Announcement.” It’s likely that also brought in Nas, as well as the heartfelt tributes to The Notorious B.I.G. when the performers onstage let his taped voice carry the songs.
However, the night’s other special guests — especially Mary J. Blige, who Combs said saved his life and career when she signed with him, and Usher — were clearly there as much for Combs as for Biggie.
And, there was The Family, the eclectic roster of artists signed to Bad Boy Records who helped Combs take over pop culture in the mid-’90s, replacing grunge’s flannel-covered angst with Bad Boy’s shiny-suited urban pop. Faith Evans and 112 were good, but Lil’ Kim and Mase showed they have held their star power in the past two decades.
Combs’ star power continues to grow, which is why he says he will be retiring from music to focus on acting, after his upcoming album and a tour next year. Of course, that will only come after he finishes this Bad Boy Family Reunion, which, after another Barclays show on Saturday, will become a 25-city tour through the fall, including a Sept. 4 stop at Madison Square Garden.