EXCLUSIVE Q&A: Diddy-Dirty Money on the new album, a new genre, and how to respond to the haters
Diddy calls his latest project one of his "biggest reinventions" - and the other 2/3 of Dirty Money, Dawn and Kalenna, are happy to be along for the (train) ride.
By Tracy Bratten - iheartradio
It's been three long years in the making, but the latest effort from Sean "Diddy" Combs is finally here. Last Train to Paris is the first studio release from Diddy-Dirty Money, which is a group comprised of Combs, Dawn Richard (formerly of Making The Band 3's now-defunct Danity Kane) and singer-songwriter Kalenna Harper. iheartradio spoke to the group on the day of release, and they reflected on the past three years, talked about being musical pioneers and described the chemistry between them as "magic."
TB: Congratulations your new album dropped today. This is a much-anticipated album, and it's been a long time coming. How do you feel?
Kalenna: Man I feel like I'm floating on the top of the world. We've been working on this album for 3 years, we put so much blood, sweat, tears into it literally. To be able to have a voice and to tell the story in its entirety it just feels really good to have it come out right now. I've been screaming all day.
Dawn: It's really exciting. Puff came to us with a vision of what he had in mind and the world wasn't really comfortable with it, and I think he knew that it wouldn't be something that would be easily marketed and easily sellable to the world. I think when you have something in your head, it's very different than putting it out to the world to understand. But to be able to stay true to what we have, the sound, the soul of it, the vulnerability of the sound, creating a new genre of music - this force-driving electro-pop cool soulful sound - and have people give such great reviews to us after people told you you couldn't do it is monumental for us. People like Vogue, Us Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, LA Times, The New Yorker...
Diddy: New York Magazine just came out with a review. The reviews have been crazy. I mean it's been like, for me, having a child, but like not nine months -- three years. Just having a vision in your head and you want to get it out to the world and have it be something refreshing and new. You know we got Gaga, we got Rihanna, we got Beyonce, Black Eyed Peas, and now we got a different group. It's called Dirty Money.
"It's been like, for me, having a child, but like not nine months -- three years." - Diddy
TB: The album is called Last Train To Paris. Talk about the European influence and how it informed this record.
Diddy: For me I think it was just my travels, of syncopation of the beats, but also it was the backdrop of the love story. Going to Paris different times, being in different relationships and those positive memories.
TB: The record is essentially a love story is any of it inspired by your own personal experiences?
Diddy: Yeah, without a doubt, from all of us.
Kalenna: It was a different perspective from all three of our lives. It was a good mesh of what you've been through, what I've gone through, and what we've gone through in the process of making this album.
TB: For those that don't know, how did this group come together?
Kalenna: I was actually writing. Long story short, I was writing for other artists and my publishing company said, "You know, you hustle so hard, you remind me of Diddy. I think that it would be good if you go and work with Diddy." I was like, "Okay, well put it together!" I just thought it was a big joke. And they called me the next day and said you're in with Puff. We just clicked. Later on I met Dawn - he brought Dawn in one of my sessions - she walked in and I was like, "Wow, I always wanted a twin."
TB: Dawn, America got to meet you on Making The Band 3, where you and Diddy really clicked. What's it like now to be an integral part of this project with him?
Dawn: Making The Band is how I met Puff and it was a long journey coming. I didn't see myself here, coming from a whole different kind of group. But after we [Danity Kane] dismantled or whatever you wanna call it...I had to go back to square one. So I started writing more since I had done it for the Welcome to the Dollhouse album. I don't know if Puff really knew what he had in mind, but when he saw me hustling - same thing with K - we just had the drive to not accept failure. He said, "I have an idea on what I wanna do, and I'd love to see you write some records and reference some records and see how you feel on it." I think he just saw a sound in us that really couldn't be matched. The energy and the type of chemistry we had was just undeniable. It was organic and that's how the group came to be. Nothing forced, something that just organically happened.
"We're two darker skinned girls - theres a lot of chocolate in this group - and that's not something that's very comfortable for this industry right now, that's honest." - Dawn
TB: Why were these 2 ladies the right people for the job?
Diddy: When I first got with them they were just writing for me, and when you're writing with somebody you spend a lot of time with them. We just clicked; the chemistry was there. And their vocals, the rawness to their vocals, the uniqueness to their tone, there was something that really fit the style of what I was looking for. I wanted to make something that had a hip-hop/R&B/pop type of vibe to it. While everyone was going in the dance direction I wanted to go in the other direction, just knowing that there's going to be a day when that changes and I wanted to be right there at the gates just waiting to let everybody in.
TB: People know you as an artist, producer, entrepreneur with Ciroc, Sean Jean, fragrances, you name it...how did you get back into music mode for this project?
Diddy:I can't say I was all the way in music mode when I started. By the time a year and a half passed, I was totally in. By the time it got to three years, I was tired of being in music mode. [laughs]
TB: After you guys performed on the AMAs, the current single, "Coming Home" really started blowing up talk about that song.
Diddy: "Coming Home" for me, this whole album is a personal album for me. I've grown a lot as a man and just grown a lot as a person. I like to write about things and talk about things and perform records that I think people can relate to, and I think we've all been lost in life before, whether you break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend and you fall apart, or you get too much money and you start acting different, or you find out that you've got a disease or cancer and you're going through remission. Whatever your obstacle or struggle is, that may deter you off of where you need to be, and that place is called home. There's a time in your life where you decide, you get right with God and you get right with yourself and decide, I'm gonna start coming home. That's what the song's about. Hopefully a lot of people can relate to it. It's getting played a lot; it seems to be a hit record and we thank God for that.
TB: Skylar Grey is featured on that track she was pretty much unknown before this. How did she become a part of it?
Diddy: Yeah, she was writing, she wrote the song, with the chorus. Jay-Z helped me write the rest of the song, and Alex da Kid - who did "Airplanes," and "Love The Way You Lie" - that's one of his main writers that he works with. I just loved her voice on the intro. We don't have egos, we have an allegiance to the song, and we also had a lot of different featured but we didn't have anybody that was kind of unknown, so we were like, "Hey let's keep her on the front, it sounds good." That's what music is about sounding good let's leave it like that.
TB: You worked with Swizz Beatz, Usher, Chris Brown, Justin Timberlake, Lil Wayne, Trey Songz, T.I., Drake... the list goes on and on and on. Lots of people, lots of different opinions...How do you make sure you're on the same page with the artist you're working with? Do personalities ever clash?
Kalenna: When you're creating, that's what that process is, it's a creative process, so there should really be no clash. You throw things at the wall and you hope they stick. It's just really a magical journey when you're in the studio. Its something spiritual that happens because it's like, "Wow, this is what I'm feeling, this is what I'm saying." A lot of times everybody is on one chord, so it's a beautiful thing. There never was any clash on this album, I mean maybe with... [points a Diddy behind his back and nods at Dawn, laughter]
Dawn: Yeah. [laughs] They're all friends and family of Puff's and ours, and they were callin' and wanted to be on the album. It wasn't like we were looking for them, it was just like Puff was like, "I have an album..."
TB: So people were lining up...
Kalenna: Yeah! Seriously. They would listen to the tracks, and then it would be funny because then they would start pulling on us like "Yo I gotta get on this album." It was more of an exciting family type of thing. If anything it just feels like a family of great music.
TB: You searched for a band to tour with on Making His Band. Are they going to be part of your touring band?
Diddy: You know, we haven't put together the band. We may use some people that we found, but a lot has changed and we want to make sure musically that we figure out what we're doing with the band and it fits and we don't waste nobody's time. We're definitely gonna look at everybody with a fresh eye in January.
TB: You've been known for constantly reinventing yourself is this another reinvention?
Diddy: Oh yeah, this is definitely a reinvention for me. This is probably one of my biggest reinventions because I didn't just rap on the album, I sang on the album. I also have the girls accompanying me, and the style of the music... the music is so different, refreshing and innovative, but it's not so far left that you can't understand it.
TB: With every successful artist there are always going to be those people who don't agree with what you're doing. How do you respond to the critics and haters who don't appreciate your work?
Kalenna: We don't.
Dawn: We don't. We had naysayers out the gate. We're two darker skinned girls - there's a lot of chocolate in this group - and that's not something that's very comfortable for this industry right now -- that's honest. We knew that that would be different in and of itself, and then to add a sound that's new on top of that, we had naysayers and we still have a lot of naysayers, but what you cannot deny is how great the album is. I think the more you see us live and we continue to show that, people will always come on board. We just always say don't be late to get on the train!
Kalenna: And definitely don't respond to the hate, always show love. Love conquers all.
Dawn: The work speaks for itself.
TB: Our network is iheartradio...can you tell me something that you heart?
Dawn: I heart that Dirty Money crew!
Kalenna: I heart horses.
Diddy: I heart my children.
Last Train To Paris is in stores now.