Various Artists

By Ben Hoffman

Listening to this Bad Boy compilation album it’s depressing to realize how little mainstream rap has progressed from the days when Sean Combs was only a skinny punk in the shadow of hip hop monolith Notorious BIG. MCs still half-heartedly list their material possessions and their varying levels of bling, carelessly tossing them on top of overly familiar samples. And here we are celebrating the man who started it all, a man about whom a comedian once asked “who thought wearing a suit was a talent?”

To be fair to Mr. Sean Combs, he may be a bad MC but his productions were once slick and polished, ensuring many a radio-friendly hits.

In the old days it was charming to see how far Puffy (I refuse to call him Diddy until he’s caught with a minor) could push the concept of sampling, ripping entire songs and stapling on stale lyrics with a zealous abandon. You can imagine his shock in how far the public allowed him to go, using the entirety of the Police’s “Every Breath You Take” for his ode to the Notorious BIG,”I’ll Be Missing You.”

Speaking of Biggie, his presence is felt on almost all the tracks and is certainly welcomed but also very telling. Despite protests from Puffy about how this was only the beginning of Bad Boy, this compilation feels like nothing more than the last gasp before Bad Boy Entertainment is smothered in a tidal wave of irrelevance.

But I guess that’s beside the point.

Those of you who will pick this album up, I can’t stop you. Pick it up. Crank up Ma$e’s “Feel So Good” and relive those junior high school dances. And I guess there’s the included DVD with a smattering of those self-indulgent Hype Williams videos with commentary by Puffy himself.

Videos haven’t changed much either, MCs still revel in bling they don’t really own and have to return at the end of the video shoot, playing out thug fantasies for a few desperate moments. Or, the always delightful action extravaganzas, such as “Hypnotize,” that make Steven Segal films seem deep and poignant.

Hype Williams, who directs most of these videos, is technically proficient but lacks any kind of creativity. What’s with this guy? Did he get a wish granted by the Miracle Foundation and managed not to die?

Still, there’s the novelty of watching Puffy’s Will Smith envy on “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems” and how awkward Ma$e appears to be in all his videos. Not enough, however, to warrant a purchase.

Let this compilation die on the shelf, thus allowing for the inevitable end of Bad Boy Entertainment. Don’t feel bad for Puffy–at least he still looks good in the suit.

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