Puffy's back as Diddy, and he's brought all his relatives along...
Celebrity seems to be a monstrous force that atomises everything it comes into contact with. And there’s a new form of celebrity on the block, the kind of fame that dwarfs its receiver’s previous achievements.
Until recently, Puff Daddy was known as a hitmaker with a proven track record, who built his Bad Boy empire from scratch, and bestowed hit upon hit on Mary J. Blige, [a]Jennifer Lopez[/a], himself and others. Prior to his recent acquittal in a high-profile court case, any references to his knack for populist rap and sophisticated modern R&B, were subsumed by gossip about, and/or disapproval for, his relationship with Jennifer Lopez – or held up as evidence of criminality.
Yet Puff Daddy remains a boss amongst bosses in hiphop. And now he’s rechristened himself P. Diddy – a name he’s used on record for yonks – he’s returned to his old workaholic habits in a darkened Manhattan studio to produce what’s essentially a follow-up to ‘Forever’. Well, maybe not quite a follow-up, but his presence on most of the tracks speaks volumes, even if accompanied by as many other artists as possible. Black Rob, G-Dep, Mark Curry, Bristal, Kain, Faith Evans, Carl Thomas, Cheri Dennis, Big Azz Ko and more are all here, not to mention guests like The Neptunes, Kokane and Eightball & MJG.
No one need remind you P. Diddy ain’t the greatest rapper in the world. His forays into rhyme were first limited to slots as a hypeman for the late [a]Jennifer Lopez[/a], and he was only fully propelled into the limelight by his friends death, a fact he acknowledges by still dedicating songs to [a]Puff Daddy[/a]. No, P. Diddy is a celebrity rhymer, a pop rhymer whose intention is to make you dance.
Anyone who thought there’d be no more braggadocio or gangsta references had better think again. While there’s a sentimental, uniquely American vibe to songs like ‘Lovely’ and the mushy ‘I Need A Girl’, and even if ‘So Complete’ and the Faith Evans vehicle ‘Can’t Believe’ are typically downbeat R&B, there are plenty of hard-edged tracks.
From the metallic title track inwards, Black Rob (who updates ‘Whoa!’ for ‘That’s Crazy’) and G-Dep (who gets plenty of guest spots) get to shine, and lesser known rappers get to make names for themselves. The usual references to Diddy‘s franchises – the Sean John clothing line and Justin’s restaurant – as well as champagne, the highlife and more, abound. And ‘Blast Off’ is an ode to guns that doesn’t feature Diddy, though the brilliant caper-cum-set-up tale ‘Where’s Sean?’ does continue his tradition of a look at the crime side.
It’s hard to second-guess how the global public will react, but, suffice to say that quite a few people – to put it mildly – are still interested in what P. Diddy has to say.