I already know what you're thinking. I saw it happening while I was writing today's post. My efforts to quietly attempt to continue this blog, sneaking in and completely ignoring the fact that I've been away for nearly two months, are going to be quickly thwarted by reactions of the “This is what you come back with?!?” variety. And it won't really matter what I write, or that I even returned to begin with, because you two will only focus on the subject of the post, a man whom most of you have already formed an opinion that isn't going to budge regardless of what I say.
But you don't always get what you want.
I certainly didn't want a planned short hiatus to balloon into a forced vacation because of a computer problem turning into an issue with the motherboard, which then turned into my hard drive being wiped clean, which caused me to have to try to rebuild my music collection from nearly the ground up. (By the way, I lost a shit-ton of mixtapes in that fiasco, but I just don't give enough of a shit to look for them again, so sorry, Wale, Asher Roth, and everyone else I never got back around to because I quickly lost interest. Although if one of you two happens to have all of Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Friday leaks (including alternate versions of some of the tracks) and are willing to share, I would greatly appreciate them.) So I'm under enough stress as it is, and I don't really have the time or the patience to deal with people bitching about free content on a site that helps you kill time at work. (Shout-out to my wife, who has somehow accepted and supported the continued existence of this site even though life keeps getting in the way, especially since she also lost some of her own music and was pissed, although not nearly as much as I was.) I've accepted the fact that I'm never going to write about every single rapper and album that you have all requested, not even if I let this blog run for another twenty years (which, trust me, that ain't happening), so instead I opted to roll with something that I thought would make for some funny commentary, and if you all decide to run in the opposite direction because of the subject matter, I can't stop you, although I will say that you're missing out on the point of the blog.
I suggest you try a different tactic today (and moving forward, in a perfect world). The name of today's album is The Saga Continues..., and it comes from P. Diddy & The Bad Boy Family (formerly Puff Daddy & The Family). Have you stopped grinding your teeth in anger yet? Okay. Now I urge you two locate a copy of this album: I strongly doubt any of you actually owns one, since nobody on the planet will cop to having this in their library, so do what you have to do to obtain one. I won't tell anyone, I promise.
Let's try listening to the album, track-by-track, and forming opinions based on what you hear, not what you read (that's right, I'm perfectly happy with you disagreeing with me entirely, even though I know I'm right), and, and this is really important, not based on what you already think of the artist. Because here's the thing: everyone hates Puff Daddy. You're not special. Hell, I do, too. Bad Boy Records is still trying to shake their classification as a label that relies heavily on samples from other, better songs in order to get their points across. And they're doing so while still reeling from the loss of The Notorious B.I.G., one of the best rappers of all time (although even that is based on the fact that we never got to hear Biggie flounder and pick up cameos on inferior artists' projects, but that's a subject for another time). And you have to admit, you have liked (or even loved) some of what the label has released, and at least three of those things include a co-starring role for Sean “Puffy” Combs. So get over yourselves, and actually try listening to the goddamn album. If you hate it after the fact, that's on you, but at least your opinion will be much more informed.
The Saga Continues... came during a time of reconstruction. The Bad Boy Records of yore was long gone, with Biggie deceased, Craig Mack having trouble holding on to his double shifts at Rite Aid, Ma$e opting to do the work of the Lord, Shyne (who was never actually all that popular and is included on this list as a formality) sitting around lazily in prison, and The Lox acting like the hypocrites they are, railing against Puffy and his radio-friendly demeanor while completely forgetting that they all signed the fucking contract, and come on, even Biggie's Ready To Die relied on samples and radio airplay to get its point across, so what were they really expecting?
Puffy responded to the changes the only way he could: by signing a bunch of new acts. He even changed his rap name to P. Diddy, which is how I won't be referring to him this evening because that name is somehow worse than Puff Daddy. (This all took place before he lost the "P" and started going by just Diddy, which is less ridiculous?) All of this somehow signaled a time of rebirth for Bad Boy Records, which meant it was time to start releasing new music to the masses.
The Saga Continues... is Puffy's third album, although his debut, No Way Out (which featured the masterful Biggie and Busta Rhymes-featured “Victory” and “It's All About The Benjamins (Remix)”, which I still hear once a week on Sirius XM's Backspin and never fails to brighten my mood), was credited to Puff Daddy & The Family, and the follow-up, Forever, is assigned to Sean only. It wasn't always intended to be his third album: Puffy was actually working on a gospel album alongside Hezekiah Walker entitled Thank You, and got so far as to have press releases and sampler CDs shipped out before abandoning the project altogether. Thank You was recorded around the time Sean was sweating under courthouse lights regarding the infamous club shooting that his lackey Shyne ended up taking the fall for, so the fact that he immediately abandoned it in favor of The Saga Continues..., which is essentially a glorified label sampler made up of boasts 'n bullshit that praise the almighty dollar just as often as they do an anonymous deity, almost makes one think that Thank You was the result of a tearful prayer where Puffy promised to honor his Lord and savior if he was able to walk away from the case, and once he accomplished that, he quickly backed off of his promise. The disc itself may as well have a graphic of a shiny middle finger placed right in its center.
Forced to work with what he had (not only did he lose the heavy hitters on his label roster, he also had previously severed his working relationships with many of the Hitmen, Bad Boy's former in-house production team that was responsible for why No Way Out didn't suck like it should have), Puff Daddy recruited lesser-known producers to work alongside bigger names such as The Neptunes and, well, himself, technically, and those beats were then handed over to rappers with names such as Loon, G. Dep, and Black Rob, the only dude on the label at the time who had the distinction of also appearing on No Way Out back when Puffy had more famous friends. In fact, The Saga Continues... isn't only the first Puff Daddy solo album (although, since it is credited to a nonexistent group, he doesn't shoulder all of the blame for the album's trajectory) to not feature Biggie, Pastor Ma$e, or The Lox, it's also the first to exclude still-living (at the time of this writing) outside guests such as Jay-Z and Lil' Kim. And the outside influences on here are minimal at best: Puffy appears to have locked his entire roster in the studio and forced them all to contribute in some form, or else they wouldn't get any pudding. (This actually only applies to the rappers on Bad Boy: the R&B side of the house, which also made Puffy a substantial amount of disposable income, didn't suffer nearly as much turnover as of 2001, although girl group Total was no longer among its ranks.)
The Saga Continues... inexplicably sold a bunch of copies, and Puffy interpreted that sales performance as proof that he was capable of moving units off of the strength of his name and his label's past history alone. Which was true at the time. But there's a reason why most of you two who have made it this far into the article won't really remember much from the project, but can recite Biggie's verses from “Victory” at the drop of a hat.
Enjoy! Or just be glad that there's a new post. Either or, I'm good.
1. THE SAGA CONTINUES (P. DIDDY, G. DEP, BLACK ROB, & LOON)
The first feeling you have once this title track kicks off is one of empathy for Puffy. I'm being serious: after two albums featuring the likes of The Notorious B.I.G., Ma$e, The Lox, and other A-listers, Sean Combs is forced to reintroduce both himself and his label, reciting mission statements and platitudes alongside names not quite as likely to garner as much interest as those I gave above. Thanks to the sample from The Alan Parsons Project's “Sirius”, “The Saga Continues” is a blatant bid to incite excitement at the mere presence of...um, Black Robert (who sounds okay), Ma$e's former friend Loon (who doesn't), and current correctional facility resident G. Dep (formerly of the Gang Starr Foundation, which is a true fact)? The fuck? Maybe they're getting ready to make it rain threes, too? (You'd have to hear the song to understand what I'm trying to say there.) It's really bad when you hear the host try to talk himself into believing that the new roster is better than Bad Boy ever had been. I'm fairly certain Puffy couldn't sleep at night while putting this project together. Sigh. (Interestingly enough, the actual scratching on here is credited to one DJ Khaled, who I guess used to do real deejay things before he gave up and started shouting on wax for a living.)
2. BAD BOY FOR LIFE (P. DIDDY, BLACK ROB, & MARK CURRY)
The second single, which sums up the overall theme for The Saga Continues... as a whole: Puffy and his friends “ain't goin' nowhere” because “it's 'Bad Boy For Life'”. Upon its release in 2001, I didn't care for it much, but it eventually grew on me, thanks to the Megahertz beat, which layers fat slices of funk in between what would have been a generic beat, and its accompanying video, which became an MTV staple thanks to the participation of actor/director Ben Stiller and the absurd dance styles of Access Hollywood's Pat O'Brien. Puffy embraces his role as a rapper who doesn't write his own rhymes, but gives himself credit for “surviv[ing] what [he's] beet through” (um, I think Biggie and Shyne's respective families suffered through much more than you, motherfucker), while Black Robert makes a bid for the mainstream acceptance that alluded him after his “Whoa!”, and Mark Curry, oddly not the guy who starred on Hangin' With Mr. Cooper, tries to prove to his parents that he is (was) signed to Bad Boy, see? That's his name in the liner notes and everything! For what it is, not bad, but don't expect much out of this. (I'm aware that there's an official remix of “Bad Boy For Life” featuring Busta Rhymes and M.O.P., an artist and a group, respectively, who are not affiliated in any way with Bad Boy Records, so their participation makes very little fucking sense, but that collaboration appears on another project, one that will probably eventually make its way to my pile, so I'll hold off on commenting until then.)
3. TOE GAME (INTERLUDE) (BLACK ROB & P. DIDDY)
A bit early for this, huh?
4. THAT'S CRAZY (BLACK ROB, P. DIDDY, & G. DEP)
Black Rob's first bar is the same as it was when he kicked off “Whoa!” (a song that still works today, quit lying to yourselves), making it very clear for those of you who can't pick up subtle hints that “That's Crazy” is intended as a spiritual sequel, if not just a rip-off. The titular phrase punctuates every single goddamn bar, whether the preceding words spoken by Puffy, Robbie, or G. Dep could be considered crazy or not. Our host sounds like he's addressing the infamous club shooting where Shyne took the fall while he walked away without a scratch, but he quickly shifts the subject and starts talking about himself, and as such, I didn't give a shit. And G. Dep's line, “I got a mil when I signed my deal” is funnier if you imagine him saying, “I got a meal when I signed my deal”, but for reasons I don't feel like transcribing here. Oh, and this song sucks.
5. LET'S GET IT (THREE THE HARD WAY (G. DEP, P. DIDDY, & BLACK ROB))
The first single, which also doubles as the first single from G-Dep's solo album Child Of The Ghetto, which dropped later in 2001, when nobody gave a shit because it was the post-9/11 world. Since Deppy is the star attraction (even though the track was originally credited to a collective called Three The Hard Way for some fucking reason, Dep gets most of the lines), the second half of that last sentence makes sense, at least, as Sean and Robert sing backup over the Yogi and Mario Winans Al Green-sampling instrumental. Just as I felt back in 2001, Dep's introductory salvo as a solo artist outside of the Gang Starr confines (which would never have happened when Guru (R.I.P.) and Premier were at their peak, although today I'm sure Primo would back a G.Dep solo album just as quickly as he would every other no-name artist he promotes) isn't very convincing, but it could have been a lot worse, and Robbie (who refers to himself as “Rob Marciano”, which only made me think that a collaboration between himself and Roc Marcy could possibly elevate the performances from both men) sounds okay. Puff doesn't embarrass himself nearly as much as he
deserves should, because
I don't care enough to finish this statement.
6. SHINY SUIT MAN (P. DIDDY)
I remember at least the last part of this interlude playing as the intro to the video clip of the next track. Good to know that this is where I get all of my “Shiny Suit Man” cracks from.
7. DIDDY (P. DIDDY FEAT. THE NEPTUNES)
Puff Daddy teams up with The Neptunes (who both receive the 'featuring' credit even though only Pharrell actually speaks on here) because he could easily afford them, and also because they were very popular at the time. From Pharrell and Chad's perspective, this is a swing and a miss, thanks to a beat that is repetitive and a Skateboard P hook that is pretty fucking stupid. But for our host, it's actually not a bad performance, as whoever wrote these rhymes for him was clearly excited at the prospect of reaching a wider audience, which it did, briefly, because The Neptunes. “Diddy” (which should be stylized as “D-I-D-D-Y”, technically) runs through his bars with ease, even burning through the controversial “got Asian women who change my linen” stereotype without breaking a racist sweat. Still, that beat is very annoying, and it's incredibly difficult to look past it.
8. BLAST OFF (G. DEP, MARK CURRY, & LOON)
Ad-libs aside, Puffy doesn't appear on “Blast Off”, the first time he takes a break on The Saga Continues... So with the inmates running the asylum, Deppy, Curry, and Loon waste an already-too-noisy production with pedantic boasts and threats that lead nowhere. Mike “Punch” Harper's work behind the boards recalls a time when Rockwilder was considered what one would call a “popular producer” whose bleeps and bloops extended further than he could ever imagine, and trust me, Rockwilder is not the guy you should be emulating in this here game. At least Black Robert dodged a bullet by skipping out on this weed-carrying shitstorm.
9. AIRPORT (INTERLUDE)
10. ROLL WITH ME (EIGHTBALL, P. DIDDY, & MJG FEAT. FAITH EVANS)
Memphis stalwarts Eightball and MJG were still relatively new to the Bad Boy family back in 2001, so since they already had a built-in fanbase thanks to their work on the Suave House label, it was a foregone conclusion that they would pop up on The Saga Continues... in some capacity. Also, Puffy feels especially comfortable standing alongside overweight rappers. What? Are we still pretending that isn't the case (*cough* Rick Ross *cough*)? To overemphasize just how “smooth” this song is supposed to be, Puffy brings along Faith Evans, who, yes, was still employed by the label in 2001 even though most widows probably would have left the label their deceased spouse was signed to at the time of their passing but maybe that's just me, to croon along to Spike and Jamal's not-awful instrumental. While “Roll With Me” isn't bad, it isn't a good showcase for either Eightball or MJG, who I always preferred even though he sounds like a Ludacris clone without cocaine or caffeine to aid him. I can see some of you two claiming this track as a personal favorite, though.
11. ON TOP (P. DIDDY & LOON FEAT. MARSHA)
Puffy missed his cash cow Ma$e so much that he opted for what he thought was the next best thing: rhyming alongside his friend Loon. (This isn't the first time Sean chose his collaborators because of their associations: he also rapped alongside Lil' Kim and Lil' Cease after Biggie passed away. And should Officer Ricky score a date with the Reaper, Puffy will quickly release a duet with Meek Mill. Mark my words.) However, Pastor Ma$e, never the best rapper but everyone keeps forgetting that thanks to nostalgia, at least managed to be a part of some catchy-as-hell tracks, a feat which Loon will absolutely positively never manage. Fuck that guy. Who calls themselves “Loon”, anyway? And the mysterious “Marsha” in the credits is actually the once-ubiquitous Marsha Ambrosius, of Floetry and rap song hook fame, if you're so inclined.
12. WHERE'S SEAN? (P. DIDDY, BIG AZZ KO, BLACK ROB, KAIN, LOON, MARK CURRY, & BRISTAL)
A posse cut-as-a-cheesy-action-flick is certainly not a bad idea, and the instrumental (credited to Mario Winans, something called “The Natural”, and Puff himself) actually matches the alleged mood as much as possible, but “Where's Sean” might have worked a bit better if Puffy weren't so dependent on newbies to carry his legacy on their shoulders. I mean, seriously, what the fuck is a Big Azz Ko? Nobody knows. Can you imagine what this could have sounded like had Sean come up with this same idea during the days of Biggie and The Lox? A wasted opportunity, albeit one where Puffy mimics The Warriors, a pretty fucking great movie, so I'm not mad at all.
13. CHILD OF THE GHETTO (G. DEP)
I'm not sure why Puffy felt the need to borrow a couple of songs from G-Dep's Child Of The Ghetto, including its title track, instead of forcing Deppy to special deliver two new tracks. Maybe it was cheaper this way? Definitely. But then the audience has to sit through a Coptic production that doesn't gel with the rest of the project, because it was so obviously not created for the project. But the thing is, Coptic's beat is pretty good, and Deppy Deppy Dep Dep does his damnedest over it, with boasts 'n bullshit that only connect about half the time but still sounded enjoyable anyway. So it may not really fit, but neither did Black Rob's “I Love You Baby” on No Way Out, and that song is kind of awesome (even with its Puffy verse, whatever).
14. INCOMPLETE (INTERLUDE) (P. DIDDY & CHERI DENNIS)
15. SO COMPLETE (CHERI DENNIS)
Well, that was awkward.
16. SMOKE (INTERLUDE) (P. DIDDY)
I don't buy the “Puffy smokes out” concept for a motherfucking minute.
17. LONELY (P. DIDDY, KAIN, MARK CURRY, & KOKANE)
Before you have enough time to realize that running the R&B roadblock that was “So Complete” after “Child Of The Ghetto” makes absolutely no goddamn fucking sense, Puffy turns on a dime, shifting back to the “rap” side of the spectrum, using a Mario Winans and Puffy wannabe-futuristic production to spit a spiritual successor to “Bad Boy For Life”, except swapping out Black Robert for a virtual unknown (white rapper Kain, who you don't remember, stop racking your brain) and calling in a favor from Above The Law associate Kokane for the hook because I like non-sequiturs, and this song was obviously recorded with me in mind. The chorus doesn't mesh with the verses, though: Puff, Kain, and Curry are most certainly not complaining about feeling “Lonely” on here, unless one is supposed to read between the lines and realize that all three rappers are fucking miserable and talking themselves up in an attempt to feel better about their success. But a Puff Daddy rap song is hardly the place for subtext.
18. I NEED A GIRL (TO BELLA) (P. DIDDY, LOON, MARIO WINANS, LO, & JACK)
Our host had two fairly big radio hits with "I Need A Girl”, a love rap released in two parts with varying guests and tempos. Both of those tracks originated from this song, which was never serviced to radio and will probably sound completely foreign to those of you two who remember the aforementioned alternate takes. Coptic's instrumental is repetitive but not horrible, while Puff delivers a verse that you'll probably recognize from one of the remixes. (I can't remember if Loon also reused his performance from “I Need A Girl (To Bella)”, but I don't care enough to look it up right now.) This is just another love rap that insists that, for any female companion to meet his absurdly high standards, she must be willing to “ride” for Puffy, and both our host and Loon sound insincere as shit. The vocals, coming from Mario Winans (who also factors into the remixes) and something called a Lo and Jack, are also bland and listless. No wonder Sean felt the need to rework this shit for human consumption.
19. NOTHING'S GONNA STOP ME NOW (INTERLUDE) (P. DIDDY, MARIO WINANS, & FAITH EVANS)
Yes, for some reason Puffy felt the need to squander the “talents” of Mario Winans and Faith Evans on an interlude. Hey, it's his money.
20. IF YOU WANT THIS MONEY (P. DIDDY, G. DEP, & THE HOODFELLAZ)
Our host comes straight from the “
write recite ghostwritten
rhymes about what you know” school, so “If You Want This Money”
is all about how much influence one can wield when you have the bank
account to back you up, with a sample from Schooly D's “P.S.K.
(What Does It Mean)?” (or, say it with me, Siouxsie & The
Banshees's “Kiss Them For Me”) backing them up. Puffy and his
poorly-compensated weed carriers, some of whom are grouped under the
store brand name “The Hoodfellaz” because back cover typesetting
costs by the word, all spit inane bullshit, and you know this shit is
uninspired when Puff motherfucking Daddy has the best verse. There's
no contest. Groan.
21. I DON'T LIKE THAT (INTERLUDE) (BRISTAL & MARK CURRY)
Me neither! What are the odds?
22. BACK FOR GOOD NOW (P. DIDDY, BLACK ROB, LOON, & CHERI DENNIS)
Loon spits the best verse on this radio-friendly announcement that Bad Boy is “Back For Good Now”. Yeah, that's an invitation to skip this shit, preferably before Puffy dumps a bucket of fecal matter all over the borrowed beats from Audio Two's “Top Billin'” and Special Ed's “I Got It Made”.
23. CAN'T BELIEVE (FAITH EVANS FEAT. CARL THOMAS)
Puffy's empire was at least partially built from sampling well-known songs to create his own hits, and the most blatant theft on The Saga Continues... occurs on the Faith Evans and Carl Thomas duet “Can't Believe”, which, improbably, takes place over the beat Dr. Dre put together for the only song from supergroup The Firm that anybody gave or still gives a fuck about, “Phone Tap”. Weirdly, this wasn't terrible: the vocals from Bad Boy's veteran crooners (trio Total had long since been dropped from the label, and 112 was...wait a minute, why isn't 112 on this album? They were still on the label! How the fuck did they manage to skirt this contractual obligation?) clash with the methodical beat (whose production credit should have been ceded to Dre, since he did all the goddamn work (relatively speaking; I realize Dr. Dre doesn't really handle production exclusively, he has lots of help, get off my back about it)), but in an interesting way. Not great, but you won't skip over it, either.
24. THE LAST SONG (P. DIDDY, MARK CURRY, BIG AZZ KO, & LOON)
Well, at least the title was accurate. (The next track is a closing interlude.) Also, “Big Azz Ko” is a terrible rap name. Pretty sure that dude vanished from our chosen genre during the duration of this actual fucking song, too.
25. THANK YOU
Look at that, we're done. Huh.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I can't imagine that the two of you who remain would have any doubt as to whether The Saga Continues... is worth the time and effort, but I'll explain anyway: it's really not. Puffy struck gold when he signed The Notorious B.I.G., and even though Ma$e has his own issues, he was still legitimately popular for a good time in the late 1990s, but these motherfuckers on here don't hold a candle to what Bad Boy was in the previous decade. And I say that even though I still believe Black Rob's Life Story is under-appreciated: just because I like the guy and his debut doesn't mean that he ever really stood a chance at hitting the lottery like his predecessors. Puffy finds himself being propped up (for the most part, except when forced to carry a track himself) by Robbie, G. Dep (who somehow turned sounding preoccupied into a short-lived rap career), Loon, Kain, and everyone else who I can't be bothered to name because they don't really exist, and these are not the strongest supports for his body weight. Admittedly, some of the beats veer off into interesting directions, but a good majority of them are stuck in neutral, a gear Puffy is used to thanks to his obsession with radio airplay, and the general non-offensiveness of it all turns into almost naked hatred for the audience, since Sean is convinced that he can do whatever he wants without consequence. This is the guy who once attacked Steve Stoute with a broken bottle, mind you, and never mind that whole thing about the club shooting. Anyway, this was a roundabout way of saying that this album sucks, but it was nice to get back to writing, which is why this is much longer than it deserves to be. You're welcome.
BUY OR BURN? No.
BEST TRACKS: “Bad Boy For Life”; “Child Of The Ghetto” (which shouldn't count, but I just don't care anymore)
There's more to digest regarding Sean “Puffy” Combs if you click here. If you want.