Abe Beame is kicking ill flavor with the Teflon Don.
Download: Revolution & Bullshit (http://www.zshare.net/download/85883691fe0cbe63/)
On December 13th, Rapper/Singer/Producer/Vodka Baron/White Party Promoter/Director/Thespian/Reality Television Dictator/Fashionista/Rick Ross Appreciation Society President/Bad Boy Record CEO/Democracy Advocate/Publicist P. Diddy released Last Train to Paris as one-third of his new project, Diddy Dirty Money.
Within Passion of the Weiss’ sinister midnight society, two strains of thought emerged. The first is the cynical interpretation. The return of Puff as a vulture and tourist—this time hopping on loose hip hop renditions of trance and Euro House in the same way that Kanye embraced Prog Hop. This is Diddy faux plumbing the depths of his shallow and empty soul, aspiring to purchase entrance into the emo-rap market and get a piece of that sweet, sweet “Not Afraid” money.
The other school of thought concentrates on Lil Wayne going “Spottieottiedopaliscious” on us, Justin Timberlake delivering an instant hashtag classic, and wooing potential partners with the promise of love in marmalade. That is, this album is not meant to be taken literally. It’s less a breakup record and more an irreverent hook-up record over some jaunty, fairly innovative production that’s consistently interesting and danceable.
But rather than use this space to hash out its pros and cons, the debate compelled me to delve into the deep and varied catalogue of Sean John Combs, a man who’s no stranger to stirring the pot when it comes to Rhythm and Blues. Despite the polarizing attention Puff receives as the engine that made the Golden Era of Bad Boy run, it’s quite possible that his time A&Ring for Andre Harrell’s Uptown Records in the early 90s left the his most important imprint on the popular music landscape. You could make a convincing argument that more than Timbaland, Jermaine Dupri, Teddy Riley or even R. Kelly, it’s Puff Daddy’s work with Mary J. Blige and Jodeci that’s had the most lasting impact.
It’s an old, familiar story. Circa 1990, the kid who would “huff and puff” when he got mad grew up and attended Howard University. In between parties, he’d take Amtrak home from D.C. to New York, working as an intern for Harrell at Uptown Records. At 19, Puff dropped out of Howard for a position as the youngest executive at the label, where he helped develop Jodeci and is considered largely responsible for signing and developing Mary J. Blige, the Yonkers-born daughter of a nurse and a Jazz musician.
On its own merits, Blige’s first album, What’s the 411? was a great debut record. But what really captured the imagination of urban radio was its spin-off, Whats the 411? Remix, the first of its kind. There, Puff displayed his knack for empire building by wielding his two most potent weapons: his feel for popular production and cross-promotion. The remix album featured straight rips of James Brown via Biz Markie, the “Human Nature” flip SWV then jacked for their well known remix of “Right Here,” he mixed “Top Billin” drums with Rufus and Chaka Khan covers. The guest list included Jodeci’s K-Ci, Heavy D, Greg Nice, C.L. Smooth, Tim Dog, Andre Harrell, Martin Lawrence, Craig Mack, Biggie Smalls, and Puffy himself. In other words, it was a brilliant, seamless mélange paying tribute and blending the respective histories of R&B and Hip Hop. The albums would sell a combined 5 million records.
Fittingly, Teddy Riley sings on an unreleased version of “My Love” left off the original album (On Blige’s Puffy-produced follow up, My Life, she samples Guy’s “Goodbye” on a response record, “Don’t Go”). The New Jack Swing sound he pioneered with his group Guy had been revolutionary, the sound of the moment combining hip hop technique and dance beats with classic soul. Puff and Blige upped the ante, singing over rap production with actual rappers contributing verses. And not just any beats. Often, and most successfully, over the grimiest shit Puff could get his hands on.
The effect opened rap up to an entirely new demographic—females who once preferred New Edition and hadn’t cared for Hip Hop. Like Chris Rock, you can reduce it to getting an old rap record and singing over it, but suddenly, a whole a generation of kids went back and found that a random Tragedy Khadafi song is accessible once Mary had introduced it—and those dudes from Brownsville weren’t bad either.
But not everyone viewed this newfound accessibility as a good thing. Many purists correctly identified this influx of interest and cash as a threat to the direction hip hop had been heading in. By broadening the base and piquing label interest, there would be more of an emphasis on sales and accessibility. For major labels, this meant boiling success down to a formula and pushing parody. But Puff and his Southern alter-ego Jermaine Dupri (who had a similarly preternatural feel for R&B and cultivating young talent) embraced this expansion with open arms.
The offense went beyond music. Like Run DMC a generation before, Jodeci and Blige changed the way artists in their genre looked. Jodeci got R&B singers out of the flowing Aladdin shit and into baggy jeans with backwards caps. The same could be said for Blige, who peddled an around the way girl look, moving away from the well established regal Queen of Soul image, a bastardization of the tradition began by Rose Royce, Anita Baker and Aretha Franklin among others. A loud, arrogant, abrasive Puff was the first to step up and take credit for this shift in image. Puff was lacerated for this meddling with the sanctity of rhythm and blues. And so by turning R&B into rap and rap into R&B, for the first time in his career Sean Combs “killed hip hop.”
In the wake of his firing from Uptown, Puff continued to alter the trajectory of R&B. Bad Boy artists Faith Evans, 112 and Total sang over original hip hop geared production to great success. Puff engineered remixes for Mariah Carey and had a hand producing songs for TLC on their R&B album of the decade contender, CrazySexyCool. From that point on, every R&B act—from Aaliyah and Brandy to R. Kelly—has made concessions to the sound he created (with the exceptions of neo-soul and retro soul that came much later, and arguably in a reaction to hip hop soul, a genre coined by Blige herself).
It would be difficult for an objective individual to look back at Puff’s catalog and not call it brilliant, but this admission always seems to come begrudgingly in hindsight, for good reason. Puff’s brilliance has been one of obviousness. Of course Rap and R&B make splendid bed fellows. Of course there’s an inevitable timeless appeal to a straight beat jack of a great song. Of course, a medium as prose heavy as Hip Hop lends itself well to operatic narrative (with all due respect to De La Soul’s sprawling pastiches and 2Pac dozens of personalities, Puff and Big condensed it to a science).
But despite the apparent inevitability of these logical conclusions, each time it’s been Diddy behind them, moving assuredly and ignoring his detractors until they’re attempting to ape his sound. From Timbaland’s moment in R&B that would come late last decade, to today, in which Haddaway is sample material and lead single fodder, Rap & House have been on a slow march towards collision. Once again, there is precedent in this movement that has roots in rap’s inception going as far back as Bambataa and Kraftwerk. Once again, Puff’s album sounds like the perfected, final draft of this fusion. Last Train to Paris is a blast, one that takes suggestions of genre, be it Hip Hop, R&B or a number of variants of House and throws them in a refreshing alchemical soup with abandon. You can hate him now, but don’t be surprised if Last Train to Paris is eventually viewed as another strong contribution in a long and storied career of trail blazing Hip Hop.
ZIP: Revolution & Bullshit (http://www.zshare.net/download/85883691fe0cbe63/)
1. Mary J. Blige- Love No Limit (Remix)
2. Total- No One Else (Puff Daddy Remix) (ft. Foxy Brown, Lil Kim & Da Brat)
3. Faith Evans- You Used to Love Me
4. 112- Love You Like I Did
5. Mariah Carey- Fantasy (Bad Boy Remix) (ft. ODB)
6. Jodeci- Come Talk to Me (Unplugged)
7. SWV- Someone (ft. Puff Daddy)
8. Mary J. Blige- Real Love (Remix) (ft. Biggie Smalls)
9. 112- Come See Me (Remix) (ft. Black Rob)
10. Jodeci- In the Meanwhile
11. Mary J. Blige- I’m the Only Woman
12. Total- Kissin You
13. Mariah Carey- Honey (Bad Boy Remix) (ft. Mase & The Lox)
14. Jodeci- Won’t Waste You
15. 112- Q, Mike, Slim, Daron (Interlude)
16. Mary J. Blige- Mary Jane
17. Uptown Records- Next Stop Uptown
18. Notorious B.I.G.- Player Hater