No Way Out by Puff Daddy & the Family (1997)

27Apr11

Sorry haters…this record is dope! When Biggie died, the landscape of Bad Boy was irreparably damaged. The only thing Puffy could do was keep it moving. He was never supposed to be the face of his record label, but now he really had no choice but to try. You would think that his first album would be a forced effort to cover up Biggie’s absence, but instead Puffy delivered an epic hip hop record that took the industry by storm. No Way Out has it all…radio hits, classic rock and R&B samples, guest appearances from the likes of Busta Rhymes and Jay Z, and best of all it’s RAP. Puffy’s image to this point was of a producer and dancer. His only real public verses were an embarrassing screamfest on the ‘Dolly My Baby’ remix, so his surprisingly smooth delivery on No Way Out told the fans that he was ready. He was never going to be a rapper in the league/category of Biggie, but within the newer pop/rap genre he was delivering exactly what fans wanted.

Fortunately, Biggie was around for most of the recording of this record, and he’s featured in a bunch of songs. None are better than the opener ‘Victory’, also starring Busta Rhymes. This song should only be played at an unreasonably high volume, during pre-drinking parties or in the car on your way to fight someone. I actually remember the first time I listened to this CD, and I vividly recall saying “holy shit” to myself as ‘Victory’ was playing. Check it out. ‘Been Around the World’ kicks off the trademark Puff Daddy sample spree, placing Lisa Stansfield’s classic hook on top of David Bowie’s genius music to form hip hop gold. Another obvious sample is the Biggie tribute song ‘I’ll Be Missing You’ borrowing the framework of ‘Every Breath You Take’ to create an appropriate homage to the fallen great. And ‘Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down’ closes the album in style, creatively adapting Matthew Wilder’s tune and Grandaster Flash’s beat into a danceable club track. There are plenty more samples throughout the record, but those are the most obvious. Puffy takes a lot of heat for jacking other people’s music, so I think it’s appropriate to acknowledge that he didn’t just release a remix record here.

Things get really hot at ‘Do You Know?’ with the emotional instrumentation and backing vocals, and a noticeable change for the better in Puffy’s delivery. It’s a really serious message, and his inflection reflects that…a solid sign of growth/depth as an artist. Purist rap fans will drool over ‘Young G’s’, which maybe serves as a passing-the-torch track as Jay Z sets up Biggie for the win. Radio rap fans loved ‘It’s All About the Benjamins’ for good reason. The track was already a proven winner on the mixtape circuit for a year or so (back when mixtapes were really tapes!) and this home run remix turns up the heat. The only low point on the whole album for me was the hook for ‘Friend’…this song sounds like a winner for like 1 minute, then the hook totally destroys everything. But having only one stinker in the bunch is pretty good for a rap record!

I skipped a few solid tracks in this review (‘I Love You Baby’, ‘Is This the End?’, ‘Senorita’, etc) so just look at a used CD store for the whole thing. Sure you could download the 2 or 3 party songs that you’ll keep coming back to, but listening to the album as a whole really helps you go back to the mood of rap at the time. No Way Out symbolizes the positive change in rap after the violent deaths of Biggie and 2Pac…the biggest thing that stands out 14 years later is the peaceful approach that Puffy took with his lyrics. It would have been easy to come out talking about “I’m gonna find whoever did this and kill your ass”, but he didn’t. Considering the circumstances, I’d say he exercised remarkable restraint and helped pave the way for fans to get past the anger. Like it or not, musicians are role models who help their fans figure out how to feel about life…and in this case Puffy’s approach gets an A+. Funny, I didn’t really notice this at the time, but in retrospect I admit that I was listening to No Way Out again looking for signs of anger and revenge. Instead we listened to Puffy deal with the pain of losing his friend, without blatantly angry lyrics (listen to ‘Pain’ and you will agree). The man is a pioneer, and No Way Out will always be his greatest legacy. An A+ for the music too!

music turtle recommends: UH HUH…YEAH

What do you think about this album? Comment below

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One Response to “No Way Out by Puff Daddy & the Family (1997)”

  1. 1 page23

    Classic!!!


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