When it came to R&B and hip-hop music crossing over in the mid-90s, one need look no further than Bad Boy Records and its pinnacle release, No Way Out, which sold upwards of 7 million copies in the United States. Helmed by Sean Combs, the man with the ever changing stage name (in 1997, he was Puff Daddy), No Way Out is considered his debut album. However, all but two tracks feature guest appearances from artists on his label, hence “the Family” in the album credit.
There are some bonafide classics on this album. For starters, there is the megahit, “I’ll Be Missing You,” Puffy’s ode to Biggie – featuring Faith Evans and 112. The song was inescapable in 1997. It has become a true classic, and to this day would probably be considered Diddy’s signature song. However, the album was full of memorable hits.
“Can’t Nobody Hold Us Down” leads the album, and features Ma$e, who is the highlight of the song. That’s often the case with Puffy – he’s not the greatest rapper by any means. He’s more so a good hype man, and a producer that knew how to put together a hot beat. Not to mention, a shrewd business man.
The album’s three remaining singles featured The Notorious B.I.G., posthumously. Again, he was the highlight of these songs along with the other featuring artists. “It’s All About the Benjamins” features two classic samples, one from the Love Unlimited orchestra and another from the Jackson 5 during Biggie’s verse. The song is hard hitting 90s hip-hop at its finest, featuring Lil’ Kim, the LOX and of course, Biggie.
“Been Around the World” is another track featuring Biggie, and another huge hit for Puffy. These songs helped defined hip-hop and pop music. Finally, there is “Victory,” which features the last verse ever recorded by Biggie before his death. “Victory” was promoted with one of the most expensive videos ever made, an 8 minute short film featuring numerous star-studded cameos.
Overall, it is a solid album that epitomizes the music of the time. Other features on the album include Jay-Z, Carl Thomas, Twista, Busta Rhymes, Kelly Price, Black Rob, Ginuwine, and Foxy Brown. Clearly, Diddy had the power to pull music’s biggest names to collaborate on his project. His music has been through many transitions since No Way Out, but none of his following efforts came close to achieving the type of impact, success and quality of his debut.