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Bad Boy/Arista Records
When a journalist is presented with reviewing a new project from Sean "Puffy" Combs, a certain amount of trepidation appears. Of course, the predictable response is to expect badly rehashed, microwaved samples of hits from yesteryear with subpar lyrics, salted with enough "gleam gleam" that urban radio will pick it up and consumers will flock to the stores. A hitmaking formula -- an easy victim, and one people pick on. However, the real worry is that you'll actually really like something -- "Do You Know" on Puffy's last album featured some of the most gorgeous piano playing of the year on a beat that was so infectious the Center for Disease Control had to be alerted. The Police-driven "Missing You," Twista's star turn on "Is This The End," or Bill Conti inspired "Victory" -- that was an album you would regret liking, but would enjoy anyway. You understand that a certain large and somewhat clueless demographic lives to hear every note of it and you probably aren't counted there, but you worry that Puffy's Reality Distortion Field mojo may put the whammy on you.
There's no such danger on Forever, Puffy's sophomore album, a self indulgent plate of leftovers served up with no passion, no joy, and more importantly, almost no hits, not to mention more guest stars than a week with Jay Leno. Through much of the album, Puffy raps as though he just woke up from a long night of drinking, wearing the same clothes and the same flows. Puffy graces the production boards on three songs and an interlude, and each bear his signature like graffiti on the back windows of a bus -- sampling structures and lyrical arrangements from the original with a sprinkling of late 90s black bourgeoisie materialism.
The largest number of the songs here are instantly forgettable. Kelly Price on "I'll Do This For You?" Yawn. Carl Thomas on "I Hear Voices?" Yawn. Even the posthumous appearance of the Notorious and hip hop's favorite ho Lil Kim on "Real N**gas" is a somnabulent memory.
The best parts of the album are the ones you'll forget due to their utter flavorlessness or general mediocrity. The songs you'll remember will make you angry for a long, longtime. When you hear the opening strains of Club Nouveau's "Why You Treat Me So Bad," you'll almost get jazzed, expecting the west coast anthem "I Got 5 On It" by the Luniz. When you're done with the limp presentation R. Kelly and P. Daddy do with "Satisfy You," the idea of someone sampling a song not three years old and it not being dancehall will knock you over like Roy Jones Jr. Twista returns on "Is This The End (Part Two)?" but without the production of the Chi-Town powerhouse this one is a loud, flat note ringing out. In the year's largest show of biting, Puff replays MC Lyte's classic "Paper Thin" almost line for line and note for note on "Fake Thugs Dedication." The money it must have taken to get Redman on this and another song for the album, risking the blow to his credibility, must have been massive.
Finally, the defecation, er, desecration of Public Enemy's debut album anthem into the cardboard, exhausted "P.E. 2000" is the final insult, as the Fran Dresher-esque voice of Hurricane G pushes you over the edge into the "go postal" zone.
This album is a crime against hip hop and music in general. Puffy. Must. Die.
-- Hannibal Tabu/$d®-Parker Brothers