Label: Bad Boy Records
Everything that anyone loves or loathes about Puffy's influence is packed onto No Way Out. The blockbuster grandiosity. Puffy's ghosted croon, before we knew him mostly for shouting. The LOX ripping shit up. Carl Thomas (cue swoons).
Riding, deciding: symphonic brass or beach-side maracas? "It's All About the Benjamins," "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down," "Been Around the World"—Bad Boy's patent leather ethos written, recorded, and broadcast as black America's sequel to Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. "Victory" goes hardest, and biggest, and loudest, grand as a $2.7 million music video requires. The rest is R&B rehab and Hoodfellas machismo, the LOX and Black Rob testimonials that defined the City, if not the Coast, if not the whole culture in the latter half of the '90s—until DMX burst into the dining room with a ski mask and demands.
Since Da Band fiasco in 2003, Puffy's gotten a bad rap. You might say he's an out-sized hypeman whose musical presence is gratuitous, per se. Yet nearly 20 years since Biggie's passing, Puff's held his legacy together. No Way Out should be lit tastefully behind diamond-proof glass, among Bad Boy's other crown jewels. —Justin Charity