Retrospective: Bad Boy Records

By @TrueGodImmortal

Some movements captivate the world from the very start, others take hard work and dedication to gain attention. For Sean Combs, after an internship at Uptown Records, he decided to go out on his own and start up Bad Boy Records in 1993. Sean Combs, who of course, went by the name Puff Daddy, had two rappers on his squad starting out, Craig Mack and The Notorious B.I.G. With his catchy B.I.G. Mack campaign, Puff prepared for the release of B.I.G.'s debut album "Ready To Die" and Mack's debut album "Project: Funk The World" in September 1994. Both rappers were riding the wave of a successful single and when both albums hit, they would take different paths, as B.I.G. saw double platinum, while Mack saw gold and eventually fizzled out quickly.

However, Bad Boy would showcase a bit of dominance in 1995 with their R&B releases from Biggie's wife Faith Evans and the female trio Total. Backed by the in-house Bad Boy producers(Chucky Thompson, Easy Mo Bee, Stevie J, D-Dot, etc), they seemed primed to forge a full-fledged takeover, and with Biggie leading the charge artist wise, Bad Boy dominated on the East Coast, and the world over. Likewise, on the West Coast, Death Row Records was in full domination mode, and while Bad Boy wasn't as street orientated image wise as Death Row was, a feud was kicked off via Suge Knight throwing shots at Puffy at the 1995 Source Awards. Some back and forth drama ensued during this Death Row and Bad Boy beef, including Suge accusing Puffy of having an associate of his murdered, and the infamous story of Suge making an associate of Puffy's drink urine in front of the Death Row team.

Despite the beef, Faith Evans(who would become involved in the beef once 2Pac joined Death Row after he was released from jail) and Total released platinum albums and hit singles, with Bad Boy bringing in rappers Ma$e and The Lox into the fold along with a new R&B group 112. With a strong roster, Bad Boy continued to flourish as 112's self titled album went double platinum off the strength of their singles "Only You"(with the huge remix with Ma$e and Biggie). After 112's big debut, Biggie prepared to fight the sophomore jinx with his double album "Life After Death", but tragedy struck, as Biggie was murdered on March 9, 1997 in LA. 2Pac had been murdered months before in Vegas, and speculation on both of those murders have run rampant for almost 2 decades, with no true answer in sight. Despite the tragedy, Biggie's album was released and it seemed as if his death elevated his status even higher, as his album eventually ended up going diamond, selling over 10 million copies. Without their star artist, Bad Boy picked up the pieces and regrouped with an album that positioned Puffy as a star and artist, "No Way Out" in July 1997, just months after Biggie's death. "No Way Out" was labeled as an album by Puff Daddy and The Family, and the album would end up having mega singles such as "Been Around The World", "Victory", and of course the Biggie tribute track, "I'll Be Missing You". The album would sell over 7 million copies, and even win a Grammy for best rap album. At the lowest point for the label personally, it seemed as if they received their biggest success consecutively, as Ma$e would close out the year with his monster album "Harlem World".

"Harlem World" would go on to sell nearly 5 million copies, making Ma$e a huge solo star, and capping off a crazy 1997 for Bad Boy that saw them lose their biggest artist in a tragedy, but end up selling a combined 21 million records over three albums that year. Bittersweet I'm sure, but the dominance of Bad Boy rose in 1997 and seemed ready to continue in 1998, with the release of The Lox's "Money, Power, Respect" album. However, it was this year that would prove to be tougher for Bad Boy, as the game began changing direction, with a more gritty and aggressive style versus the glossy and flashy Bad Boy mantra. DMX became the biggest rapper in the world in 1998, leading the charge with his Ruff Ryders movement, and The Lox began to complain about their Bad Boy situation, eventually starting a campaign to get off Bad Boy Records and tarnishing the image of the label somewhat in the process. Despite "Money, Power, and Respect" being moderately successful sales wise, the cracks in Bad Boy's armor began to show heavily. They would still see success via their R&B stars, as Faith, Total, and 112 would release albums consecutively over a three week period, with Faith going platinum, Total going gold, and 112 once again going double platinum.

It seemed that while Bad Boy was struggling slightly on the hip hop front, their R&B core was still going strong keeping the name alive. However, the departure of The Lox stung, and Ma$e would make the announcement that he was leaving rap behind to become a pastor, depleting the rap core of the label, aside from Black Rob, who had been waiting in the wings for some time now. Ma$e's sophomore album "Double Up" didn't live up to expectations and without Ma$e truly being involved to push the album, it stalled out at platinum, a far cry from his 5X platinum debut. Puffy tried his hand at saving the brand rap wise, releasing his second album "Forever", but that didn't manage to capture the attention of the masses like "No Way Out", and eventually stalled out at platinum as well. The reign and dominance of Bad Boy seemed to be over at this point, as the hits weren't coming like they used to, so Puffy went with what he felt would be effective and released a "new" posthumous album from Biggie titled "Born Again", which ended up selling close to 500,000 copies first week and was nearly certified triple platinum. Bad Boy had used Biggie to gain a win in the rap category after some stinging losses, and as 2000 began, they would regain their footing in rap via two unlikely names: Black Rob and Shyne. However, in the midst of this whole Bad Boy resurgence, a criminal case against Puffy and Shyne loomed heavily, putting a lot of stress on both Puffy and Shyne, but also the label itself. The Bad Boy R&B core had also slowly altered as Total stopped making albums, and Faith fell back a bit, but a new star would arise in the turtleneck, leather jacket wearing smooth crooner Carl Thomas. 112 had began work on a new album, and Puffy had brought in a new rapper by the name of G-Dep as well. It looked as if Bad Boy was primed for a huge year or two, and they managed to deliver.

Black Rob's first album "Life Story", ended up going nearly double platinum off the strength of his massive single "Whoa", which is without a doubt an all time classic. Black Rob's album is regarded as one of the best albums to be released via Bad Boy in a lot of circles and Black Rob brought back that old feel of Bad Boy briefly with his success, then Carl Thomas followed it right up with his nearly double platinum album "Emotional" as well. Carl would see consecutive hits with "I Wish", the title track, and one of my all time favorite tracks "Summer Rain". After Carl's success, Shyne would captivate audiences with his first self titled album led by the big single "Bad Boyz" and his moderately successful "Bonnie & Shyne". His album would end up going platinum plus, but he would eventually get sentenced to jail, while Puffy seemingly got off easily and went back to work.

Puff would dabble in the pop music genre briefly with the all white girl group Dream, would released their debut album via Bad Boy and sold 1.5 million copies. While Dream may have been on the R&B charts due to their Bad Boy affiliation, it was no secret they were pop artists, and while Puffy's experiment with a pop girl group went well enough, he returned to doing what he seemed to love best: promoting himself. After 112 released a successful third platinum album in March 2001, Puff Daddy and The Family returned(labeled as the Bad Boy Family this go-round) in the summer of 2001 with "The Saga Continues", which spawned the two big hits "Let's Get It" and "Bad Boy For Life", eventually seeing almost double platinum. However, that would be the last huge spark for the label along with Faith's third album that went platinum and a random We Invented The Remix compilation that also saw platinum in early 2002.

After those strings of albums, Bad Boy attempted to make a strong comeback in 2003-2004, with the album from the MTV reality show created group Da Band, "Too Hot For TV", and while the album managed to hit gold, it didn't excite listeners, and neither did the self titled album from Loon, which failed to even hit gold. Carl Thomas and 112 would release albums, with 112 just missing gold status and Carl Thomas selling 650,000 copies to go gold. It seemed as if the platinum Bad Boy touch was lost, and despite a huge single from Mario Winans("I Don't Wanna Know"), his album stalled out at gold as well. Southern legend duo 8Ball & MJG would sign to Bad Boy, releasing their album "Living Legends", which also went gold off the strength off their big single "You Don't Want Drama".
Ma$e came back into the fold and released an album "Welcome Back", which brought yet another gold plaque in for Bad Boy, but they would miss on releases from B5, Black Rob, and the New Edition reunion album, which barely scraped gold.

When in doubt, Puff goes to what he knows best and that's a posthumous Biggie album, and he released the unnecessary "Biggie Duets" album, which ended up going platinum restoring the Midas touch briefly for Bad Boy, who would venture off into a Bad Boy South division as the south began growing and see a platinum release from Yung Joc on his first album "New Joc City". Puff would find more success with the R&B ladies as the gorgeous Cassie would go platinum with her debut self titled album and the MTV reality show created group Danity Kane also went platinum. After this hot streak of albums, and after Puffy's 2006 album "Press Play" hit gold, Bad Boy would strike out on every release they put out except a second Danity Kane album which hit platinum. Day26, Donnie Klang, Cheri Dennis, even Diddy-Dirty Money failed to capture the fans attention heavily, signaling the true end of the Bad Boy Records run. Bad Boy does have deals in place with French Montana and Janelle Monae, and while those have yielded moderate success in recent years, it still hasn't been enough to bring the label back to prominence, and it doesn't seem likely that it will be.

Despite this, Bad Boy Records' legacy is solidifed and their place in hip hop and R&B history remains one of the strongest. As we proceed....



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