The trendsetting label's most "Notorious" bangers
Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the release of Harlem rapper Mase's debut album, Harlem World. The album would go on to sell over 4 million records and earn a Grammy nomination for Best Rap album. Mase's debut would become another successful outing for Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs' label, Bad Boy Records.
Founded in 1993, Bad Boy Records would usher in a sound that would reshape the landscape of Hip-Hop and R&B. Comb's imprint took high-end fashion and popular hits from yesteryear and brought them to the streets. The label would launch the careers of now-legendary artists like The Notorious B.I.G., 112, and Faith Evans, and Combs would become one of the most influential men in Hip-Hop history.
Bad Boy Records became the standard-bearer for urban music in the '90s. Here are some of the best songs from the label's heyday.
The Notorious B.I.G. "Juicy"
From his debut album, Ready to Die, "Juicy" by The Notorious B.I.G. embodied the rags-to-riches story that is synonymous with Hip-Hop. Sampling Mtume's "Juicy Fruit," Biggie recalls his struggles from trying to make ends meet on the streets of Bedstuy, Brooklyn to living in the lap of luxury. "Juicy" is not only one of the most infamous songs released from the label but one of the defining moments in the genre's history.
Craig Mack "Flava in Ya Ear (Remix)"
While the Notorious B.I.G. is the first name that comes to mind when you think of Bad Boy Records, it was Craig Mack who had the distinct honor of being the first artist to release music on the label. The original version of "Flava in Ya Ear" would appear on his album Project: Funk da World, but the star-studded remix featuring The Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes, and Rampage would become more memorable than its predecessor.
Faith Evans "You Used to Love Me"
Before the release of her self-titled debut album, Faith, Faith Evans would act as a backing vocalist and songwriter for the likes of Mary J. Blige and Usher. Her single "You Used to Love Me" was indicative of the Bad Boy sound that was starting to become a fixture on urban radio at the time. Faith signed to Bad Bad Records in 1994 and would eventually start dating and then marry The Notorious B.I.G.
The Atlanta R&B quartet signed to Bad Boy in 1996 and found success with their self-titled debut album. Their first single, "Only You," was the R&B with a Hip-Hop chaser that had become the label's trademark sound. But it was the slow tempo groove of "Cupid" that showed the group's ability to churn out traditional R&B tunes when needed.
Total " Can't You See?"
Total's first appearance was on the chorus of Biggie's "Juicy" in 1994. The following year Biggie would return the favor by dropping a verse on their debut single, "Can't You See?" The song would go on to peak at #3 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs Chart. Over the span of two decades, "Can't You See?" would find life on social media in the form of the "Can't You See?" Challenge.
The Notorious B.I.G. "Hypnotize"
Biggie's sophomore album, Life After Death, had a more polished presentation than his debut. The Brooklyn Bravado was still everpresent, but much of Life After Death contained songs more suitable for radio than a robbery. "Hypnotize" catchy repetitive chorus and big-budget video saw Biggie go from a New York MC to an international superstar.
Mase "24 Hrs to Live"
The lead single from Mase's Harlem World, "Feel So Good," stuck true to the Bad Boy Formula of uptempo party tracks with an old school sample. But it was the gritty "24 Hrs to Live" that stands out. The song is a hypothetical look at what Mase and the track's featured artists (The Lox, Black Rob, and DMX) would do if they only had a day left on earth.
Puff Daddy "I'll Be Missing You"
Bad Boy would suffer a devastating loss as a label and a family in March of 1997. The Notorious B.I.G. was gunned down after an industry party in Los Angeles. With the loss of their biggest act, Many wondered how Puff's powerhouse would progress. To commemorate his passing, Puff would release "I'll Be Missing You." The song would borrow its bassline and hook from The Police's "Every Breath You Take" and featured 112 and Biggie's wife, Faith.
The Notorious B.I.G. "Mo Money Mo Problems"
Biggie's death sent shockwaves through Hip-Hop. Now burdened with the responsibility of being his own label's lead act, it was also up to Puff to keep Biggie's legacy alive in music. "Mo Money Mo Problems,"' featuring Puff Daddy and Mase, was the second single to be released from Life After Death. Though the party vibe and the extravagant video was a celebration of Biggie's life, the song's title is also a reminder of circumstances in which the world lost him..
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