Release date: July 22, 1997
Sean Combs goes by many names (and I’m sure most of you know what those names are), but I’ll always refer to him as “Puff Daddy," which is the name he went by in 1997. After the unfortunate death of The Notorious B.I.G. that year, most would’ve thought that would’ve been it for Bad Boy Records, at least on the hip hop side of things, and those who felt that way were indeed wrong. He was already a star in the making prior to Biggie’s death, but that star certainly grew as the summer of 1997 arrived, along with his debut album “No Way Out." But first, a story if I may.
A week or so after this album was released, I went on a family trip to Orlando, Florida for one week ,which I REALLY enjoyed) Most of the time during the trip, I couldn’t stop thinking or talking about this album (I surprisingly hadn’t bought it yet), and once I got back home, one of the first things I was going to do was buy this album, and that’s exactly what I did around the end of July, going into August! I went to my local “Crockett’s Records Tapes & CDs” with a crisp $20 and made my purchase, and needless to say, I was happy as hell when I left the record store that day. The same CD I bought that day is the same one I still have today.
I’m going to dissect this album, and I just want to say that this is the “crowning jewel” in Combs’ discography, as NO other album he’s released since comes anywhere close to matching the quality and production, with the entire album featuring a sample in some form. Easily his best album and it’s excellent.
All songs produced by Puff Daddy and The Hitmen
1. No Way Out (Intro)
A fairly standard way to begin the album, leading right into....
2. Victory (Featuring The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes)
Wow, I still remember going absolutely nuts when I first heard this. This song has Puff’s best verse ever (the opening), but when the beat drops and Biggie begins his verse, it was on from there. Add in the hype hook from Busta Rhymes, plus an excellent sample courtesy of Bill Conti’s “Going The Distance," this is classic material. 5 out of 5 (An epic, nuff said.)
3. Been Around The World (Featuring Mase)
Very good song right here with Puff and Mase. I personally liked the forgotten remix a little better. 4 out of 5
4. What You Gonna Do?
Good Puff solo here. He’s not saying much, but the beat is nice. 3.5 out of 5 (Puff did have a bit of storytelling throughout this song, and had he stuck with that for all three verses, the song would've been much better.)
5. Don’t Stop What You’re Doing (Featuring Lil Kim and Kelly Price)
Another decent song here. 3 out of 5
6. If I Should Die Tonight (Interlude) f/ Carl Thomas
7. Do You Know? (Featuring Kelly Price)
Well, this song was ok, but not one of the highlights obviously. 3 out of 5
8. Young G’s (Featuring The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, and Kelly Price)
Now this is what I’m talking about. Over a smooth Rashad Smith track, Jay-Z and Biggie absolutely steal the show on this one. All things considered, Puff did his best by trying to keep up with those two legends lyrically. 5 out of 5
9. I Love You Baby (Featuring Black Rob)
This was one of the first songs for Black Rob to shine, and he did quite well. At first I didn’t care too much for it, but it grew on me after a while. 4 out of 5
10. It’s All About The Benjamins (Remix)
Featuring The Notorious B.I.G., The Lox, and Lil Kim
Another classic. Who can forget that classic beat, along with Puff’s opening, “what y’all wanna do, wannabe ballers, shot callers, brawlers??” This was arguably the best song of the year, and it’s certainly one of the most memorable for me that summer. Puff, Jadakiss, Sheek, and Lil Kim turned in great performances on the mic, and Biggie’s verse ended the song perfectly. 5 out of 5
This one was kind of forgettable. Not wack, but nothing memorable. 2 out of 5 (Not necessarily forgettable, not too memorable either. I would say somewhere in between, even after all these years. 3 out of 5)
12. Is This The End?
Featuring Carl Thomas, Ginuwine, and Twista
I was kind of surprised to see Twista on this album. Either way, good song. 3 out of 5
13. I Got The Power (Featuring The Lox)
This was a true showcase for The Lox, and it was a very good one. 4 out of 5
14. Friend (Featuring Foxy Brown)
Puff and Foxy had good chemistry on this one. I still think that Puff’s first verse should’ve been last and vice versa. 3.5 out of 5
I never cared too much for this one, and to this day I’ve only listened to it once, which was the day I bought it. 2 out of 5
16. I’ll Be Missing You (Featuring Faith Evans and 112)
As a tribute to The Notorious B.I.G., this was as good as they come, and Puff, Faith, and 112 delivered. 5 out of 5 (Classic.)
17. Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down (Featuring Mase)
You would think that “I’ll Be Missing You” would close this album. Time hasn’t been kind to this song for many reasons. 2 out of 5, and that’s because of the beat. (Hold up wait a minute. WHY did I shortchange this one? Not only has time been kind to this song in my view, but the nostalgia remains, simply because I remember really enjoying it when I first heard it. I know it sampled the Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five classic "The Message," but by no means did they "disgrace" it. 4 out of 5 rating.)
Rating- 4.5 stars. That may be a little high for some, but I stick by it. (This rating will always remain intact.)
5 favorite songs- Victory, It’s All About The Benjamins (Remix), I Got The Power, I Love You Baby, & Young G’s
I can still listen to this album today and be put right back into the summer of 1997 just like that. That's one of the keys to a great album, and "No Way Out" still holds up today.