Towards its downward slide, it became more known for R&B than Hip Hop, but at its peak, it was every bit as strong as any other label around. It produced an icon and generated many stars, and behind it all was an ambitious visionary from Harlem that still stands as one of the most powerful figures in music and entertainment. Without further ado, let’s get into the best albums to come from Bad Boy Entertainment.
15. Machine Gun Kelly - Lace Up (2012)
Straight outta Cleveland comes a young, brash, yet talented young caucasian emcee this side of Eminem. Okay, maybe he’s not quite that lyrically crazy, but make no mistake about it, he’s dope, very dope.
His Bad Boy debut, Lace Up, was a promising debut that was filled with decent to dope cuts, one of which became the theme to John Cena for his Wrestlemania match against The Rock at Wrestlemania 28, “Invincible”. His rapid-fire delivery and story-telling abilities were on display here and he represented. An admirable effort by Cleveland’s newest hitmaker.
14. Ma$e - Double Up (1999)
Harlem’s own Mason Betha (OKA M-A-dollar sign-E) had delivered a commercial smash of a debut with Harlem World (see later), and the pressure was on to duplicate the success of his debut. His answer was in the form of Double Up, which had much of the same elements that made Harlem World such a hit.
This was evidenced by the first single, “Get Ready”, which featured Blackstreet crooning over an excellent Shalimar sample of “Night To Remember”. From there, songs like the posse cut “From Scratch” (or as many would call it “24 Hours To Live Pt. 2”), “Blood Is Thicker”, and the searing “Make Me Cry” showed that Mase’s debut was no one-hit wonder.
13. Craig Mack - Project: Funk Da World (1994)
Poor Craig Mack. This Long Island representative was dope, and his debut was almost top to bottom excellent. The majority of the debut, Project: Funk Da World, was handled by close Bad Boy affiliate Easy Mo Bee.
From his jump off debut single, the sizzling “Flava In Your Ear”, we knew he was a dope cat. On top of that, the classic remix featuring LL Cool J (in a show stealing verse), Busta Rhymes, Rampage, and label-mate Biggie Smalls was KILLING the airwaves. Although damn near impossible to follow, he did it with bangers like “Get Down” and “Making’ Moves With Puff”.
This debut was sadly greatly overshadowed by Biggie’s landmark debut (see later), thus Craig Mack became lost in the shuffle.
12. P. Diddy & The Bad Boy Family - The Saga Continues (2001)
In 2001, Diddy dropped his third album, The Saga Continues, which was his second group album after his fantastic debut, No Way Out (see later). Although lacking some of the more epic cuts like his debut contained, this album still had hits aplenty. Clearly, he had the formula for the radio, as cuts like “Bad Boy For Life” and “Let’s Get It” stayed on the airwaves consistently.
Expanding his sound than on his prior two albums (the sophomore album Forever didn’t fare as well critically), it was more hit than miss, and cuts like “Diddy”, “Blast Off”, and “If You Want This Money” were more than capable of holding down this overall great album. Seen much as a compilation album, Diddy delivered the goods on this commercially accessible treat.
11. Eightball & MJG - Living Legends (2004)
A pioneering act from the South was Memphis’ Eightball & MJG. Known for southern staples like On Top Of The World and In Our Lifetime, they got down with Diddy’s Bad Boy South brand, and their Bad Boy debut, Living Legends, continued to solidify their labels as two of the fathers of the southern sound.
Living Legends was filled with anthems for both longtime fans and new fans alike. Cuts like the riotous “Don’t Want Drama”, the anthemic “Don’t Make Me”, and the insane “We Do It” made this album among the best in their entire discography. Living legends indeed.
10. G-Dep - Child Of The Ghetto (2001)
Harlem’s G-Dep was known for his appearances on Diddy’s aforementioned The Saga Continues album when he came with the sizzling “Special Delivery” single.
Just like that, anticipation grew for his debut, Child Of The Ghetto. Raw and personal, this album had bits of definite promise. Who could front on the incredible remake of Eric B. & Rakim’s “Microphone Fiend” with “Doe Fiend” or the cut “Everyday”?
While not quite as commercially or critically accepted as others on this list, G-Dep had a debut that should still be mentioned as a considerable part of the label’s success during that particular time period.
9. Notorious B.I.G. - Born Again (1999)
This album was met with a lot of mixed opinions, reviews, and viewpoints. Released nearly three years after Biggie‘s death, the album served as a point of combining unreleased verses with current emcees at that time such as Nas, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, and Ice Cube.
Most cuts were fairly respectable and matched Biggie’s intensity and exceptional talent. Case in point: the insane first single, the Eminem-annihilated “Dead Wrong”. Another case: the phenomenal “Come On Muthafuckas” with Sadat X.
Born Again had a lot more hits than misses, but one could only wonder if any of the collaborations on the album would’ve taken off the ground had he been alive to be a part of the project. In any case, Biggie was overall represented very well, and this was the last excellent posthumous album with Biggie’s name on it.
8. Ma$e - Harlem World (1997)
Bad Boy’s golden boy around ’98 was Harlem’s Mason Betha, also known as Ma$e. Previously known as Murda Made when he was in a crew known as Children Of The Corn (which featured Herb McGruff, Cam’ron, Big L, and Bloodshed), he abandoned his hood cat appeal for a more commercially acceptable sound, which included flashy suits, money talk, and chasing hoes.
First appearing on his classic track with Diddy “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down”, the buzz was high for his debut, and it did reach every level of expectation. Like it or not, this album had hits, a lot of them. While many hardcore backpackers frown upon such cuts as his first single “Feel So Good” and the 112-assisted “Jealous Guy”, there were also cuts like “Wanna Hurt Ma$e”, “Niggas Wanna Act”, and the dramatic “24 Hours To Live” featuring The Lox and DMX that also turned heads.
Harlem World was commercially a certified hit, as it sold upwards of four million units, which made it one of the most successful debuts of that time period, and Bad Boy officially crowned their new star post-Biggie.
7. The Lox - Money, Power, & Respect (1998)
From Yonkers, NY came three young, hungry grimy kids named Jadakiss, Sheek Louch, and Styles P named The Warlox. After getting up with Diddy, they became The Lox, and they first got their shine on the touching Biggie dedication, “We’ll Always Love Big Poppa” and the mega smash “All About The Benjamins” with Diddy and Lil’ Kim.
Along with another collaboration cut with Jenifer Lopez, the hype was very much building for their debut, Money, Power, & Respect. Out the gate, they hit us with the catchy “If You Think I’m Jiggy” and followed that up with the now classic title track with Kim and DMX that made this album official.
There were definitely bangers on here such as “The Heist”, “Everybody Wanna Rat”, and the sick Swizz Beats-crafted “All For The Love” that satisfied street heads, and overall it was a definite listening experience. Although they went all the way back to their gritty origins once they went to Ruff Ryders with their epic sophomore album, We Are The Streets, we did get a taste of their trio power. They unquestionably put the game on notice that they were here. This platinum debut showed people Bad Boy was handling things.
6. Black Rob - The Black Rob Report (2005)
How do you follow up a huge debut success like Life Story? Well, Black Rob attempted to do so with his highly anticipated sophomore album, The Black Rob Report.
Although not as big as his debut, this album was formidable in its own right. Arguably the most slept-on album to be released on the label, The Black Rob Report was simply dope. The album had knockers like “Star In The Hood”, “You Know Who Killed Him”, and “Fire In The Hole” that maintained the street appeal Bad Boy was needing at that time, as The Lox left the label, G-Dep was quiet, and Shyne was incarcerated.
Perhaps the last true rugged release from the label, Black Rob presented a very decent follow up to his incredible debut and needs to be in the conversation of best albums of ’05.
5. Shyne - Shyne (2000)
Was there a more controversial star in the rap game in 2000 than this enigmatic Belize-born Brooklynite named Shyne? Obviously, once you heard this cat, the resemblance to Biggie in his voice and rhyme style is beyond scary. Most thought they were hearing Biggie resurrected, but it was really Jamal Burroughs.
While not as lyrically blistering as the late icon, we couldn’t get past his voice. Not to mention, his tales of drugs, crime, and intriguing story-telling abilities were similar as well. We automatically deemed him a fraud from Diddy, but once his debut single “Bad Boyz” hit the streets, we stopped caring about that, as the cut was bananas. He followed it up with the equally captivating “Bonnie & Shyne”, and we knew his debut self-titled album was a monster.
Unfortunately, he was incarcerated during the release of his album due to the whole incident at the nightclub that Diddy was accused of assault with his then girlfriend, Jenifer Lopez. Many deem this is as the best solo debut on that label since Biggie’s Ready To Die and it’s not hard to see why. Other cuts like “The Hit” and “The Life” solidified that the streets were with Shyne and his fantastic debut album.
4. Puff Daddy & The Family - No Way Out (1997)
Reeling from the death of his signature artist and close friend Biggie Smalls, the artist then known as Puff Daddy wanted to release an album with his Bad Boy family – primarily The Lox, Ma$e, and Black Rob – called No Way Out.
Say what you will about the fact that he introduced a new era that was highly commercialized and filled with designer clothes, expensive champagne, and the like, this debut album is considered a classic in many circles. While the radio and dance floors were highly familiar with cuts like “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down”, “All About The Benjamins”, and “Been Around The World”, there were also epic cuts on there such as the Black Rob-solo cut “I Love You Baby”, “Pain”, and “Young G’s”. Not to mention, the album had one of the most incredible openers with the fabulously dramatic Rocky-sampled “Victory” with an animated Busta Rhymes on the hook and a blistering posthumous Biggie verse.
This album was Diddy at his highest and stands as his best album to date.
3. Black Rob - Life Story (2000)
Straight from Brooklyn came a gritty cat named Robert Ross, aka Black Rob. Shining on cuts with Faith Evans, Total, and his memorable performances on the aforementioned No Way Out, it was time for BR to drop his highly anticipated debut, Life Story.
He blessed us with his anthemic single, “Whoa”, that spread like wildfire, and that not the only infectious cuts from the album. While previously heard cuts like the fantastic and cinematic “I Love You Baby” and “I Dare You” from the Slam soundtrack are featured, new cuts like the sultry “Spanish Fly”, the cautionary “You Don’t Know Me”, “PD World Tour”, and “Jasmine” complete this amazing debut.
One could argue that this debut could fall in line with classic debuts during this time such as Beanie Sigel’s The Truth, C-N-N’s War Report and DMX’s It’s Dark & Hell Is Hot that made substantial impacts on the game as a whole. The production was unbelievable, and his penchant for telling gripping narratives was highly commendable, plus who could front on his rendition of Slick Rick’s “Children Story” with “Thug Story”? This album showed that Bad Boy had it’s new gritty street star that would’ve made Biggie proud.
2. Notorious B.I.G. - Life After Death (1997)
Unfortunately, we all know how events would play out, as he would never live to see the fruits of his incredible labor work. This album solidified Biggie as a Hip Hop martyr, dying just trying to bring peace to an ugly Hip Hop world.
While there are cuts like the extremely haunting “You’re Nobody (Till Somebody Kills You)”, “My Downfall”, and “Somebody Gotta Die”, the album isn’t all the way dark thanks to highly infectious cuts like “Mo Money, Mo Problems”, “Hypnotize”, and “The World Is Filled” – that would put asses on the floor quickly. That’s what Biggie specialized in better than practically anyone. being able to keep it gutter and sinister for the streets but also to bring the ladies to the floor and have them get down and sweat to his cuts as well.
One of the most renowned double albums in Hip Hop history, this album sold upwards of ten million units and immortalized Christopher Wallace as an icon.
1. Notorious B.I.G. - Ready To Die (1994)
In the summer of ’94, the world was introduced to a young man named Christopher Wallace, a big six-foot plus, three hundred pound emcee who’s tone and delivery were simply vicious.
This young Brooklynite was making rounds for his now legendary freestyle on the corner by his Bedstuy residence. Before long, he was on cuts by Mary J. Blige and Super Cat, paving the way for his debut, Ready To Die.
Capped off with his anthemic rags-to-riches ode “Juicy”, the album dropped, and to say we were floored was an understatement. The streets were still reeling from the release earlier that year of Nas’ Illmatic, and then we were hit with this almost as equal monster debut.
From the onset, the album started out bloody and brutal with cuts like “Machine Gun Funk” and “Gimme The Loot”. However, it was his smoother than butter second single “Big Poppa” that made the ladies fall for him, along with his third single, the remix for “One More Chance”, which featured Mary J. Blige and a then relatively unknown Faith Evans that made the album sell upwards of four million units.
With other blazing cuts like the Premo-classic “Unbelievable”, the tragic “Me & My Bitch”, and the surreal closer “Suicidal Thoughts” (considered one of Hip Hop’s darkest moments on wax), a new star had emerged from Brooklyn.
Ready To Die remains one of the game’s landmark albums, along with Illmatic. The game would never be the same as it was in the year of ’94.
As you can see, Bad Boy had superb releases and at its highest point, it was every bit as potent as rival labels like Deathrow, Roc-A-Fella, and Ruff Ryders.
While their R&B roster such as Faith, Carl Thomas, Total, and 112 eventually outdid their fledgling Hip Hop roster, as emcees were dead, in jail, or just left for greener pastures, the Hip Hop that did get released was some of the most important and crucial music to get released during that era, and some of it remains so to this day.
Sean “P-Diddy” Combs was a visionary, and love him or hate him, he founded a label that was just as critical in the success of Hip Hop as anyone. Salutes to Bad Boy.