Music

Diddy: Press Play

It’s definitely an enjoyable listen, although that’s due to hot beats and great collaborators as much (or even more) as it's due to Diddy himself.


Diddy

Press Play

Label: Atlantic
US Release Date: 2006-10-17
UK Release Date: 2006-10-16
Amazon
iTunes

Whether you love him or hate him, you've gotta respect Diddy -- or whatever the hell he calls himself these days. Whether you call him Sean Combs, Puffy, Puff Daddy, P. Diddy or just Diddy, the fact is that very few people have made as much of an impression on the American conscious over the past 15 years. Whether as a rapper, a label president, an actor, a restauranteur or a clothing designer, Diddy has been, above all, a marketing and promotions genius. This has led him to a recording career as a performer that is close to approaching a decade in length! Despite an admitted lack of rapping skill (well, he doesn't write his own rhymes, so you can't even really blame him for that), Puff's albums always have their share of ear candy, and his fifth (and if you believe him, his last) album, Press Play continues in that vein. It's definitely an enjoyable listen, although that's due to hot beats and great collaborators as much (or even more) as it's due to Diddy himself.

Press Play is sort of divided into two parts: the first half of the album is nothing but ego-driven club bangers, designed to shake dance floors worldwide. As the album progresses, it takes a more experimental tack. The beats get stranger, the songs are a step slower, and the predominant topic shifts from Diddy and his monumental ego (no one has made more out of their longevity, other than LL Cool J .. and real hip-hop fans know how badly his last 3-4 albums have sucked) to his long-time relationship with girlfriend Kim Porter (who deserves credit for sticking to Puff for over a decade, with the "J. Lo thing" -- as Puff calls it during one song -- in between).

The first question when listening to this album is: have Diddy's emcee skills taken a leap forward? This might be equal parts improved ghostwriting and the fact that the overall quality of popular MC's has dropped sharply over the years. The thumping "We Gon' Make It" finds Diddy rocking a swagger-filled, tight, Jigga-esque flow. The flow isn't the only thing this song has in common with Jay-Z -- the song's backing track is almost identical to Jay's current hit single "Show Me What You Got".

One interesting thing here is that Diddy's many collaborators don't outshine him, at least not too much. Pop princesses Nicole Shrezinger (of The Pussycat Dolls) and Christina Aguilera serve as little more than hook girls on their guest spots (on "Come To Me" and "Tell Me", the album's first two singles). Even noted scene stealers Cee-Lo and Nas play the back on their collabo, the Kanye West-helmed banger "Everything I Love". This could be because the normally loud-as-hell Cee-Lo's voice is buried way into the mix. The album's one exception to this rule is "Wanna Move", where OutKast's Big Boi rips the track with a rhyme harder than any he's spit since Aquemini.

It's also interesting to note that Diddy passes the baton to producers outside of his Bad Boy camp several times over the course of this album. Aside from Kanye, Timbaland makes an appearance here, as does "Crazy in Love" producer Rich Harrison, who brings a similar drums-and-horns sound to "Making it Hard", a collaboration with original Puff protégé Mary J. Blige. The album's most interesting production shot comes from will.I.am, who ventures deep into left field on "Special Feeling", a song that sounds like it was ripped off a Prince studio console circa 1982.

As the album progresses, it becomes clear that Diddy is trying to create something resembling a concept album about love and relationships. This is not entirely successful, although there are a couple of notable tracks in this vein -- including the melancholy "Through The Pain" (which will still rock dance floors, despite Puff's mumbled delivery) and "Last Night", which features a testifyin' Keyshia Cole as well as the first instance of Diddy actually singing on a track (and he's serious about it, too!). One will never mistake Diddy for Luther Vandross, but he's definitely got chemistry with Cole, as they trade verses back and forth.

Real heads may never forgive Diddy for being one of the people who led hip-hop down the path of bling and irresponsibility -- and I'm probably one of those people. Every move Puff makes has been met with a snarl from me, only because I think he's occasionally pandered to the lowest common denominator, and also because he's obviously way too fond of himself. Nevertheless, I have to commend the man not only for longevity but also for crafting an album that's quite easy to listen to. Although several songs on this album are forgettable, none (except for the watery Neptunes-produced closer "Partners For Life") are awful. With this album's recent #1 debut, as well as Bad Boy having had a solid 2006 that places them firmly on the comeback trail, it's time for even the haters to take their caps off and acknowledge Diddy -- or whatever the hell you call him -- as an unstoppable force of nature who even manages to make a halfway decent record in between all his other ventures.

6

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image