Kamylle Edwards // REVOLT
No shiny suits. Take a look at the cover art for 1997's No Way Out and there you'll notice a few things: No signs of NASA-certified suits, no wet bottles of Cristal, no Jag Benz Coupes (like whoa). For a label responsible for introducing the lavish, ostentatious rap epoch known as the "jiggy era," Puff Daddy & The Family kept it simple. Instead of going the typical route, they utilized a grainy, black-and-white artwork to place focus on something far more superior than promoting a high-floss lifestyle. What you see, isn't just a toned-down image featuring (from left to right) Sheek Louch, Styles P, Puff Daddy, Jadakiss, Ma$e and Black Rob. What you see is a statement that embodies No Way Out's first opening lines: "The sun don't shine forever, but as long as it's here then we might as well shine together." Where The Notorious B.I.G. laid down the foundation, this was the introduction to Bad Boy's next phase. So as history would have it, Puff Daddy would jump from sidekick to ringleader after the LP's explosive outing, while Ma$e sat on top of the world months later with his own high-selling debut. For The Lox, however, their contribution was more than high sales. Respectively and collectively, they injected a new pulse into Bad Boy.
Among the Family, the Yonkers-bred trio, The Lox, established their power early on. Before dropping their debut album, 1998's platinum-selling Money, Power & Respect, the street-nurtured, thug-hearted rap group had already made waves in the mixtape circuit, including a standout appearance on Main Source's 1994 track "Set It Off." Known for their trademark swashbuckling, raised-by-the-streets philosophy it didn't take long for their buzz from the hard knock streets to travel up to the corner offices of the Big Apple. And so it did. After fellow Yonkers native Mary J. Blige passed off their demo to Puff, the rest was history.
Making their grand entrance as Bad Boy signees, Kiss, Styles and Sheek hopped on a envied streak of high-profile records, which kicked off with a posse cut alongside The Notorious B.I.G. called "You'll See," which was originally supposed to be a remix to Faith Evans' "You Used to Love Me." Originally appearing on Side A of 1996's Bad Boy Mixtape Vol. 3, helmed by Puff Daddy & The Family, the song sparked interest in the voices behind "L to the O, X amount of flow." Later, they graced cuts like Mary J. Blige's "Can't Get You Off My Mind," Mariah Carey's "Honey (Remix)," Puffy's "It's All About the Benjamins" ("Lost your touch, we kept ours"), and once again co-starred with Biggie on "Last Days," a song off 1997's Life After Death, and, following the latter's tragic death, delivered the touching elegy "We'll Always Love Big Poppa." On "So Right," Jada would sum it up best in one line: "Who you know stack for enough to distribute 2.5 and that's just the tribute."
Picking up where his compatriots left off, Black Rob delivered the slam dunk with his own critically acclaimed debut, 2000’s Life Story. The man with the guttural delivery and hardened rhymes painted street poetry like no other and with the help of Puff Daddy, was able to translate this expertise through 20 infectiously rowdy cuts, like the hit smash “Whoa!.” Set to dramatic strings, the smash single saw Rob rise from behind the scenes to eventually throwing “the label on my back like whoa!” Rob’s debut peaked atop the Billboard Rap & R&B chart and snagged the Harlemite a Top 3 entry on the overall album chart.
All in all, considering where the pendulum was placed before their entry, The Lox and Black Rob provided the grit, energy, and the kind of rise-to-power underdog tale that belongs in the movies. Ain't no stopping these guys. "We can't lose cause Puff set us up properly..."
In the words of B.I.G.: "Ain't no replacing 'em."
One B.I.G. Moment: The Grammy Award-winning 1997 album, No Way Out wasn't just a win for Puff Daddy, but the entire Bad Boy family, no more so than when The Lox lent their contributions to the pop juggernaut "It's All About the Benjamins," this was the Chicago Bulls winning their first ring after Michael Jordan's comeback.