RECAP: Puff Daddy + The Family Inject Soul During Victory Lap At Barclays
If this is truly the end of Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs‘ musical journey, it sure has been a wild, ostentatious and lavish ride. For 20-plus years, the Harlem CEO and founder was the center of controversy, of creating careers out of thin air and ushering in the “jiggy” era of popular hip-hop and R&B music. And now, after all this time, the man who was fired from Uptown Records and built an empire was center-stage in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center regaling thousands about his time at the top, while putting an exclamation point on a fantastic career. Yes, after this Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour ends, we will no longer diddy-bop with P. Diddy, as he’ll retire from music after that and his upcoming album, No Way Out 2. Instead, we’ll be watching him on the big screen as he transitions into acting full-time.
But, for now, the party is going on in a major way at Barclays and we were just glad to be in attendance.
The night before the May 21st date, special guests such as Jay Z, Mary J. Blige and Busta Rhymes (who celebrated his birthday) made the occasion one to not miss. With expectations high on Saturday, attendees wondered out loud just who or what Diddy had prepared for day two. On what would have been the late Notorious B.I.G.‘s 44th birthday, it was clearly apparent that the Bad Boy Family Reunion would be just that, a reunion, commemorating the life of a looming figure that still impacts music lovers of all backgrounds. It is incredibly amazing to hear live the amount of hits that Bad Boy Records produced. They truly couldn’t (and wouldn’t) stop during their run in the 1990s till the present (“You Could Be My Lover” is his current smash).
Ma$e was one of the first people to join the Harlem high-roller on stage, as they performed a medley of the former’s solo hits. “What You Want” and “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” made the venue feel like a raucous party. You could literally hear the walls reverberating from the sound of the singing and sheer adulation from those in the room. It was a spiritual re-awakening of sorts since Diddy first announced the tour back during last year’s BET Hip-Hop Awards. And with so many people on the Bad Boy roster awaiting their turn to be in the mix at the Barclays Center, it was etched in concrete that there was no other place to be in all of New York City. The pretext for all of this was “celebration,” a word that must’ve been said as many times as Diddy had costume changes (quite a few, tbh). Yet, what shone through during the three-hour-plus event was just how deep Diddy’s family tree goes through New York hip-hop and soulful R&B.
Total, 112, Carl Thomas, Mario Winans (who’d appear near the tail-end of the program) and Faith Evans proved just how much Bad Boy Records relied on that R&B sound to fuel its hits. This was punctuated by Diddy when he called the company he started “the hip-hop Motown,” accurately assessed by the fusion of hard-hitting rhymes over classic R&B samples that were just as infectious as when they came out 20 years ago. The other spectre in the room was how much B.I.G. was missed. His still unsolved murder offered no solace or relief, and his life still touched those who were closest to him. His daughter, T’yanna, was in the building, as well as the Junior M.A.F.I.A., whom performed a mélange of hits near the tail-end of the show. The night’s truest catharsis came from Lil’ Kim, Diddy and Faith Evans. The former wife of the Notorious One performed a luscious set early in the evening, outfitted in a gorgeous white fur and later returned at the end for an intense performance of “I’ll Be Missing You,” with a full gospel choir.