PUFF DADDY & THE FAMILY
Producer, label owner, and recording artist Sean "Puffy" Combs (aka Puff Daddy) has practically owned the pop charts for the last year or two--longer if you consider that he found new-jack superstars Mary J. Blige and Jodeci as an A and R agent for the Uptown label. The best-known artist on his own Bad Boy Records remains the late Notorious B.I.G., whose murder earlier this year is the primary subject of Puff Daddy's chart-topping debut, No Way Out--an album packed with cameos by rappers and singers who've benefited from Combs's savvy. Many of them are scheduled to appear here this weekend, including Mase, 112, the Lox, Jay-Z, Foxy Brown, Busta Rhymes, and Lil' Kim; all except the Lox (who's yet to release his debut album) have landed albums in the top 20 over the last year. Combs has fine-tuned a formula that relies on familiar old hooks not just from R & B hits but also from pop smashes by the likes of the Police and David Bowie. It's a method that's been easily and frequently copied, raising the question of whether Combs had a genuine vision or just a knack for the rip-off. Mase, who has made cameos on hits by everyone from Mariah Carey to Brian McKnight, is one of the few acts on the bill with a convincingly original rapping style. Though the subject matter of his recent debut, Harlem World (Bad Boy), is the usual nasty triumvirate of money, misogyny, and casual violence, his lazy drawl and twangy flow come from somewhere deeper. Also appearing are chart-topping slow-jam crooner Usher and supergroup the Firm, which features Foxy Brown, Nas, and AZ issuing the gangsta tropes with Godfather-like grandeur. Saturday, 7:30 PM, Horizon, 6920 Mannheim, Rosemont; 847-635-6601 or 312-559-1212. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Sean "Puffy" Combs photo by Kevin Mazur/ Mase photo uncredited.