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It’s been 20+ years since Bad Boy Records was founded. Let that sink in for a second. If you didn’t feel old yet, I bet you do now. I still remember watching Puff and Mase jump around in their shiny jumpsuits. Answering “can’t stop, won’t stop” and “take that, take that” to just about everything. Staring at “that” Lil’ Kim poster for wayyy too long. I still remember all of it, like it was just yesterday, and I can’t help but smile from all the nostalgic feels. And judging from the numbers the Bad Boy reunion tour has been doing, I’m not alone.

…Bad Boy represented the very essence of our culture…For an independent label, their range of music and artists was nothing less than extraordinary.

Bad Boy had the chance to be the greatest “urban” label ever founded. Yeah we’ve had a lot of influential labels like Roc-A-Fella, Death Row, Cash Money, and even No Limit. But no one was able to maintain as significant a run for as long or have as much influence in not only hip-hop but R&B, as Bad Boy. Yeah, Def Jam was the originator and undoubtedly have had more success, but they’ve long since turned into a soulless corporate machine, while Bad Boy represented the very essence of our culture. When you watched them or heard them you couldn’t help but feel like that’s “us”. For an independent label, their range of music and artists was nothing less than extraordinary. I dare anyone to go listen to their 20th Anniversary Box Set and not agree that they had “it”.

Momentum killers

B.I.G was one of those once in a lifetime artists that could single-handedly transform a culture and if it wasn’t for his untimely death I probably wouldn’t be here writing about how Bad Boy “could’ve” been the greatest label ever.

There’s no secret that Bad Boy was built off the back of (in my book) the greatest rapper of all time. B.I.G was one of those once in a lifetime artists that could single-handedly transform a culture and if it wasn’t for his untimely death I probably wouldn’t be here writing about how Bad Boy “could’ve” been the greatest label ever. His influence and presence is still felt today, but there’s only so long that you can live off the past. Add losing key up and comers like Ma$e and Shyne (to the church and prison respectively), throw in some bad picks (Loon, Fuzzypop, I’m looking at you), some mishandled artists (L.O.X), and you see why the momentum was impossible to maintain.

A gift and a curse

Sean became the biggest star at Bad Boy and that allowed his artists to gain quicker traction off the strength of his stardom but it also greatly hampered their ability to grow and become stars in their own right. They always lived in his shadow.

The only reason they’ve been able to maintain the level of relevancy they have without putting out the matching product, has entirely been thanks to Sean Combs. Now you can call him Puffy, Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Diddy, or whatever; but his momma named him Sean, so I’ma call him Sean. He and Bad Boy were synonymous, he was the guy “all in the videos, all on the records”, and that was both a gift and a curse. Sean became the biggest star at Bad Boy and that allowed his artists to gain quicker traction off the strength of his stardom but it also greatly hampered their ability to grow and become stars in their own right. They always lived in his shadow.

Nowadays, Sean’s more worried about selling vodka than putting out music (Bad Boy’s current roster is garbage), and while we’ll always have those glory days and nostalgic memories to live off of, I can’t help but wonder about what could’ve, should’ve, and would’ve been Bad Boy Records.

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