After a few weeks of writing on TSS, it was pointed out that I might be a bit of a Bad Boy fanatic. While I’ll gladly claim fandom of B.I.G. and ’90s era Hitmen, I never thought of myself as a devotee of the label that Diddy built.
Much like a Jordan fan might know a thing or two about Randy Brown, I may have retained knowledge of some non-album cuts from G-Dep or The LOX. Sometimes these bits of knowledge turn into a reflection on anniversaries, sometimes it’s for topical discussion, and other times… well, they’re not all winners, but the point is I may very well be a bigger fan than I thought. With that out of the way, let’s get to the part where I talk about a deep cut from Puff Daddy’s second album.
Once Biggie passed, many assumed that it might be a wrap for Bad Boy Records. But as it turned out, not only did dead rappers get better promotion, but their death could be used to catapult other releases to success. With previously recorded B.I.G. verses for “Victory” and “All About The Benjamins” as well and ode to his fallen friend in “I’ll Be Missing You,” Puff’s debut album, No Way Out, went on to have great success, leading to him and his label being all over the place, be it on a Mariah remix, or that damn Godzilla song. It didn’t hurt that Ma$e’s debut album was also a four-times platinum success.
But by 1999, the interest in Bad Boy waned, as other artists weren’t selling as much, some wanting off the label entirely. Hopes were that Puff’s second album would keep up the success the first one had. Unfortunately, Forever’s 1.4 millon records sold were a far cry from No Way Out’s seven million. Even artistically, the album comes off as an inferior No Way Out. The Jay-Z and Twista collabos this go round didn’t hit like their predecessors, “Reverse” didn’t compare to “Benjamins,” and the single Biggie appearance here was fitted onto a beat he never got to hear. Even the best track on here has Joe Hooker “singing” throughout the verses and hook.
Despite those extra vocals, “Journey Through the Life” is a diamond in the rough, with the rare double feature of Nas and Beanie Sigel. A fresh faced Sigel didn’t waste his guest appearance, painting a clear picture of the street life that would fuel Sig’s pre-album hot streak. Nas pulled double duties, presumably ghostwriting Puff’s verse on the woes of extravagance, while providing his own sixteen reflecting on how he went for a ghetto kid to dominating his environment both on the mic and off it. While this song isn’t worth a journey through Forever, it’s definitely worth listening through on its own.