In Christmas 1997, the only two items on my wish list were Madden 64 and Puffy’s No Way Out album. Thanks to older cousins, I had already dubbed NWO on cassette tape, something I did with most parental advisory releases to avoid having my mom throw them in the trash. But I wanted the CD. I had a brand spanking new CD player and having to hold the rewind button down on a walkman was so 1995.
To make a long story shorter, Madden was the first gift I received. One goal down, one more remaining. As family members exchanged gifts and the next 3-5 presents I received were all clothes, the outlook appeared bleak. Morale began drifting closer and closer towards despair. And the thought was creeping in my head I was having a smooth one ran on me. Until my mom handed me the very last gift under the tree.
Wrapped tightly in the shape of a square, this was it. Jubilation was skyrocketing through the roof and I’m pretty sure set a family record in unwrapping a gift in one foul swipe of the left hand. The cypher was nearly complete and the explicit content heavens would open their pearly gates to a land of milk, honey and scantily clad women. Looking back, I know I resembled Ralphie from A Christmas Story when he was attempting to figure out what the secret message with his Secret Decoder Ring.
Only it wasn’t Puff Daddy and the Family’s No Way Out. It was Will Smith’s Big Willie Style.
As I later discovered, my mom was at the checkout line at Circuit City with Puffy’s album in hand. At the eleventh hour, however, she experienced a change of heart. It was equal parts “parental advisory” and she absolutely loved Will’s “Gettin’ Jiggy With It.” She figured we could both listen to the album and it’d be a win-win for everyone involved.*
Depression. Defeat. Heartbreak. For a split second, I almost yelled at my mom but thought better because chances are I wouldn’t be here typing these words if I did. She pulled a fast one on me. At least I still had my dubbed cassette tape. “Can’t Hold Me Down” was a huge reason for a Young Tins wanted the CD during Christmas 1997. It had already become one of the year’s biggest smashes and answered an interesting question even before the events of March 9: Could Bad Boy continue to produce hits without the Biggie Smalls influence?
Fast forward 17 years and questionable business practices, Mase treating Hip-Hop and the church like a revolving door, Craig Mack disappearing off the face of the planet (sans this), Making The Band, Dirty Money, Cassie’s new body and 489 other intricacies not worth mentioning and Bad Boy has secured its own undeniable crater in rap’s history books.
Puff, Betha and more were guests on the latest installment of Complex’s “Magnum Opus” series discussing the creation and impact of the record. Those with 10 minutes to spare should. The watch proves to be well worth the price of admission as it covers everything from Mase’s original hesitation to be involved with it being so close to Ice Cube’s “Check Yo’ Self” (and, of course, Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message”) and Puffy’s fight for respect with “talking rap.”
Puffy’s earned his fair share of enemies and naysayers throughout the years, a healthy chunk of the criticisms aimed at him being legitimate, too. That said, at an estimated worth of $700M and having his hands in the pot of some of the biggest names, albums, endorsements and moments in the last quarter century of pop culture, he’s definitely as captivating a figure many of us will ever see.
If nothing else, he was then and still is now a living personification of the song’s title.
* – No bullsh*t, though, Big Willie Style had some bangers on it.