** PUFF DADDY
For someone whose every move attracts attention, New York rapper/label owner/producer/entrepreneur Sean "Puffy" Combs, a.k.a. Puff Daddy, nearly comes up missing on his uneven second album. As on 1997's "No Way Out," the highlights of the new collection are the production and the guest stars. But while his debut album featured a number of sure-shot club songs, "Forever's" catchier tunes lack the addictive qualities an anthem needs.
Puff Daddy's earlier work was backed by such overpowering production that his deficiencies as a rapper were minimized. That's not the case this time. His sophomoric, monotone raps drain the fire and passion from some otherwise noteworthy collaborations with Jay-Z, Twista, Lil' Kim and others.
Most of Puff Daddy's lyrics revolve around the pressures of being a high-profile celebrity, but an ode to God, "Best Friend," is easily the album's most powerful track. When he's trying to recount action-filled adventures, his unimaginative lyrics and substandard delivery eliminate any suspense and tension. Puff Daddy is much more tolerable as a second fiddle who adds an occasional rap, as he did in the past on albums from far more capable proteges such as the Notorious B.I.G. and Ma$e.
Puffy and his stable of producers win when they sample Public Enemy and MC Lyte, but stumble when creating their own instrumentation. Puff Daddy has been widely criticized for relying too heavily on such old songs as the Police's "Every Breath You Take" for his own hits, but it's unlikely any of the songs using original sounds will attract the same attention as his sample-driven tunes.
Even though Puff Daddy has been a hip-hop force for several years, "Forever" shows again that his rapping comes in a poor second to his business acumen.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.