Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour
Endings are hard. And the only thing rougher than endings is the moment when one realizes that a conclusion is near. The Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour came to an end Tuesday night at the newly renovated Inglewood Forum but not before two decades worth of hits and emotions were unpacked for the thousands in attendance. Also familiar with the sudden realization of an end were the slew of artists and surprise guests who saw the end of an era following the murders of both the Notorious BIG and Tupac Shakur. Luckily, the billed artists have survived the 20 years following rap’s monumental losses to produce more amazing music and carry forth the legacy setup by the genre’s martyrs. Their contributions to the Bad Boy Records 20th anniversary celebration displayed their commitment to perpetuating the pioneering label’s incomparable legacy.
“This ain’t a concert, not a show, not an opera” Diddy lectured to the audience. “This is a story about a bunch of young people who had a dream to do music”
It was unclear whether Diddy was presiding over a funeral or a marriage, standing center stage in an outfit ripped straight from The Saga Continues era. He donned a white baseball jersey with black embroidery and white fleece pants that he wears better than anyone else. Diddy’s mood was at once reflective, yet unmistakably Diddy. Aware of what he was able to create rap’s greatest executive of all-time, Diddy was humbled, yet proud. It was the pride he showed when introducing his son, King Combs, to the audience for a short performance and humility shown during his Mary J. Blige introduction. For his son, his advice was “Rap like you my fuckin’ son”, while his tone with the “Family Affairs” songstress told the story of Diddy being ready to give up on music after being fired and fed up with the music business. He called their introduction a miracle and thanked her for being responsible all that the label had become before her 10 minute set.
Diddy gave oral histories all night once noting that most of the time people don’t realize they’re seeing history but with Puff around, the self-aggrandizing was in surplus. Real 92.3’s Big Boy, the first special guest, took the stage as the countdown clock on the stage to noting that Bad Boy records were the soundtrack to his life. He wrapped his introduction with a note for his wife: “Veronica, I’m fucking you tonight”, as the R. Kelly-featured track (“Fucking You Tonight”) played blared through the speakers. From there energy climbed steadily, however audio issues muzzled lyrics that would have brought the Forum to a fever-pitch. Rapprochement between the vibrations on-stage and in the crowd swelled but it’s unclear whether that was from the resolution of the sound issues of the barrage of classic hits and surprise guests.
“I don’t even know what we gon’ do but whatever we gon’ do is gon’ be fuckin’ great” Diddy explained after ordering the venue to go black whenever he brings someone else on stage.
For this specific surprise Diddy pulled out all of the stops. Two tall figures emerged from platforms under the stage. Hysteria ensued when the crowd realized that one of the tall figures in all-white with smoke coming from his mouth was Snoop Dogg and the other in all-black was the elusive Dr. Dre. The unlikely surprise was short yet marvelous while they performed “Still D.R.E.” and “The Next Episode,” Snoop Cripwalked during Dre’s verses. When Diddy took the stage to join them and exalt them for their roles of mentors of his, it seemed the closest we would ever get to a Biggie-Tupac reconciliation and set. Likely also the closest the crowd would get a fortune with the trio’s combined net worth adding up to $1.8 Billion.
Diddy’s first guest emerged to the same fanfare as Diddy’s West Coast counterparts. Nas ran from backstage to spit his “Hate Me Now” verse, setting the tone for a night with friends and hip-hop legends who’d pushed the genre to the to its current state. And Bad Boy couldn’t boast a legacy were they not important to music today. Latest Bad Boy standout, French Montana, currently on top of the world with “All the Way Up,” was on hand and brought with him Harlem boys A$AP Rocky and Ferg, whose father worked with Bad Boy at the label’s peak. The breadth of Diddy and Bad Boy’s influence and appreciation were exhibited this way and of course, the face of Ciroc wouldn’t let us forget it.
“My name is Puff Daddy and I like to show off all the fuckin’ time!” he yells after what seemed like his 10th wardrobe change. Just another of the Diddy-isms that made the epic show. At one point he took a not-so-subtle shot at the one-time beef with Suge Knight quipping, “you know me, all in the videos, dancing on the stage.”
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“Let’s dance” he continued. His trademark moves took no breaks and a “get it Diddy” chant ensued from the crowd. His sons invoked his giddy spirit with almost identical dance moves. King Combs, was a copy of a young Diddy before the millions but ego unchanged. And if at anytime hubris was acceptable, it was for the accomplishments Bad Boy holds under their belt. As the night went on, and legend after legend took the stage, a clearer picture of their legacy was comprised.
Mase, in his full-length fur, was the prototype of the finesse rapper with a signature laugh and buttery bars that he’s kept in tow since his debut in ‘96. He danced with Diddy and added “take that” to Diddy’s one-liners. When Lil’ Kim took the stage looking more like a Jackson than the femme fatale on the La Bella Mafia cover, her role as the first uncouth female rapper showed again how the label pioneered so much of the game today. She spit her lyrics with vigor, her huge blonde Afro bouncing with her during “Get Money” verse and made clear that she was in fact the originator of the “Fuck Bitches, Get Money” mantra in rap.
The Atlanta quartet, 112, reigned as kings of the R & Bounce movement that remains unmatched. Slim, in an all-white vest still had abs that provoked shrieks from the crowd. When The Lox took the stage for their tidbit of a set, their role as the first gutter group which gave way to movements like Dipset solidify them in rap’s history. And Faith Evans combined the worlds of the gangsta bitch and lovesick R&B queen as she went through her catalog.
The Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour was like a marriage in this aspect. ‘70s soul was bound with the emerging rap genre at the label’s peak. From Total’s features with Biggie to Mase debuting with 112 or Mary J Blige having her sound paired with Diddy’s precocious genius, Bad Boy was an introduction to several aspects of music that boast a long lasting stay in contemporary music. At the same time, the show was the memorial service for Biggie that many of us, especially on the West, missed. Pictures of Biggie on the screen were somber, as one considers that the show could have been Notorious had the Brooklyn legend been on the stage to put down two decades worth of megalithic music. The show closed with one of Biggie’s last interviews before “Missing You” intro’d. Diddy took the stage solo rapping the verses, infinitely more heartbreaking in person. Soon Faith Evans joined him for her vocals. A choir emerged along with Total, Lil Kim and other remaining acts to join hands in remembering Biggie and wrapping the tour for which he was largely responsible. So perhaps, it was neither a funeral nor a marriage but a reflection on the power of Black music and the legacy of one the most storied labels in music history.