There’s not much choice for Puff Daddy anymore but to release this album. Black Rob has long been a favorite of street vendors and underground rap fans because of his matter of fact, story-telling rap style. Strangely though Rob’s album has been consistently pushed back, just now catching a buzz with “Whoa”, after the previous four singles failed to deliver. Now with the retirement of Ma$e and departure of The Lox, he stands as Bad Boy’s only heir apparent left to the throne of the late Christopher Wallace.
The title track “Life Story” is exactly what you’d expect – a smooth flowing beat where Rob describes his childhood growing up and the hard knocks. “Drive By” continues the narrative in a fashion that would make Kool G Rap proud before being followed by a most welcome guest appearance of Cee Lo on “Lookin’ At Us”. “Down the Line” seems a bit confusing though. Besides featuring the departed Mase and an unfortunate rap by Puffy, the song title has nothing to do with the chorus whatsoever. Fortunately the next track is the first single Bad Boy released from this album last year; the Harve Pierre sung “You Don’t Know Me”. The apparent simplicity of the song belies his ability to paint a portrait of racial profiling that goes on even South of the border. “We out to Mexico, for a fun-filled weekend/At least I thought I was, they had the whole place strung/ Still thinkin’ I sold drugs, ice ‘em up/Kick the door in, I find Satan/From up top, bullets soaring, but I fake ‘em.”
Again, it’s a bit surprising to hear an ex-Bad Boy affiliate on the album, as The L.O.X. are all over the mix-tape favorite “Can I Live” – (and no, not the same version as appeared on We Are the Streets). The piano laced beat and Rob’s gruff voice along with the smooth Yonkers flowing thugs is an excellent combination and almost makes you wish they had formed a group together. For some reason though, the silly tradition that Puffy started with his Tiger Woods skit on “Mo Money Mo Problems” is continued with “Championship”. Like most skits on any album (but especially Bad Boy) it’s totally unnecessary. On the same note, “PD World Tour” would be a lot better without the Puffster. For some reason, Puffy’s lack of talent wasn’t as annoying on Biggie’s albums, but here it’s radiant.
Overall, this may be the most surprising album to come out on Bad Boy this year, but shares an unfortunate tendency to have rehashed and already released material. Despite this, it’s definitely an album worth peeping because of Black Rob’s excellent storytelling and good production throughout.
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