The Bad Boy Family Reunion show is tonight in Brooklyn and it’s undoubtedly going to set the bar pretty high for all shows in New York this summer. This show is significant for several reasons: first, its two-day run coincides with the birthday of hip hop legend and Bad Boy artist Notorious B.I.G.. The reunion in honor of him seems all the more fitting being as it’s taking place at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, the New York borough where Biggie grew up,. Additionally, these two shows are a prequel to the Bad Boy Family Reunion tour, which, according to Bad Boy founder and CEO, Sean “Diddy” Combs, is set to kick off August 25 in Columbus, OH.
With over two decades under its belt, Bad Boy has played a huge role in hip hop culture, and has been responsible for some of the genre’s greats. Last year, the iconic record label celebrated 20 years with an extended performance at the BET awards, and the Bad Boy Reunion show is a homecoming for hip hop greats and fans alike.
But those familiar with the label have learned over the years to not get too comfortable with any specific act. Like a great season of Game of Thrones, Bad Boy giveth, and Bad Boy taketh away. Many artists signed to Diddy’s label, especially within the last 10 years, have experienced great but fleeting success, leaving fans bewildered and hoping for more. This shady history is a huge part of the hype for this show and the subsequent tour. This show is a “reunion” in the 10-years-since-high-school sense of the word: we’ve wondered about the fate of the popular clique, the interesting outlier, and the prom queen since we left. For some fans, the absence and questions have built anticipation for this event that have lasted about a decade.
So to get ready for the tour, let’s take a look at what made some of these Bad Boy artists great, and what’s happened since their heyday.
When I was in about 4th grade, my sister had a full size Ma$e poster on the back of her door that did not come down until after she married her husband about five or six years later. He had just hit the ground running in Bad Boy after being featured alongside Biggie on the summer ‘96 summer banger “Only You” by 112. His debut album, Harlem World, topped the Billboard chart and had positioned Ma$e to replace the recently murdered Notorious B.I.G. as Bad Boy’s featured rapper. His singles “Feel Good” and “Lookin at Me” are still instantly recognizable and both made number 1 on the rap charts. Ma$e’s lyrical flow was laid back and his persona was refreshingly charming. His signature smile and deep dimples gave him heartthrob status. Barely touched by the sophomore album curse, his 1999 project Double Up went gold and provided a glimpse of what was next for the rapper. But then, he left while he was hot: later that year he announced his retirement from rap to pursue a “calling from God.” Ma$e became a minister — seriously. Five years later he returned to rap, and Bad Boy, with his aptly titled third album, Welcome Back. It did OK, but not well enough for Ma$e to reclaim his spot as a permanent fixture in the rap game. But seriously, can you ever really come back from Christ?
If you’re a black millennial, singer Carl Thomas probably occupies fond memories similar to that of an older, but not creepy, uncle. He is responsible for R&B jams that you and your parents could both vibe to — or step if you’re from Chicago — like “Emotional” and “Summer Rain.” His single “I Wish” was an anthem for heartbroken bachelors where he crooned “I wish I never met her at all.” Jay-Z even included his own version of the infamous hook in “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It To Me). Thomas’s R&B was soulful and more mature, but it made him a black household name. After an unsuccessful sophomore album, Carl Thomas moved further into the contemporary soul category and was even nominated for a grammy for a collaborative single with Yolanda Adams, Gerald Levert, and Chaka Khan. His career still hasn’t been revived to the level of success that it was with his Bad Boy debut.
Unofficially considered the the first original “bad girls”, R&B girl group Total was always a part of the fabric of hip hop and Bad Boy. They sang the hook on Biggie’s debut single “Juicy” and his follow-up single “One More Chance.” They’ve melodically handled the hook on many a hip hop track since, but their individual projects never did quite as well as some of their peers’. I blame sexism. With their self-titled first album, Total followed the recipe that worked with other girl groups of the time: capture the multitude of experiences that love brings about. But with their second album, Kima, Kisha, and Pam, they set themselves apart by living up to their “bad girl” reputation. My favorite song on the album is “I Tried,” where they harmonize about how one of them tried, but not very hard and with no success, not to sleep with their friend’s boyfriend. After the buzz around their second album receded, they pretty much fell off the map.
If you don’t have at least one 112 song on your sex playlist you are losing at life — and probably at sex, too. “Cupid” sets a romantic mood for you and bae, “Peaches and Cream” is perfect when you’re feeling playful and frisky, “Anywhere” is for… well, just listen to it, and for the best masturbation vibes try “All My Love,” the Hot & Wet version. 112 was one of the best boy bands of the ’90s and the quartet’s self-titled, debut album in 1996 was one of Bad Boy’s first forays into R&B. They oozed sex appeal and were often photographed heavily oiled in leather jackets and tank tops. Need I say more? After three albums, the group left Bad Boy in 2002 to join Def Jam. They released two more albums and enjoyedcontinued major success before disbanding.
Arguably the Queen of Rap, Lil Kim hasn’t wavered much from the public eye and doesn’t need much of an explanation. I mainly included her on this list because I think we can all agree that it is her ‘90s look that will be missed the most. It’s a look that can unfortunately never be revived.