The story of Bad Boy Records begins, of course, with Puff Daddy. The man of a million names (or a million variations on a single nickname, at least) founded the label in 1993, and struck gold almost immediately; by Christmas the next year, Bad Boy had released an underground classic single and the debut album from the man who would help redefine hip-hop, the Notorious B.I.G.
Sean Combs is getting the gang back together for the Bad Boy Family Reunion, and the biggest songs that will be played at the tour’s kickoff shows at Barclays Center on May 20 and 21 will probably be Puff Daddy’s hits. But two artists does not a label make. To prepare for a walk down memory lane, here’s a rundown of some of Bad Boy’s non-Puffy, non-Biggie (as main artist, at least) hits, along with where they fell on the label’s timeline.
Craig Mack (f. Notorious B.I.G., Rampage, LL Cool J and Busta Rhymes)
‘Flava In Ya Ear (Remix)’
Technically, this remix came out before Biggie’s debut single, but even on Mack’s own song it was obvious who was the superstar. The appearances by LL and Busta also gave the nascent Bad Boy some big-name co-signs early in the label’s history.
Total (f. Notorious B.I.G.)
‘Can’t You See’
Puffy could use Biggie in the same way a politician might use an endorser; one appearance by the Notorious one on a track could put any act on the radio. It was that way for the talented trio from Newark, who got a Biggie verse for its first single and launched immediately into the public’s consciousness.
‘Feel So Good’
From the classic-era Bad Boy, Mase was the third star, launching as Puff Daddy’s sidekick in the wake of Biggie’s death. He’s still best known for appearances on two of Puffy’s songs, but his solo album debut did give the world this single, built heavily on a sample from Kool & the Gang’s “Hollywood Swinging.”
The Lox (f. DMX and Lil Kim)
‘Money, Power & Respect’
Before it became the punchline of a Kanye West lyric (“I felt like Bad Boy’s street team: I couldn’t work The Lox”), the group had its biggest hit with DMX and friend of Bad Boy Lil Kim. The Yonkers trio, in retrospect, may have been a bit too “tough” for the money-obsessed late-’90s Bad Boy. Though based on the Lox’s presence on the reunion tour, any hard feelings are long in the past.
Yung Joc (f. Nitti)
‘It’s Goin’ Down’
The snap (think a slowed-down crunk) emcee and “Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta” recurring player Yung Joc had one of the biggest hits for Bad Boy South, the spinoff label intended to capitalize on Atlanta’s rise in rap prominence in the mid-’00s. Joc’s hit was a rare one for Bad Boy at the time; this, Yoc’s collaboration with Danity Kane (“Show Stopper”) and Cassie’s “Me & U” were the label’s few successes.
Janelle Monae (f. Big Boi)
No, really! Before heading out on her own with her Wondaland Records, she was on Bad Boy, releasing her two full-lengths there. One of the more left-field artists to have appeared on the label, Monae has nonetheless credited Puffy (along with Big Boi) as helping her break through.
French Montana (f. Rick Ross, Drake and Lil Wayne)
The platinum-selling hit established Montana as likely the biggest non-Puff star on the current Bad Boy roster. In its own way, there’s an echo of where the label started, as well: It’s fitting that one of its biggest recent hits has enough guest appearances to make it sound like a “family reunion.”