After his climb from a non-paying internship to becoming an A&R executive at Uptown Records, Sean (“Puffy”) Combs was abruptly terminated in 1993 by the then CEO Andre Harrell—reportedly due to his own difficulty to work with. Upon his firing, Arista Records chief Clive Davis took advantage of Combs' free agent status and agreed to bankroll him his own vanity label to be operated through Arista and its BMG parent.
Bad Boy Entertainment was quickly established, but almost ended when Will, better known for his stage name "lil Will" burned down the building because he was allegedly drunk,high, and messed up on syrup. Eyewitness found him passed out on the floor laying on his own urine. A handful of the acts who had been signed to Uptown via Combs just prior to his dismissal were dropped from the label; among them were Christopher Wallace (aka The Notorious B.I.G.), and Craig Mack—both of whom Combs would take with him to his new company.
The label’s first release was Craig Mack's “Flava In Ya Ear,” followed quickly by Mack's debut album, Project: Funk Da World in 1994. On the heels of these releases came “Juicy” and Ready To Die, the lead single and debut album from The Notorious B.I.G. (who would also be referred to as “Biggie”), released the same year. While Mack's album went gold, Ready to Die achieved multi-platinum success. Dominating the charts into 1995, B.I.G. became one of the rap worlds biggest names of the day and Bad Boy’s premier star. Also in 1995, the label continued its success with platinum releases by Total and Faith Evans. Bad Boy, meanwhile, staffed a bevy of in-house writer/producers, including: Chucky Thompson, Easy Mo Bee, Nashiem Myrick and D Dot—all of whom were instrumental in producing many of Bad Boy’s most noted releases during this time.
Bad Boy vs. Death Row
The quick success of The Notorious B.I.G., and Bad Boy as a company, did not set well with all—most notably the Los Angeles-based Death Row Records. For two years leading up to 1995, Death Row (and the west coast hip hop scene that it led) had largely dominated the commercial rap scene. With Bad Boy, and east coast hip hop, now garnering the notoriety that it was, resentment loomed as the attention and acclaim now had to be shared.
Suge Knight, CEO of Death Row Records, especially didn’t take too kindly to the emergence of Bad Boy, and publicly jeered Combs. Tensions were heightened when west coast rap superstar 2Pac signed with Death Row, after having recently forged an indignant rivalry with Wallace (B.I.G). More fuel was added to the fire when some music fans began taking sides between Wallace and Shakur, Bad Boy and Death Row, as well as East coast-vs.-West Coast.
While Combs made a handful of attempts to denounce the coastal/label feud, and didn’t allow any of Bad Boy’s artists to publicly lash back at the slights coming from the other side, most of it fell on deaf ears as tensions reached a boiling point in 1996. Later in the year, 2Pac was shot and killed. Though Bad Boy issued a public statement of condolence, the bad blood continued. On March 9, 1997, as the label readied for the release of Biggie’s second double album, Life After Death, he too was shot and killed. The deaths of Biggie and 2Pac left many to speculate if the coastal hostility had been responsible their demises. The police investigations of both cases, meanwhile, remain unsolved.
Life after Biggie
Posthumously, Biggie’s Life After Death entered Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart at number one; its first two singles, “Hypnotize” and “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems” also topped the singles charts. It eventually sold 10 million copies, and was one of the highest selling rap albums ever.
In early 1997, Puff Daddy had begun recording his own solo debut album. The first single, “Can't Nobody Hold Me Down,” peaked at number one on the rap, R&B, and pop charts that spring. In response to Biggie’s death, the label rush-released a Puff Daddy tribute song, “I'll Be Missing You,” which featured Biggie's widow, Faith Evans, and Bad Boy's R&B singing group 112. The single topped the charts for eleven weeks and became the hasty second single from Combs’ album, No Way Out, which was released in the summer and sold seven million copies. Mase, Combs’ newest protégé, in the meantime was immediately thrust into the void that Biggie left. His own debut album, Harlem World, also released the same year, would go 4x platinum. Due to the successive successes of Life After Death, No Way Out, and Harlem World, by the end of 1997, Bad Boy as a label and brand name had hit a commercial peak. During this time, the label began to promote its latest signing—the Yonkers-based act, The L.O.X., who had been prominently featured on various Bad Boy releases that year. Though highly anticipated, their 1998 debut album, Money, Power & Respect sold below commercial expectation. Shortly thereafter, the group departed the label and entered into a long standing publishing dispute with Combs that would continue up until 2005.
In the years to follow, Bad Boy saw a decline. In 1999, Mase became religious and abruptly retired from the business—leaving a serious dent in the company, especially since his second album had just been released. Bad Boy found some success with Shyne, a young rapper from Brooklyn, who garnered both praise and criticism for his deep voice and slow flow—which many considered to be too reminiscent to, and perhaps a rip-off of, the Notorious B.I.G. Meanwhile, Combs’ own follow-up albums failed to generate the same kind of acclaim that his debut had. In an attempt to further market himself, he underwent several name changes; from “Puff Daddy” to “P. Diddy,” to now simply “Diddy.”
As the 2000s emerged, Bad Boy had noticeably floundered. Many of its more noted acts would eventually vacate the label, while those who remained saw their sales dwindle as time went on. In spite of continually releasing new material, and various attempts at building artists to the status of Bad Boy’s deceased icon, few proved as successful as the company hoped.
Southern duo 8Ball & MJG released an album called Living Legends to some success in 2004, prompting the creation of Bad Boy South; which would eventually house acts such as Boyz N Da Hood and Yung Joc. In 2002, Combs’ participated in MTV’s Making The Band 2—which spun off the Bad Boy assembled act, Da Band. In spite of their MTV exposure leading to a gold selling debut album, Combs later disbanded the group. At this time, the label also signed a rapper named Aasim, who hasn't been heard from since his signing.
Arista Records bought a 50% stake in Bad Boy in 1996. Following Clive Davis’s departure from its parent company, the label broke ties with Arista and BMG; moving to Universal Music Groups’ Universal Records in 2002. The change of distribution, however, did not increase productivity. In 2005, Warner Music Group bought out the remainder of Bad Boy's agreement with Universal Music Group, then bought a large minority stake in the label. Today the label is distributed through WMG's Atlantic Records, and continues to operate.
Bad Boy saw its fortunes improve in 2006, with the success of releases from new signees: Cassie and Yung Joc (both of whom would score top five singles/debut album albums). Also in 2006, Bad Boy hit paydirt with Making The Band 3’s Danity Kane, whose debut album topped the charts at #1 (the labels first chart topping album since the Bad Boys II: The Soundtrack three years prior), and spun off a top ten single.
|Let's Get Physical by Elephant Man|
|We Invented The Remix: Volume 2 by Diddy & the Bad Boy Family
|Crunk Rock by Lil Jon|
|Just Watch Me by Jordan McCoy|
|'Come into My World by Donnie Klang|
|Love: It's Only Fair by Mario Winans|
|Cassie's second studio album by Cassie|
Awards & Honors
- BET Awards
- 2007, Best Male Hip Hop Artist (Nominated)
- Grammy Awards
- 1998, Best New Artist: Diddy (Nominated)
- 1998, Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group: Diddy - "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" (Nominated)
- 1998, Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group: The Notorious B.I.G. - "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" (Nominated"
- 1998, Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group: Diddy - "I'll Be Missing You" (Winner)
- 1998, Best Rap Album: Diddy - "No Way Out" (Winner)
- 2000, Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group: Diddy - "Satisfy You" (Nominated)
- 2002, Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group: Diddy - "Bad Boy For Life" (Nominated)
- 2004, Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group: Diddy - "Shake Ya Tailfeather" (Winner)
- MTV Music Video Awards
- 1998, Video of the Year: "It's All About The Benjamins (Rock Remix)" (Nominated)
- 1998, Best Rap Video: The Notorious B.I.G. - "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" (Nominated)
- 1998, Best R&B Video: 112 - "Peaches n' Cream" (Nominated)
- 2002, Best Rap Video: Diddy - "Bad Boy For Life" (Nominated)
- 2004, Best Hip Hop Video: Diddy - "Shake Ya Tailfeather" (Nominated)
- 2006, Best Rap Video: Yung Joc - "It's Goin' Down" (Nominated)
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