To purists, Sean "Puffy" Combs (aka Puff Daddy) relies a little too much on other musicians' work, rendering hip-hop into high-concept karaoke. There's no denying, though, that he knows how to make hits. The 27-year-old producer turned rapper has made the headlines as a protagonist in the media-magnified West Coast-East Coast feud between the late rappers Tupac Shakur and Puffy's friend and protégé the Notorious B.I.G. But Puffy has also been responsible for producing five No. 1 rap singles this year alone—three of them crossed over to the pop chart's top spot too—making him probably the industry's No. 1 go-to man. Combs's secret? Expediency. While other hip-hop producers reconfigure samples or construct tracks out of obscure snippets, he recycles old and already popular songs: his "I'll Be Missing You" is a rewritten cover of the Police's "Every Breath You Take."
No Way Out has two basic themes: 1) Puffy's pain over the murder of B.I.G. and 2) making money. The latter fixation dilutes true emotion and seriously weakens Puffy's debut album as a rapper. (Bad Boy/Arista)