Forever – Case of the sophomore jinx?
Puff Daddy: Forever was a commercial and critical flop.
In 1997, Bad Boy Records was set to re-negotiate it’s deal with Arista/BMG. Their budget would be dependent on whatever Life After Death sold therefore this album had to do All Eyez On Me numbers.
Puff & The Hitmen went to Trinidad and knocked out hit after hit with Biggie. The double disc has now gone on to sell 10 million copies in the US alone.
As a result of the huge success of Life After Death, Puff was able to re-negotiate a record breaking budget with Arista/BMG.
His debut album, No Way Out went onto sell 7 million copies. Victory was the most expensive video at the time and every single from the album was a massive hit on Billboard.
So how did his sophomore effort flop with such a huge budget?
- P.E 2000
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PE 2000 is pretty much a straight up loop of the classic Public Enemy Number 1 by Public Enemy. I think all Nashiem Myrick changed was some shakers and did a little overdub of the drums. This is the first record where he starts rapping about “aggressive content”.
The video was an expensive shit sandwich. We have Puff wearing a mink coat in a floating armchair . Then there is a WTF moment when Puff dances his heart out in the middle of the video to Afrika Bambaataa: Planet Rock for 50 seconds. Then in the final verse he goes to MLK Boulevard in Harlem with an appearance from Wolf (RIP). I guess this scene was to certify his new found “hardcore” image. (Sidenote: I am in the this scene wearing a xxxl white tee!)
The record doesn’t have a RnB singer on the hook, like most singles that were released on Bad Boy. Instead, we have the obnoxious Hurricaine G talking shit on the intro and then repeating the word one, 10 times as the hook. I thought this made for a bad choice to use as the 1st single.
- The abscence of Biggie & Ma$e
Lets be honest. Many people bought No Way Out because Biggie and Ma$e were all over the album. 3 of the 4 singles featured them on No Way out, but on Forever they were absent. Biggie had been deceased for 2 years and Ma$e had become a pastor.
The media and some hip hop extremists were getting tired of Bad Boy jacking for beats. The New York Times & Rolling Stone were even mocking Hitmen’s production methods at one point. Even the foolproof Bad Boy remixes failed to give life to the singles.
- Radio backlash
Radio campaigns are the backbone of a good promotional tour. Not only did some records fail horribly at radio, but there was a lot of negative backlash from radio audiences, particularly in LA (an important market) and Detroit. Puff was on an important LA radio station speaking disrescpectfully to callers who questioned his implication in the death of Tupac Shakur. People called in criticizing Puff. In Detroit, a similar controversy occured with a Reverend on radio, who claimed that he was assaulted by Diddy, Shyne and his bodyguards after failing to destroy a tape where Puff flips out.
- Negative publicity
The aftermath of the radio campaign was followed up by negative articles and reports from major media outlets such as MTV, The Enquirer , Vibe, The Source et al. This transformed his mainstrean friendly image in to that of a thug. Puff was in court various times that year. Hate Me Now was so controversial that some black church leaders had to comment on it.
- Change in image/subject matter
The subject matter on the album is much darker in comparison to No Way Out. No Way Out is a very pop friendly record in my opinion whereas on Forever, Puff is talking about his envious haters, toting guns and being respected in the streets.
In my opinion, this is why CEO’s shouldn’t rap. Of course there are always exceptions, but from a practical perspective you can’t tell a CEO what he’s doing wrong. What did you think of Forever?