In case you haven’t heard, the new Diddy album Press Play hit stores today. I already reviewed it once on my own site, but I figured I might as well take an even more in-depth look at it here. It’s been a while since there’s been a rap album this big that’s actually worth a shit.
I notice opinions on the album have been pretty split. On the one hand, you’ve got a lot of people like myself and Noz, who don’t normally dig on this sort of thing, saying this is surprisingly good. But then there’s still a lot of people out there wondering what the hell we’re thinking; how could someone like Diddy actually make a good rap album?
It’s true that Diddy still isn’t much of a rapper, but obviously a shiteload of work and, let’s face it, money went into producing Press Play, and it shows. Even if you aren’t necessarily into a lot of pop rap, the production on this is still pretty state of the art, and Diddy obviously spared no expense when it came to hiring ghostwriters.
All told, I think he put together one hell of an album and it’ll be interesting to see how some of this year’s other highly anticipated rap albums measure up by comparison.
Testimony (Intro). You’d think some rapper would’ve thought to sample Tears for Fears’ incredible “Head over Heels” by now, but apparently not. Actually, I think some southern rapper might have used this loop on one of those Hurricane Katrina songs Noz posted, but who cares about that shit? Only thing is, you wish they would have sampled the actual record rather than have some no-talent replay it.
We Gon’ Make It feat. Jack Knight. The first of several tracks on this featuring choruses by R&B singers no one ever heard of. Also, this works the same sample as Jay-Z’s god-awful “Show Me What You Got.” I’m not crazy about either of them, but I’ll take this over the Jay record just for the lack of “Rump Shaker” horns.
I Am (Interlude). This was the brief “freestyle” posted on Diddy’s MySpace during that week he was supposedly beefing with Fiddy. He shouts, “I’m richer, bitch!” a few times, but otherwise he could just as easily be talking to Jay, I think, which might explain Jay jacking the beat from “We Gon’ Make It” for his big comeback single.
The Future. Listening to this, you can’t help but feel bad about the fact that it’s been, like, forever since there was a new Pharoah Monche album out. I may have even been in high school when the last one was released. If you haven’t already, check out his track from J Dilla’s otherwise kinda meh The Shining.
Hold Up feat. Angela Hunte. Again, who or what the fuck is a Angela Hunte? (I suppose it’s worth noting though that I copped these track titles from the ID3 tags from my special press advance copy of the album, so they cold be all fucked up.) I don’t have the production credits for this handy, but this sounds quite a bit like “Jesus Walks.” Like, quite a bit.
Come to Me feat. Nicole Scherzinger. The triumphant lead single featuring my new favorite R&B singer evar, Nicole Schwarzenegger of the Pussycat Dolls or, as kids in the ghetto are calling them, PCD. Truth be told, it’s more of a PCD song featuring Diddy, but he can’t rap very well anyway, so it ends up working out pretty well for this.
Tell Me feat. Christina Aguilera. Like “Come to Me,” except over a beat that calls to mind “SexyBack,” and featuring Christina Aguilera on the chorus (and some of the verses as well, I guess). Have I mentioned how much I liked Christina Aguilera? This video better be hot! Even more so than the one for “Come to Me.”
Wanna Move feat. Big Boi, Ciara, and Scar. You get the idea that this was recorded long before anyone realized how much of a shit sandwich Idlewild was going to be. Indeed this isn’t exactly one of Press Play’s standouts, either. It reminds me of every other song Ciara ever did with the likes of Missy Elliott and Jazze Pha and Field Mob and so on and so forth. I don’t even think she’s that hot, despite the fact that her rock-solid abs should only be viewed as an inspiration to black women everywhere.
P Diddy Rock feat. Timbaland, Twista, and Shawnna. One of the least inspired of Timbaland’s recent work, this could almost be on Idlewild, or maybe that Nelly Furtado album. Twista makes it a point though to earn the $500 or whatever Diddy gave him to rap on this. Interestingly enough, it was only a few weeks ago that my go-to guy (for inane trivia) Noz was lamenting the fact that it’s been so long since Twista rapped over a Timbaland beat. I’m sure he’s in hog heaven.
Claim My Place feat. Avant (Interlude). A good third of this is just plain inaudible on my admittedly less-than-ideal laptop speakers. The rest ain’t particularly useful, either.
Everything I Love feat. Nas & Cee-Lo. Presumably, Nas wrote both of Diddy’s verses on this as well as his own. In that sense, it’s a shame that Diddy is even on this at all. But for what it’s worth, he spits both of his verses on this pretty dang hard. I don’t know that Gnarls Barkley adds much to the chorus, but at least he’s not given much opportunity to fuck shit up either.
Special Feeling feat. Mika Lett. As I mentioned in the review for this on my own site, this sounds quite a bit like something Prince might have written for Apollonia 6 or Morris Day and the Time circa 1984. In a good way, of course. What’s the matter, your shoes too tight? Let’s have some action!
Crazy Thang feat. S Rosete (Interlude). A skit annoying enough it could be on an OutKast album. Break!
After Love feat. Keri. If I was going to cut one track from this album, it would almost certainly be this. Presumably, it was left on here because it sets up the second half of the album thematically, but musically it’s pretty shitty, even by modern R&B standards.
Through the Pain (She Told Me) feat. Mario Winans. Not unlike that Enya record Diddy did with Mario Winans (112 + ’80s era Michael McDonald = Mario Winans?) a few years ago. I’m not that crazy about this, but I’m sure there’s plenty of an audience for it. There’s a weird drum and bass bit at the end which leads to the next song.
Thought You Said feat. Brandy. I’m assuming this is what Diddy meant when he mentioned a few years ago that he was working on a techno album. This is basically your typical shitty Brandy record with every drum and bass beat you ever heard laid under it. Then there’s an admittedly kinda cool crescendo during Diddy’s second and third verses.
Last Night feat. Keyshia Cole. The one where Diddy sings. He doesn’t have a very good voice at all, but almost anyone could make a track like this more or less work. There isn’t a whole lot going on here, but I do like the chorus. If there’s a video for this (there should be a video for at least half of these songs), I hope Keyshia Cole is wearing a really tight shirt. For my own personal amusement.
Making It Hard feat. Mary J. Blige. Produced by Rich Harrison, the guy that did “Crazy in Love” and that one Amerie song. It’s easily the high point of the stretch of R&B songs that make up this album’s second half. In fact, you wonder why more MCs haven’t been working with this guy. Or maybe he’s like Timbaland, and he’s only going for that R&B money these days.
Partners for Life feat. Jamie Foxx. Diddy whispers-mumbles some more barely audible shit about when he used to work at Uptown Records with Heavy D and the Boyz, and then another one of these god-awful Jamie Foxx records kicks in. This might even be worse than the one he did with T.I. Diddy’s sappy loverman raps don’t help matters much either. How this album could have not ended with “Making It Hard” is beyond me. Fuck Diddy’s manly-looking girlfriend. No Fonsworth Bentley.