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P Diddy - Press Play

P Diddy, Press Play

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

P DIDDY’S return to the hip-hop limelight is a monster in many ways. Deeply impressive in places, it also shamefully conforms to the current trend for bragging about bling, status and women.

As per usual for a mainstream album from a big-name rapper, it boasts a who’s who of guest singers, including Christina Aguilera, OutKast’s Big Boi, Gnarls Barkley’s Cee-Lo, Mary J. Blige, Jamie Foxx, Nas, Brandy, Keyshia Cole and the Pussycat Dolls’ Nicole Scherzinger.

But as impressive as the production values are (and it’s supporting credentials), there are times when the album sounds horribly self-indulgent and, worse, routinely mainstream.

Let’s get the negative out of the way first. When Sean P Diddy Combs claims to be “the man who provided more jobs for blacks than armed service”, or , the album smacks of a self-importance that is more about P Diddy competing with his peers (50 Cent, The Game, Kanye) than allowing his music to do the talking.

His need to herald a lot of tracks with announcements such as “it only gets stronger” also suggests that Diddy is desperate for you to keep tuned in early on, while ill-chosen flow such as “I’m richer bitch” and “I’m that nigger” smack of the tainted values that have come to dominate mainstream hip-hop – something that even Jurassic 5 lament on their latest album when they point out that love songs have become odes to whores and artists have embraced the gangsta lifestyle rather than seeking to find a way to escape it.

Tracks like the hip-hop heavy-hitter The Future feel like throwaway efforts that could easily be on any one of a number of albums, while attempts to simulate the jazz-funk of Prince or Justin Timberlake simply don’t cut it and sound a little out of place. Still, at least it shows that Diddy has an ear for what’s contemporary and is at least trying to be eclectic.

Such moments, thankfully, are in short supply for at the end of the day this is undoubtedly a good hip-hop album that’s well-served by some of its more illustrious contributors.

Nicole Scherzinger’s sassy vocal style considerably enlivens the recent single Come To Me, which is tailor-made for massive global success across every dancefloor in every continent, while similarly slick body-rocking beats contribute immensely to the enjoyability factor of cuts like Tell Me and Wanna Move.

Wanna Move, especially, is dripping in slick, Neptunes-inspired production values and benefits from the smooth groove vocals of Ciara, which interplay smartly with Big Boi’s own stylish flow. If ever released as a single, it’ll be massive and deservedly so, for it can’t fail to get your body moving along in appreciation.

Christina Aguilera, meanwhile, builds on the good work she did on her own Aint No Other Man with some equally gutsy vocals on Tell Me, which positively drips with vibrancy.

And there’s a really smart techno homage surrounding the electronics on P Diddy Rock, which features more clever word play between Diddy, Timbaland, Twista and Shawnna. The stripped down beats are also effective, managing not to drown out the all-important vocals.

Elsewhere, P Diddy’s undoubted confidence in his own ability (or is that arrogance?) is evident from the outset on the intro piece Testimonial, which is built around a classic Tears For Fears’ sample, and there’s some serious smooth grooving on the Mario Winans’ collaboration, Through The Pain (She Told Me), which marks the album at its most soulful.

The most consistently striking thing about Press Play, however, is just how many cracking beats the rapper has managed to assemble, most of which lend it a vibrancy and energy that’s impossible not to ignore.

So whether charting old-skool hip hop territory, soul, pop, Motown-era funk or R’n’B, the album always remains careful not to become rooted in one particular sound for too long. It’s lively and adventurous enough to rise above some of its lazier tendencies and capable of reaching beyond any genre boundaries to have an almost universal appeal.

Hence, casting some of my earlier reservations aside, this comes as a highly recommended hip-hop release that confirms Diddy’s position as a major player once again.

Track listing:

  1. Testimonial (Intro)
  2. We Gon’ Make It featuring Jack Knight
  3. I Am (Interlude)
  4. The Future
  5. Hold Up featuring Angela Hunte
  6. Come To Me featuring Nicole Scherzinger
  7. Tell Me featuring Christina Aguilera
  8. Wanna Move featuring Big Boi, Ciara and Scar
  9. Diddy Rock featuring Timbaland, Twista and Shawnna
  10. Claim My Place (Interlude)
  11. Everything I Love featuring Nas and Cee-Lo
  12. Special Feeling featuring Mika Lett
  13. Crazy Thang (Interlude)
  14. After Love featuring Keri
  15. Through The Pain (She Told Me) featuring Mario Winans
  16. Thought You Said featuring Brandy
  17. Last Night featuring Keyshia Cole
  18. Makin’ It Hard featuring Mary J. Blige
  19. Partners For Life featuring Jamie Fox

  1. Article is fine, just wanted to say that Timbaland’s skills are just unbelievable, anything the man touches turns to gold. Well done!

    R    Nov 1    #