Bad Boy, Bad Boy, what you gonna do?
First of all, it's going to build anticipation by playing its music to pass the time before it hits the stage. Good thing, too, because only the R&B singers got to perform complete songs. This was more a showcase than a show: first example was that the snippet of "Victory" at the beginning lasted less than 30 seconds.
This wasn't just a concert. This was a tribute to a legacy, and not just Biggie's.
And it included surprise guest Erykah Badu. In true form for any impresario, Puff Daddy cedes the stage to a bright star in whatever galaxy he visits; this time, and he said it even surprised him, it was "the queen" -- he called her that at least four times along with "dream come true" and "the inspiration." Badu sang, or rather helped the audience sing, "On and On" and "Tyrone." And managed to shout out a lot of North Texas, from DeSoto to Mesquite, Oak Cliff to East Dallas, Malcolm X to Martin Luther King.
But wait, he wasn't done.
Minutes later, the beat to "What They Really Want" dropped and the audience picked it up. DMX stalked onto the stage and you could barely hear his growl over the roar from the crowd that really never let up until they just rapped for him, especially on "Ruff Ryders Anthem" and the hip-hop international anthem for many people, "Party Up (Up in Here)." They lost their minds up in there.
Guests at previous shows included Kanye West in New York City and Jeremih and Chance the Rapper in Chicago.
The crowd was divided into two camps, the majority who was there for every bit of it and those who had no idea that an R&B concert would break out in short sets.
But that's what they got in the middle of the show that started a little over an hour past the printed time of 8 p.m. But that was -- and seems to still be -- what's behind the success of Bad Boy Entertainment. There's something for everyone; heck, I'm waiting on him to sign a comedian. Well, that, and a singular rapper named Notorious B.I.G. who was never forgotten in the stampede to follow.
In order: an imprecise 112, with Slim still in fine tone and Q still not needing a shirt, or sleeves; and Total, who like 112 looked as if they had raided Michael Jackson's closet for the occasion, circa "Remember the Time," sounded timeless and strong on "Tell Me" leading into "Tell Me What You Want" featuring Ma$e and a sweet "Kissing You." This all happened in about 20 minutes.
But then it was time for the Lox, perhaps my favorite point of the show. A rap show broke out for six whole minutes. Their sound was great, with such clarity. (S/N: Most of the women took this moment to go potty after most of the men had taken one during 112 and Total. "We Gon Make It" was still relevant as all get-out and was delivered just as urgently.
Another artist with his own kind of urgency tagged in: Carl Thomas with a heartfelt "So Emotional" and a stirring "Summer Rain." One can only hope his reintroduction as a "living legend" sticks. He also got in the first "Dallas, Texas, I love you."
And then it was "the first lady of Bad Boy," Faith Evans, who was resplendent in red and powerful, especially on "Soon As I Get Home" for which Row K, Section 106 sang every word. Loudly. In tune. People sleep on the power of her voice and her choices. She talked about a new album called The King and I, which consists of duets with her husband, the "late, great Notorious B.I.G." Remember "Letter to B.I.G."? Jadakiss walked out with a Dirk Nowitzki jersey on. You learn something every time: A studio has never done Evans any favors; live is the best way to hear her. (Or in the forthcoming Marvel's Luke Cage, where she's a guest singer on the show. It starts streaming Sept. 30 on Netflix.)
French Montana really "Ain't Worried About Nothin'." Every song was explicit and his lazy drawl, not endearing like Ma$e's but slithery like Snape's, sucked a bit of the energy -- or vibration as Puffy said earlier -- out of the room suddenly filled with the scent of marijuana. But that moment when he and Puffy put on matching mink coats, each with a 10-foot train? Divine excess.
"There's only one queen." Heh. Tell Erykah Badu. Lil Kim appears and does what she does, though a little more mechanized than YouTube videos of past performances would suggest. But "Lighters Up" is still a jam and a truncated "Get Money" almost did some people in they were so giddy.
Puff & Ma$e, all shiny and bright and wearing gold and that includes Ma$e's sequined shoes, shimmied their way through "Feel So Good" and "I Need a Girl."
And then 112 came back out with "Cupid." Scream.
And then the long goodbye. Man band 112 came out to sing the hook for "Only You," the group's song with Biggie, and was quickly followed by Ma$e and Total and then Faith Evans. And Black Rob got in his jab with hit single "Like Whoa." And then French Montana with "All the Way Up," and Puff lording over all of it. I've always though his appearance in everyone's video was micromanaging at its finest but it's clear he just loves it.
But no one can or should minimize the influence and drive of Sean Combs (or "Shiny Suit Man," as he laughingly called himself in a pre-taped interlude). Bad Boy is a brand.
Witness the events leading up to the show: there was a "Women of Bad Boy" empowerment brunch Wednesday morning and then a pop-up shop from noon to show time.
It's a wonder the show started when it did.
But they made it, and we learned that it's all true. They aren't going anywhere. Puffy's P.T. Barnum-like 3/4-length red coat for the beginning of the show was apt. In the beginning, he was alone and then Ma$e, dressed like a Lil Lord Fauntleroy in shorts and what appeared to be leggings, literally dropped the mic and joined in for "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down." His reception was just as warm as Puff's -- I'm going to use all of his names so buckle up -- as he danced his dance that the crowd knew and loved.
Puff said, "I told you I would never stop," right off the break. And he hasn't. He also said, "Life is made of moments. We're gonna give you a moment." And he did.
The moment never seemed to end as Diddy and the gang (and the crowd) rapped along to "It's All About the Benjamins." There were flames, video fireworks and then actual fireworks as midnight struck and everyone in the building turned into a rapper spitting Biggie's verse on "Mo Money, Mo Problems." Life after death, indeed.
During that long finale to the show Wednesday night at American Airlines Center, head Bad Boy in charge Puff Daddy introduced his sons, Christian and Justin. He said, "Act like my son. Get 'em."
Christian Combs, who moves a lot like his father, performed his new song and Justin danced along. It was Puffy and Ma$e, Part 2.
Get ready. Like they said in the nod to the film The Warriors, "Bad Boy, come out and pla-ay ..."