The other night I finally got around to watching Get Him to the Greek, the summer movie that established Diddy as a legitimately hilarious comic actor, and I couldn’t help but notice how closely art imitated life. True, Diddy playing a money hungry, intensely charismatic record exec wasn’t exactly a stretch for Mr. Combs, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Rather it was African Child, the disastrous album from main character Aldous Snow, the drug-addicted British rocker played by Russell Brand, that hit close to home. You see, Aldous was an almost unfathomably famous …
DJBooth Album Review
So as I pressed play on Diddy’s oft-delayed album Last Train to Paris, all I could think was, is this his African Child? It certainly had all the markings. A hip-hop icon who though obsessive self-promotion had become a transcendent cultural figure, Diddy announced that he was embarking on a concept album that explored love and loss, and to do so he was forming a new group, Dirty Money, comprised of himself, ex-Danity Kane survivor Dawn Richard and Kalenna Harper. (Note: From now on I’ll be referring to the group by their more accurate name, Diddy Money.) It was exactly the type of announcement guaranteed to raise wary glances from hip-hop nation, and once the album’s deeply Euro-club sound began to form, those wary glances morphed into full on doubtful stares. Add in repeated delays and the lack of an initial hit, and soon the album was being called Last Trainwreck to Paris. They might as well have called it African Child.
First things first. Now that the highly speculated album is finally here, it’s no African Child. In many ways, Diddy Money have proven that the hip-hop/dance/club sound that is currently ruling the airwaves can be used to serve as the soundtrack to binge drinking. Take lead single Angels, an artistically progressive cut featuring the deeply graveled voices of Rick Ross and Biggie providing a perfect counterbalance to the song’s more cherubic elements. It sounds like a sword fight in heaven, it sounds like a dangerously quiet assassin, and in many ways it sounds like the future of hip-hop. Hello, Good Morning, so far the album’s biggest hit, follows a very similar template, laying hip-hop flourishes onto a house music foundation, as does Yeah Yeah You Would. Diddy Money’s genre-bending tendencies push in other directions as well, taking on a rock influence for Coming Home and taking a babymaker onto the dance floor on the Trey Songz-assisted Your Love. Tracks like these may not match your personal tastes, but there’s no denying that they hit the target they’re aiming for…
….except for one, not so small detail – Diddy. Sean Combs is many things – a visionary, a businessman, an outlandishly large personality - but he is simply not a frontman, as much as he obviously wishes otherwise. When Diddy can often rely on his charisma and star power to carry his vocals, like on the hypnotic Ass on the Floor, the results can be as entertaining, but when the topic turns more serious, and Train to Paris turns serious often, he simply doesn’t have the vocal skills to match his lofty ambitions. A dope emcee would have killed Someone To Love Me’s soulfully slow beat, but Diddy’s rhymes sound plodding and over-constructed, and the line between his singing and talking, at least when not Auto-tuned, is almost indistinguishable, like on I Know. To make matters worse, he occasionally lapses into spoken word-esque territory, even convincing Lil Wayne to do the same on the barely listenable Strobe Lights and Shades. Diddy is undeniably the weak link on an album filled with quality musicians, and considering he’s the album’s leader and driving force, that’s no small detail.
To return to that not-really-that-clever pun, this album is no trainwreck. While Last Train to Paris doesn’t ever go completely off the tracks, it’s not without its share of delays and jolts. Still, the seats are comfortable, the drinks are strong and the view out the window is nice. If only the conductor would stop jumping on the intercom every five minutes to make an announcement, we might actually be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
DJBooth Rating - 3 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 12/13/10
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Love Comes Down" (2009)
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