Upholding A Legacy: King Combs
"And if you wanna know where Bad Boy at, King Combs bringin' Bad Boy back..."
Bad Boy Records is one of the most legendary hip-hop labels in music history. From The Notorious B.I.G. to Puff Daddy, Lil' Kim to Ma$e, 112 to Carl Thomas, Bad Boy has seen the pinnacle of music. With over 500 million records sold to date, the label's success is undeniable. However, with the golden years of Bad Boy being over 10 years ago ('94-'04), there hasn't been much big talk about them being in the top tier of hip-hop. They do have French Montana, who frequently charts, but his music isn't something that makes you think of what Bad Boy Records is famous for. With the label still riding on the success of it's heyday, a son seems to have found the spark that his father found a little over 20 years ago.
Christian Combs was born in 1998 to music mogul Sean "Puffy" Combs and model Kim Porter, in the middle of Bad Boy's legendary run through the late 1990s. Being Puff Daddy's second son, Combs grew up in the industry along with his two brothers. As a child, Combs wanted to become a rapper/artist. As the years went on, people could see that the young man was serious, and the music would follow the perseverance. In 2014, King Combs (Christian's nickname turned rap moniker) began his official discography with "One For Me", a smooth record heavily sampling the SWV track of the same name. Combs' flow is very reminiscent of the Bad Boy icon Ma$e, but he also sounds like his father. It's as if he was meant to carry the torch of the iconic record label in this new era. "One For Me" released on SoundCloud to positive reviews, "Party" came next, a Puffy & Mase-esque track with his rap group CYN. Next came an unofficial remix to The Weeknd's "Starboy", released with an accompanying music video to even more positive reviews.
Despite the positive reviews of Christian's young music career, he hadn't made a major impact yet. While touring with Bad Boy Records' for the label's 20th anniversary, he gained more recognition across the country. On April 1st, his 18th birthday, Christian signed a record deal with Bad Boy, cementing himself on the label. Less than 2 weeks later, on April 13th, he released a music video cypher with the "Paid In Full Cypher". This video would catapult the young star into the spotlight and begin his increasingly popular run in hip-hop.
This cypher features clips from the cult classic film, Paid In Full, set in Harlem, the birthplace of Combs' father. The cypher's beat is a direct sample from the legendary Eric B. & Rakim record of the same title, "Paid In Full", and with such historical significance, the beat couldn't be played with lightly.
King Combs began the cypher with the level of braggadocios rhymes that Ma$e perfected in the late 90s. "I just cruise in drops and run around in expensive cars, Uncle Phil how I switch the broads..." is just one the flawlessly executed lines that you would expect from a pure Bad Boy Records rap artist. Every member of his crew delivered a great verse as well, and the complete cypher was amazing for the upcoming artists, and along with the brilliant video editing, it showed a glimpse into the new era of Bad Boy. With the Paid In Full cypher, King Combs and his CYN crew were finally beginning to get some of the attention they deserved.
While the cypher gained traction, Combs would venture into another field of the industry. He signed to IMG Models in January and walked for Dolce & Gabbana. Dolce & Gabbana would then make 19-year old the face of their Spring ad campaign, which focused on the millennial generation. This success in both his mother and father's respective parts of Hollywood would make the young man's name more well known. King Combs was looking like a mainstay, and his career was just getting started.
As Combs' modeling career gained traction, music was still releasing. His first two singles, "Fuck The Summer Up" and "Type Different" released on July 14th, 2017. "Fuck The Summer Up" is C3 putting hip-hop on notice. Combs lets the world know that Bad Boy is back for a considerably long time with the line "Bad Boy 2.0, that's more hits for ya headtop". "Type Different" is a more catchy record, with Combs flowing and bragging as usual, with Bay Swag providing the lyrics to remember and repeat easier. "Type Different" is more of a radio record, but not in a negative way.
The CYN crew dropped two singles on SoundCloud during the fall later that year, "Berry" and "Playa Hate". "Berry" was a freestyle, no hook, just the group going one after another over the smooth beat. Combs' verse came first, and he delivered another verse filled with rhymes about the lavish lifestyle he lived and all the money he has, in other words, another Bad Boy classic verse. A lot of rappers rhyme this way, but in the case of Combs it's different for two reasons. For one, the legacy he's representing perfected this style of rap, and two, Christian has been rich from the moment he was born, everything he's rhyming about, he owns or has seen/been in. In September, Combs also remixed his father's single, "Watcha Gon' Do" with a short music video with Bay Swag coming off of a private plane. There's no "fake rich" lifestyle when it comes to Combs.
"Berry" was a great song for Combs and CYN to show off their rhymes, while "Playa Hate" was a song that showed he and his crew had done their homework on music greats. The beat samples Brandy's debut hit, "I Wanna Be Down", flawlessly, with her slightly raised pitch voice setting the tone in the beginning. King Combs does the hook and also handles the second verse. The hook is a direct sample from the hook on Mase's 1997 track "Do You Wanna Get $?", which was originally sung by Kelly Price. Obviously this song is paying homage to a hip-hop great from the label, as well as showing respect to the 1990s as a whole. Combs' has pretty much channeled Bad Boy's late 90's golden era sound and put a very small spin on it for a more modern feel when it comes to most of his music. Of course there are still samples, but now most of the samples are from the 90's, instead of the 70s/80s, and the production is still modern and crisp, considering the samples. This lane of "nostalgic music" has been a pretty much untapped lane in hip-hop in recent years, at least at the level that King Combs had been going, and it was going well.
The next couple of months were relatively quiet for Combs, but on December 22nd, "Feeling Savage" was released. This track features Smooky MarGielaa, an up and coming star himself who has a dedicated following, who handles the hook. This track is more braggadocios hip-hop with a more modern beat, not a beat with a nostalgic sound. This track is similar to "Type Different" in the sense of a more modern vibe, but it doesn't take anything away from Combs, in fact, it shows duality.
As 2018 began, King Combs began to work on new music. Combs tapped Chris Brown for assistance, got a strong sample from a classic 90s R&B track, and the result was a record that harkens back to the Bad Boy golden era. King Combs' new single, Love You Better, released on February 9th, and things were beginning to look really good for the young star. "Love You Better" samples the beat from the 1996 classic "Touch Me Tease Me" by Case, and also takes 1988 vocals from the Ultramagnetic MC's on the introduction of the song. The slow lackadaisical rap style that Ma$e perfected is used flawlessly by Combs, and it's refreshing to hear something like this from a Bad Boy Records artist. It's sort of a mix between Ma$e's "What You Want" and Jay-Z's "Song Cry".
On this record, Combs talks to a former girlfriend about the past relationship, but gives the listener multiple perspectives. In his first verse, he tells her all the things she didn't appreciate and what her issues and shortcomings were, and as that fades out, the listener gets a classic Chris Breezy chorus. In Combs' second verse, he talks about the past and how much he did for her, cared for her, and how she used to feel about him. It's not a very deep track, but it does make you think about what a man goes through after a breakup, from the man's perspective. This "R&B rap" was needed in the hip-hop world from Bad Boy, bringing them back into the limelight in the lane of rap that they owned at one point. With King Combs now fully in the limelight, it was time to release a project.
About two months passed, and then it came out of nowhere. "Eyez On C" premiered on WorldStarHipHop on April 9th, and got a lot of attention for many reasons. The instrumental was a direct sample from 2Pac's "All Eyez On Me", which immediately started a controversy among hip-hop fans and purists. Due to the East Coast-West Coast hip-hop beef in the 1990s, which directly included King Combs' father, people believe that Bad Boy shouldn't be allowed to use anything related to Tupac, let alone Puff Daddy's son. Others say that due to the facts about Tupac not being killed by anyone related to Bad Boy or the mogul, a sample is a sample and shouldn't be looked at as anything more than paying homage. Both arguments are completely understandable, but all publicity is good publicity, and it put C3 on the radar when his mixtape, 90s Baby, released two days later.
90's Baby released on SoundCloud on April 11th, and it didn't disappoint. It lived up to its name, with samples of not only 2Pac, but Foxy Brown, El DeBarge, Snoop Dogg, Lauryn Hill, his own father's work, and more. While the entire project is great as a whole, one track that stood out was "Bad Girl". This record was everything that Bad Boy Records had been missing since the early 2000s. Combs raps to the women on this track but still keeps it real enough for a male audience to enjoy. CYN member Trey Livin' delivers the hook with a direct sample of the first verse and chorus from Bad Boy classic "Only You" by 112. As the chorus goes on, you can hear C3 in the background, just like his father has done famously over the years, and if you didn't know any better you would think the track came out during the late 90s or early 00s.
The way that the song ends is the perfect way to pay homage to not only the record label, but the icons in hip-hop and R&B that came before him. As the chorus is coming in for the second time, Combs chants "Who gon' love you like I do? Huh? Who gon' treat you like I do? Huh?" in the same manner that Lil' Kim did on Mary J. Blige's classic "I Can Love You" in 1997. After the homage to Kim and Mary, C3 puts a spin on one of his father's signature musical antics, talking or repeating something as a song comes to an end. As the song is still coming to a close, King Combs repeats "Please don't take ya love away, please don't take ya love away, nah, nah, nah, nah..." and then begins to repeat "I love you...I hate you...". Everything comes together beautifully as the song closes in Bad Boy Records fashion.
In four years, Christian Combs has released 4 official singles, one mixtape, and even been a part of a successful record with a great feature verse on his CYN member Kai Cash's single "The West" along with 03 Greedo. With hard work comes success, and even though King Combs comes from line of success, he's used the cards he's been dealt to his advantage. 2019 is around the corner, and based on the music we've heard from C3 so far, we can expect more of the same and better from the up and coming face of Bad Boy Records.
As Christian continues his career and his life, I wanna say that losing a parent is one of the hardest things to ever go through at a young age. Keep the Combs and Porter families in your prayers.
Rest In Peace Kim Porter.