October 3, 2023

Hip-Hop culture may be homogenized in 2022, with people of all races and classes staking their claim within the culture, but in 1997, there was still a belief that rap music came from the lower rungs of society. It was viewed as music for the impoverished and underprivileged, rather than for those born with a silver spoon. And while many rap fans and artists were happy with that divide, others—particularly The Notorious B.I.G. and Sean “Puffy” Combs—viewed things differently and went out of their way to break the glass ceiling that separates ashy from classy, resulting in the aspirational image, music, and lifestyle of Bad Boy Records. With albums like Biggie’s Ready to Die, as well as debuts from hip-hop soul acts in Faith Evans, Total, and 112, Bad Boy redefined what being young, black, and flashy was seen as, rocking high-end designer threads and mingling with power players outside of the rap community.

In March 1997, the tragic death of The Notorious B.I.G. would blindside Puff and the Bad Boy family, leaving the future of the label uncertain and creating an air of paranoia. With all eyes on him, Puff, who had announced plans to pursue a rap career as a solo artist prior to The Notorious B.I.G.’s death, would respond to the adversity with his debut album, Puff Daddy & the Family: No Way Out. The LP showcased Bad Boy’s stable of rap talent, but more importantly, positioned Puff as one of the biggest stars in all of rap and set the stage for one of the more entertaining and intriguing careers in music history.

With over seven million copies sold in the U.S. alone, and its singles dominating the Billboard charts, No Way Out would be one of the biggest releases of the year, as well as the decade, and announce the next chapter in the Bad Boy legacy. In celebration of the album’s 25th anniversary (July 1st), VIBE revisited this classic and ranked the No Way Out album from top-to-bottom, and determined which song is the best from the album.

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