Before releasing his first solo album, Puff Daddy
(aka Sean "Puffy" Combs
) was famous as the producer of the Notorious B.I.G.
, Junior Mafia
, Craig Mack
, Lil' Kim
, and many other rappers. As he was making his solo debut, the Notorious B.I.G.
was murdered, and that loss weighs heavily on Puff
's mind throughout No Way Out
. Even though the album has some funky party jams scattered throughout, the bulk of the album is filled with fear, sorrow, and anger, and it's not only evident on the tribute "I'll Be Missing You" (a duet with Faith Evans
that is based on the Police
's "Every Breath You Take") but also on gangsta anthems like "It's All About the Benjamins." That sense of loss makes No Way Out
a more substantial album than most mid-'90s hip-hop releases, and even if it has flaws -- there's a bit too much filler and it runs a little long -- it is nevertheless a compelling, harrowing album that establishes Puff Daddy
as a vital rapper in his own right.