Sean "P. Diddy" Combs is many things to many people: shrewd record-industry mogul, sharp producer, shiny-suited bon vivant, inventor of the remix. Yet the CDs that bear his name suggest that, above all, Combs is a master of organization, of corralling the right people to the right location at the right time; on The Saga Continues, his underrated 2001 album with the Bad Boy Family, he managed to turn an unwieldy morass of artists, songwriters and producers into a top-notch display of hip-hop sonics.
Unable to pass up a delicious instance of brand-name synchronicity, Diddy used the same approach in assembling his soundtrack to the film Bad Boys II, which bears his imprimatur as executive producer. For one thing, the disc boasts a Diddy-size roster of A-list talent: Jay-Z, Pharrell Williams, Nelly, Fat Joe, Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake all appear, and he coaxes a posthumous rap out of the Notorious B.I.G.'s archives on "Realest Niggas," a duet with 50 Cent. Thematically, too, the songs travel a familiar orbit, tossing off requests to "shake ya tailfeather" and brandishing disapprovals of B-list footwear; when Philadelphia barker Freeway, who always sounds about ready to self-immolate, shows up in the Just Blaze-helmed "Flipside," his raw delivery illuminates the dapper facility of Diddy's aesthetic.
That's best heard in Timberlake's "Love Don't Love Me," a lean slice of digital funk Diddy produced with partner Mario Winans, and Mary J. Blige's "Didn't Mean," which, like the singer's forthcoming Love & Life, pairs Blige's insistent vocals with a throbbing bass line. "Show Me Your Soul," a Neptunes production featuring Diddy, Williams, Lenny Kravitz and the rapper Loon, doesn't quite achieve the funk-rock gestalt it seems to promise, but it's a kick to hear Diddy observe that "you ain't never been to Guatemala, eating shrimp by the dollar." He indeed has, and he's made another all-star mix tape to prove it.
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