Sean “Diddy” Combs is undergoing a very public midlife crisis. A month into turning 41, the mogul looked more like a high school sophomore at DJ Khaled’s Miami birthday party in November, wearing a varsity letterman jacket and concealing eye-blinding grills behind his jaw. His newly formed R & B outfit Dirty Money might be an offset of a middle aged man struggling with persona maintenance, but their debut album Last Train to Paris is a refreshing transition from the “shiny suit” Bad Boy dominance of the 1990s.
For Dirty Money, Diddy enlisted the help of former Danity Kane member Dawn Richard and award winning songwriter Kalenna Harper. The girls shoulder most of the load for vocal duties while Diddy sporadically chimes in with a verse or auto tuned melodies. Last Train plays as a concept record of sorts, taking the ups and downs of a crumbling love/hate relationship and setting them to danceable beats. The twisted “Yeah Yeah You Would” featuring Grace Jones has blaring ambulance sirens and bits of distortion. The clean piano and shuffling baseline of the Motown inspired “I Hate That You Love Me” showcases interpersonal dysfunction at it’s finest.
“Ass on The Floor” has gorgeous overlapping vocals from Richard and Harper in the chorus, and is charming as a song with the line “Got me madder than a motherfucka” can be. Diddy actually holds his own lyrically on Last Train, which can only mean that he’s employed a more refined ghostwriter this time around. His solo track “Someone to Love” has him sounding like a mix of early LL and Illmatic era Nas.
Diddy used his clout in the industry to make the most star heavy record of the year. Justin Timberlake, Usher, T.I, Drake, are among the slew of superstars who make an appearance. But make no mistake about it, this is Richard and Harper’s album. Their vocals are phenomenal and compliment each other while Diddy and the rest of the platinum selling artist are along for the ride. With themes of jealously, deceit and obsessions, Last Train is a rather dark record. However the downtrodden vibe never gets too overwhelming and is lifted at times with upbeat bangers like “Hello Good Morning”. Diddy deserves credit for taking a chance with a left-field project, and reviving his career in the process.
Last Train to Paris receives a PARL
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