We Won’t Stop: Ranking Bad Boy Records’ Best Albums From The Glory Years

In the 1990s Bad Boy Records ruled rap and R&B.

And I don’t mean they just a mere “movement” or whatever cute catchphrase the kids use today. Bad Boy wasn’t just a movement, it was a force of nature, dominating dance floors, radios and cookouts. Bad Boy’s sound was catchy samples, braggadocios lyrics and smooth melodies. It celebrated excess while embracing soul.

Those songs defined a generation.

While Bad Boy Records’ catalog of material is massive (roughly 60 albums by my count), Sean Combs’ game-changing label always will be defined by its stellar run in the mid-90s-early 00s. Let’s break down Bad Boy’s catalog from its first album in 1994 to the end of 2001, right before the label began to run out of gas the following year. 

Rankings were determined by commercial success, industry impact and quality of the album. Sorry, Mase stans.

When Puff said we can’t stop, he wasn’t lying. Here’s proof.

forever23. Puff Daddy, Forever (1999)

Oh playa. Puffy’s debut album was a pleasant surprise thanks to stellar production and A-list guest stars. But his sophomore effort was a mangled mess crippled by way too many tracks, sloppy production and a random assortment of rappers phoning it in. Forever don’t last always.


double up22. Mase, Double Up (1999)

Mase retired from the rap game almost immediately after the release of his sophomore project — and you can’t blame him after listening to his. Double Up feels extremely rushed, lacking the cohesion of his debut and plagued by heavy-handed sampling. Not a good look.


born again21. The Notorious B.I.G., Born Again (1999)

In a vacuum, Born Again isn’t a bad album. The production is solid and many of the verses are stellar – just as you’d expect from rap’s Alfred Hitchcock. But when you realize that those verses are retreads from years-old material and shoehorned among guests spots from the era’s “hottest” rappers, things fall apart. Born Again feels like a cut-and-paste project instead of a true Biggie album. But that’s the curse of posthumous rap releases.


the saga continues20. P. Daddy & The Bad Boy Family, The Saga Continues (2001)

After the audio snuff film that was Forever, my expectations were lower than the Mariana Trench for The Saga Continues. But give Puff credit – the album was much more cohesive than its predecessor, spotlighting the newest generation of hungry Bad Boy artists instead of relying on Puff’s star power and bored guest stars. Of course, this album swiped quite a few popular singles from more popular Bad Boy releases – cheap, but hey, it works.


it was all a dream19. Dream, It Was All A Dream (2001)

Remember when Bad Boy went bubblegum pop? It was 2000, everyone was doing it. And besides, Dream’s debut album actually wasn’t bad for what it was – bouncy ear candy tailor-made for screaming teens. Perfectly acceptable pop music.


money power respect18. The LOX, Money, Power & Respect (1998)

This one understandably gets a bad rap. LOX fans were salivating in anticipation of a hard-edged album filled with street anthems. Instead, we got “If You Think I’m Jiggy.” Ugh. Despite that poor choice for a debut single (and a couple more questionable album cuts), the LOX’s debut album still had its share of successes. The title track alone deserves props. It just wasn’t the hip-hop classic we envisioned.


harlem world17. Mase, Harlem World (1997)

Remember when Mase was the hottest rapper in the world? Yeah, there were some dark days in the ’90s. But give Mase his due – his debut album was brimming with radio hits and harder-edged cuts that still resound two decades later.


child of the ghetto16.  G. Dep, Child of the Ghetto (2001)

Oh I know I’ll get some heat for this one but it’s cool, I’m here to kick the truth to the young black youth: G. Dep was vastly underrated and way ahead of his time. His awkward, stilted flow may have been a bit jarring in 2000 but it’s all the rage today. And the album itself was surprisingly strong, filled with upbeat, radio-friendly cuts and introspective lyrics that dissected street life. This was a sleeper.


kim keisha pam15. Total, Kima, Keisha and Pam (1998)

Total’s second album wasn’t that much of a departure from their first album – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Addictive production and Total’s charisma carried most of the fare here. Say what you will about Total’s limited vocal ability but those ladies knew how to ride a beat.


shyne14. Shyne (2000)

Between an attempted murder conviction and vociferous complaints that was intentionally mimicking Biggie’s trademark delivery, poor Shyne Po’s rap career was doomed before it even began. It’s a shame too because his debut album was brimming with potential, bringing an authentically gritty sound to Bad Boy’s land of gaudy shiny suits. It’s hard to get your album off the ground when you’re locked in a box, though.


life story13. Black Rob, Life Story (2000)

On the remix to Black Rob’s massive single “Whoa,” he let the world know what he was facing: “LOX left and Ma$e retired like WHOA!/So I threw the label on my back like WHOA!” Rob wasn’t quite the savoir of Bad Boy but he sure gave it his best shot on his debut album. Rob rapped with an insatiable hunger on every track – he wasn’t resting on Bad Boy’s reputation. You have to respect his hustle.


total12. Total (1996)

Total’s debut album set the stage for the Bad Boy sound – sample-heavy radio tracks that could be played at clubs and cookouts. Total doesn’t get enough credit for helping to pioneer that sound – a sound that helps their debut remain fondly remembered today.


keep the faith11. Faith Evans, Keep the Faith (1998)

I remember being slightly disappointed with Faith’s sophomore album when it dropped. By no means is it bad, it’s just that the bar had been set so absurdly high after her extraordinary debut. A merely “good” Faith album is still leagues above the competition. Keep the Faith’s mix of soul, pop and hip-hop wasn’t always a clean fit, but when it worked, the results were magical.


project funk da world10. Craig Mack, Project: Funk Da World (1994)

Yeah, everyone remembers the “Flava In Ya Ear Remix” but we tend to forget just how good Craig Mack’s debut album was. Mack’s unique charisma and impeccable wordplay should have made him a major player for years to come. It didn’t work out that way, but we’ll always have this. Just don’t forget about it.


part 39. 112, Part III (2001)

Nearly 20 years later and I still marvel at the ability of 112 to release three back-to-back albums of such stellar quality. While this is the lesser of the trio it’s still miles ahead of many releases in its era, effortlessly combining soulful ballads and hip-hop flavored tracks. 112 rode an incredible hot streak during Bad Boy’s heyday.


1128. 112 (1996)

112’s debut is just as refreshing today as it was when it landed way back in 1996. Sure, it was a bit ballad-heavy (pretty much the only chink in the album’s armor) but when the ballads are THIS good, it’s easy to overlook that flaw. Many of the songs here went on to define 112’s career and cemented Bad Boy’s foothold in the realm of R&B.


emotional7. Carl Thomas, Emotional (2000)

By 2000, hip-hop’s influence over R&B became more pronounced. MUCH more pronounced. But Carl Thomas wisely decided to turn back the clock, bringing soul closer to its roots. The result is a lush, romantic album that’s still fondly embraced today. Just when you thought love was gone, Carl ushered it back with his dynamic delivery.


faithfully6. Faith Evans, Faithfully (2001)

A month or so prior to the release of Faith’s third album, Puffy went on BET proclaiming it the best album of her career. Puff bragging about his artists is nothing new so I didn’t put too much stock in his boasts. But the man wasn’t far off the mark. Faithfully was a delicate balance between traditional R&B and thumping hip-hop. This album didn’t get the shine of Bad Boy’s more high-profile releases but it’s unquestionably one of the era’s best.


no way out5. Puff Daddy & The Family, No Way Out (1997)

Posse tracks crammed with A-list guests. Ever-present radio singles. Classic R&B samples flipped into hip-hip hits. Puff Daddy’s solo album is the ultimate Bad Boy release – loud, bombastic and downright fun. The album succeeds because Puff wisely steps aside and lets some of the game’s best talents take the wheel. Puff may be the star but, in most cases, he fades into the background. It’s a winning formula – there’s a reason nearly all these tracks still pack dance floors.


room 1124. 112, Room 112 (1998)

From soul-bearing slow jams to cocky bedroom burners, Room 112 is the quintessential 112 album. While the group’s debut was often a little too generous with ballads, their sophomore set is a much more diverse offering, highlighting their vocals while still embracing uptempo hip-hop. It’s 112 at their best and one of Bad Boy’s most memorable collections.


ready to die3. The Notorious B.I.G., Ready To Die (1994)

Game changer. Biggie’s semi-biographical debut is kin to a cinematic masterpiece. Biggie’s razor-sharp wit will make you smile, but the bleak realities of his street life will break your heart. When he embraces suicide on the album’s final track, you feel his pain — and you hold your breath hoping for resolution. Ready to Die is an emotional journey the likes hip-hop had never seen. A true classic.


faith2. Faith Evans, Faith (1995)

Faith’s debut album isn’t just Bad Boy’s best R&B release – it’s one of the best R&B albums in the history of the genre. You read that right — it stands up to the greats of every era. Faith’s vocals ache with emotion on every track, clearly forged from the fires of gospel and soul. And it’s that very emotion that drives every single track here. There’s no filler on this album, it’s tight, concise and as close to perfect as you can get.


life after death1.  The Notorious B.I.G., Life After Death (1997)

Double albums are always a gamble — in nearly all cases, it’s just too much of a good thing. Thankfully, Biggie defies conventions and single-handledly rewrote the rules of rap with his final album. While gangsta rap had seen commercial success in the past, Life After Death thrust the subgenre into the mainstream for good, paving the way for a decade’s worth of artists. Even its production style marked a change for the genre — instead of sticking with one or two producers for the entire album, this set flaunted a wide array of superproducers, a practice that soon became commonplace. And, of course, BIG’s impeccable delivery was at its zenith here, creating 24 tracks that have been endlessly quoted and sampled since. It’s Bad Boy’s crown jewel — and hip-hop’s too.

What are you favorite Bad Boy albums? Let us know in the comments.



  1. I love this article since I clearly Bad Boy’s inception, so I remember EACH & every one of these album releases!! You guys were on point with this & Faith’s debut IS a classic…my personal favorite of the label’s releases as a whole. Good stuff, y’all…keep it up. You should do Death Row next…lol.

  2. Man, I saw Carl Thomas’ album on there and just wanted to cry. Darn you, Bad Boy, for giving us quality artists for one album and then letting them fade away. The Bad Boy curse, smh. But yes Faith’s debut is the bomb.com and I still rock Carl Thomas’ CD (yes I still have the CD) today. This was a nice trip down memory lane because as ubiquitous (and slightly annoying) as Bad Boy was during that time, you couldn’t deny the hits.

  3. (In my Hancock(superhero/villain) voice…)Good Job. Love him or hate him, Mr. Combs ruled the 90s.

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