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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

[whitespace] Puff Daddy
He Makes Us Wanna: Busta Rhymes followed Usher at the Puff Daddy extravaganza at the San Jose Arena.

Photo by Dean Karr

Family Affair:
The hits and tributes kept coming at Puff Daddy and the Family World Tour

A SHOW OF THIS CALIBER only comes around once a decade. When Sean "Puffy" Combs announced his takeover of R&B music, he promised to upgrade live performances. He wanted to instill in his artists what he called a "total package"--songs, stage presence, no half-assing over a DAT. It worked for most of his recent Puff Daddy and the Family World Tour, which played at San Jose Arena on Dec. 17. Combs played ringleader in an evening stacked with such stars as Kid Capri, Usher, Mase, Busta Rhymes, 112, Li'l Kim, the L.O.X. and Junior Mafia.

Legendary NYC DJ Kid Capri kicked it off, cutting in and out of old-school jams, paving the way for current heartthrob Usher. The young man played it smooth, stripping down to his skivvies and concluding with "You Make Me Wanna." Busta Rhymes, dressed in a pair of glittery platinum overalls, was next. His loud, expressive personality reached all corners of the arena. Unfortunately, his eagerness to involve the crowd led to an annoying occurrence: the DJ mixed down the record to allow the crowd to chant along. "Dangerous," "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See" and "Woo-Hah!!! Got You All in Check" deserve to be heard without blanks of dead air.

Then it was Hammer, er, Puffy Time. To the strains of the "Theme From Shaft" (redone to say "Puff"), the man of the hour was lowered from the ceiling. Dressed in black leather jacket, black pants, white shirt and black glasses, Puff scooted across the stage doing his trademark dance--a cross between the Smurf and an end-zone celebration by Deion Sanders. Though he stayed true to his maxim--involving the crowd in various call-and-response routines--the first song, "Victory," was lip-synched. Can't fool me.

Puff protégé Mase made his appearance during "Been Around the World" and "Can't Hold Me Down." He later swung through his hit "Feel So Good," which boasted nice hits but no charisma. The big surprise of the night was the Millie Jackson of hip-hop, Li'l Kim. "Ladies Night" was in disarray, but "Crush On You" with Junior Mafia's Li'l Cease was rendered so well, I nearly dropped my pen.

The big question still remained, How would the tour memorialize the loss of Notorious B.I.G.? Vocal group 112 set the tone as Biggie's rap on "Only You" was faithfully culled from the video and blasted on projection screens in perfect sync. A full Biggie memorial service began in earnest with the L.O.X. during "We'll Always Love You Big Poppa," although the L.O.X. looked positively L.O.S.T. on stage. Puffy saved their souls on the Police-based "I'll Be Missing You," which was heartfelt. "Warning," which shows Biggie rapping intensely on the phone, was broadcast on video screens in its entirety. Amazing to think of how profound his influence remains.

The evening wouldn't go out on a somber note. The megahits "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" and "It's All About the Benjamins" kicked the party into overdrive. Lights twirled, balloons dropped, flash pots blew and Puff even pulled a reputable tap-dance break. This wasn't a show, it was a production.

Make His Day

Cal Eastwood, son of Clint, performs with Dave Ellis and Clyde Slyde (from Dogslyde) at Agenda on Jan. 7.

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From the December 24-31, 1997 issue of Metro.

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