Hip hop acts rarely land in Spokane. Portland. Sure. Seattle. No problem. But the Inland Northwest?
Let’s just say such artists tend to take a straight-up, high and wide leap right over us. (Our demographics - heavy on the ivory white - likely have something to do with it.) Fortunately, the void will be filled this Sunday. For not only will a hip hop/rap lineup land squarely at the Spokane Arena, it’s a lineup that will include the genre’s elite.
Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs will stand as the reigning king in a court that includes Grammy-nominee Busta Rhymes and sexy raptress Lil’ Kim, along with The L.O.X., 112, Mase, Usher, Kid Capri and Lil’ Cease.
When it comes to hip hop, Combs’ star power flares as brightly as - if not more than - any artist in orbit. He is both an entertainer and a producer, a music man and an industry man.
Many would say he is the man.
As an entertainer, he combines both rap and R&B; into mobile grooves. His album “No Way Out” moves through dance jams and dirges, touches on topics from death to money making and comes with both swaggering braggadocio and endearing self-reflection.
It also landed him five nominations - the most of any artist - for next month’s American Music Awards.
But it’s his behind-the-scenes prowess that stands even more impressive.
Head honcho of Bad Boy Entertainment, he is responsible for talents like the late Notorious B.I.G., Faith Evans and 112. He owns a palatial recording studio called Daddy’s House. And he’s produced chart-topping singles for Aretha Franklin, Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey.
Combs’ success has drawn equal parts criticism and accusation. The supposed rivalry between his East Coast-based Bad Boy label and the West Coast Death Row Records exploded into headline-grabbing proportions with the murders of Tupac Shakur and Combs’ buddy Notorious B.I.G.
Neither man’s killer has been caught, but the rumors and finger-pointing have run rampant, and Combs, although not a suspect, has been caught in the whirlwind.
And when it comes to music, it is Combs’ liberal sampling of other artists’ work that tends to put some folks’ boxers in a bunch.
From Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to David Bowie, Combs makes generous use of previous hits on “No Way Out.”
He answers such criticism in song - albeit taken from somebody else’s song: “Can’t nobody hold me down, oh no, I got to keep on movin’.”
This Sunday’s show will be a living extension of Combs’ album.
Lil’ Kim, Mase, 112, The L.O.X. and Busta Rhymes all made appearances on “No Way Out.”
Busta Rhymes is a furious rapper, a whirling dervish of maze-like lyric power and bass-loaded rhythms. His latest album, “When Disaster Strikes” (Elektra), is filled with both raw intensity and mischievous cool.
Balancing Busta’s ferocity is Mase’s mellow MC work and 112’s soulful harmonizing.
On his album “Harlem World” (Bad Boy), the 20-year-old Mase largely keeps his vocals on a low-key, fluid level. Likewise, the four church-raised members of 112 don’t exactly behave like bad boys on their self-titled debut album for the so-named label. Instead, they soar through easy-moving ethereal R&B; tunes, sounding far more like angels than devils.
In addition to joining Combs on his tune “It’s All About The Benjamins,” New York trio The L.O.X. have appeared as guest rappers on Carey’s platinum-selling single “Honey” and Mary J. Blige’s “Can’t Get You Off My Mind.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color photos
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: CONCERT Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, Busta Rhymes (above), Lil’ Kim and others will perform at the Spokane Arena Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $32.50 and $42.50, available at G&B; Select-a-Seat outlets or call (800) 325-SEAT.