Today (July 22) officially marks 25 years since Diddy (or, in this case, Puff Daddy) released his debut studio LP No Way Out, a project that also serves as a proper introduction to his Bad Boy roster. No Way Out is also a full-on tribute to The Notorious B.I.G., who was tragically killed mere months prior to the album’s release. As a result, the project transcended its original purpose and became an iconic moment in history during one of the darkest periods of Diddy‘s life.
Below, REVOLT lists 25 of No Way Out‘s most notable quotes to help explain why the 1997 body of work holds its position as one of the most pivotal albums in hip hop history.
1. “Real sick, brawl nights, I perform like Mike, Anyone, Tyson, Jordan, Jackson” – The Notorious B.I.G. on “Victory”
Obviously, the opening track on No Way Out is an iconic one because of The Notorious B.I.G., who matched Diddy’s two equally dope verses filled with some of the toughest, most aggressive bars of his career. Out of B.I.G.‘s second verse came such a simple, effortless bar that is also one of his most timeless — since then, the likes of JAY-Z, Kanye West, and Cam’ron have paid homage to the line.
2. “I’m watchin this nigga video … They got mermaids swimmin’ in they living rooms and shit … This nigga dancing in the rain with kids climbin’ up mountains and shit … The car goin two hundred miles an hour, where the fuck is he going? … The nigga climbing out the fuckin’ car … Let me see you try that shit on a train!” – Madd Rapper on “Been Around The World”
At the end of “Been Around The World,” a skit opens up to what sounds like a talk show with The Madd Rapper as its guest. First introduced on The Notorious B.I.G.‘s Life After Death, the character — and alter ego of Bad Boy producer mainstay Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie — represented the generic “hater” in the most comical and vitriolic way possible. On the aforementioned skit, his complaint of Diddy & Co.’s many feats proved to be one of the best sketches in hip hop history. In addition to another appearance on Ma$e’s Harlem World, The Madd Rapper also released a full-length project of his own a couple of years after.
3. “It’s a Hell Up in Harlem, fuck it, another day, another dollar, wake up, to the barking from the Rottweilers” – Diddy on “What You Gonna Do?”
True enthusiasts will remember that No Way Out‘s original title was Hell Up In Harlem, a fact that adds weight to one of the best opening lines ever heard on a hip hop record. The first few lines of the Amen-Ra and Nashiem Myrick-assisted offering brought listeners into a story that was reminiscent of classic B.I.G. tracks (ex. “Somebody’s Gotta Die”) — from the incredibly vivid bars to the crescendo-esque, cinematic production (something that we heard throughout much of the album). A couple of other examples would be the following rhymes presented on the same song:
4. “I pray to God that I’m dreamin’, I know my family wouldn’t take it, when the doctor said, ‘He ain’t make it,’ Mom Dukes cryin’, baby mom full of grief, how she gonna tell her son his daddy is deceased?”
5. “I heard a voice sing out, ‘Ain’t you Sean Puffy Combs? Here’s your eulogy, meet you at the Crossroads,’ G’night Bone…”
6. “When it comes to the cheese, baby girl roll dough, fuck Domino’s, strictly dice” – Lil’ Kim on “Don’t Stop What You’re Doing”
Lil’ Kim has made it clear in the past how much of an influence B.I.G. was in regards to her lyrical ability. Regardless, the Brooklyn legend stands as one of the greats in her own right, and multi-layered lines like the above is clear proof of that. Like the aforementioned, she has always had the ability to say so much with so few words — and this isn’t the last time that fact will be proven in this article.
7. “Sometimes I think about dyin’, unfortunately, I’m seein’ a lot of death in my life, I seen a lot of friends die, I seen a lot of family members die, when I think about dyin’, I think about, a sense of release, just released from all the pressures, and all the negativity, I also think about finally gettin a chance to see all the love ones again…” – Diddy on “If I Should Die Tonight”
Over some crooning from then-new artist Carl Thomas, Diddy opens up to listeners about his thoughts and feelings following B.I.G.‘s death — an obvious theme that will continue to be heard in subsequent tracks. This one takes a somewhat different approach, as the Bad Boy mogul eschews rapping and opens up to the listeners about his fears and anxieties as if we were the counselors conducting his therapy session.
8. “Who the cat controllin’ the strings of rap and R&B? Trapped inside of a movie starrin’ me…” – Diddy on “Do You Know?”
Diddy’s reign over the culture has been in place for a while. Having already topped charts as the man behind one of the world’s greatest artists, his ability to come down from his throne to become a frontrunner in his own right is something that not many had accomplished in his era — and we’ve all been tuned in like moviegoers at a blockbuster. 25 years later, the epic is still going.
9. “These here’s the dog years and motherfuckers don’t shed” – JAY-Z on “Young G’s”
Only a year after his own debut, JAY-Z was already proving to be a lyrical force to be reckoned with. This time, he joined Diddy and B.I.G. for one of the most memorable songs from No Way Out, much in part thanks to top-tier verses from all parties about remaining both grounded and street-oriented in the midst of free-wheeling lifestyles. Much like the rewind-worthy line above, Hov’s verse was packed with some of his coldest, most pointed bars to date — including the tributary one below:
10. “Rap dudes biting me ’cause I got it locked like the late Bob Marley, pardon me, y’all, the great Bob Marley”
11. “I’ma sit back and watch this cake finish bakin’, and plan your extermination” – Black Rob on “I Love You Baby”
Despite being prominently featured on No Way Out‘s album cover, Black Rob only makes a single appearance on the Jay Waxx, Havoc, Amen-Ra, and Diddy-produced “I Love You Baby.” Regardless, the Spanish Harlem native makes said appearance count, matching Bad Boy’s penchant for telling some of the best stories on wax. In this case, the tale is centered around women and betrayal, and lines like the one above are so packed with emotion that you’d think you were reading the script of a Scorsese flick.
12. “Now, what y’all wanna do? Want to be ballers, shot callers, brawlers? Who be dippin’ in the Benz with the spoilers?” – Diddy on “It’s All About The Benjamins (Remix)”
These are the opening lines to what many believe to be the true climax of No Way Out. “It’s All About The Benjamins” (both the original and its remix) solidified Bad Boy Records as the top collective in hip hop at that time. The single eventually peaked at number two on the Billboard 200 — “Benjamins” also topped the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks and Hot Rap Singles charts. Its success in the pop world eventually spawned a rap-rock version that helped the song further extend its grasp of the MTV realm. Obviously, the quotables from “Benjamins” could create its own editorial piece. A few more have been added below for good measure:
13. “Flexin’ Range Rovers, dealing weight by Minnesota, avoiding NARCs with camcorders and Chevy Novas, stash in the building with this chick named Wilona, from Daytona, when I was young I wanted to bone her, but now I only hit chicks who win beauty pageants” – Sheek Louch
14. “Want to bumble with the bee, huh? Bzzz, throw a hex on the whole family” – Lil’ Kim
15. “Only female in my crew and I kick shit like a nigga do, pull the trigger too, fuck you!” – Lil’ Kim
16. “Fuck the state pen, fuck hoes in Penn State” – B.I.G.
17. “From jump street, saw my father murdered, massacred, slain, one shot took half of his brain, I recapture the pain, twenty-three years, three when it happened, twenty-six now, still I can’t stop the tears” – Diddy on “Pain”
Another powerful number on No Way Out, “Pain” gives a vivid perspective on the death of Diddy’s father Melvin Earl Combs. He also uses the song to work through emotions felt in regards to his detractors, especially those who want to bring him harm. The latter part of “Pain” brings the focus back to B.I.G. and Diddy‘s raw feelings over his loss — listeners can even hear B.I.G. speaking wisdom at the very end. A notable excerpt from the song’s final verse can be found below:
18. “I can still hear the shots that left my man Big, layin on my knees cryin’ and prayin’, then I said, ‘God why? Got to know how hard we try, don’t let him die, please don’t let my nigga be dead,’ but it was too late, California sealed his fate”
19. “I can make a person fight to survive whether good or connivin’, you never know when it’s your time to leave” – Twista on “Is This The End?”
Much in the way B.I.G. approached his collaboration with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Diddy decided to speed things up for “Is This The End?,” which features Chicago’s own Twista. After Diddy successfully keeps up with his aforementioned themes at a higher speed, his Adrenaline Rush counterpart follows up with some gems of his own (including the one above).
20. “Move dimes, hit twenties addicted to gettin’ money, it could be a hundred degrees and never look sunny” – Styles P on “I Got The Power”
While Styles P ended up being removed from the “remixed” version of “It’s All About The Benjamins,” he returned with a vengeance by being one of the biggest moments on “I Got The Power.” His opening verse stands as one of the best of his career, thanks to dark, brooding bars about street life.
21. “When it’s real, feelings hard to conceal, can’t imagine all the pain I feel, give anything to hear half your breath, I know you still livin’ your life after death” – Diddy on “I’ll Be Missing You”
Of all of the songs on No Way Out, “I’ll Be Missing You” is the one that went supernova. Sampling The Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” the Stevie J-backed offering topped charts all over the world and earned Diddy, Faith Evans, and 112 more Gold and Platinum plaques than most record labels earn in an entirety. The Grammy award-winning effort served as Diddy’s penultimate tribute to B.I.G. on an album that was both a mourning period and a celebration, a sure-fire promise that he would never allow B.I.G.’s name to be forgotten. Looking at how things are in 2022, it’s clear that Diddy’s goals were more than achieved.
22. “Now it’s Sean on the hot track, melt like it’s hot wax, put it out, all the stores, bet you could shop that, leave a nigga with a hot hat, fronting like Bad Boy ain’t got tracks, nigga, stop that” – Diddy on “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down”
The final song, “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down,” was the first official single that came from No Way Out, and it definitely set the standard for what we all would expect down the line. Another Hot 100 topper, the fan-favorite track saw Diddy and then-newcomer Ma$e trading bars and verses with the chemistry of Street Fighter‘s Ryu and Ken. You can find some additional quotables from this iconic hit below.
23. “Broken glass everywhere, if it ain’t about no money, Puff, I just don’t care” – Ma$e
24. “Do you think he snake me ’cause he hate me? Or he got his Ph.D., ‘Player Hatin’ Degree’” – Ma$e
25. “We make hits that’ll rearrange your whole set, and got a Benz that I ain’t even drove yet” – Diddy