In 1997, Bad Boy Records dominated hip-hop like perhaps no label has before or since, with Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs declaring “10 years from now, we’ll still be on top.” Twenty years later, Combs, now better known as Diddy, is well on his way to becoming a billionaire, and recently released Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A Bad Boy Story, a documentary about the label’s storied history and the reunion that toured arenas last year. No Way Out, the blockbuster solo album that turned the producer and label exec into a multiplatinum rap star in the summer of ’97, remains a landmark moment in his remarkable career.
To celebrate the album’s anniversary, here are some lesser-known facts about No Way Out.
1. No Way Out has a title track that was left off the album
No Way Out opens with “No Way Out (Intro),” a dramatic 80-second interlude with helicopter sound effects. But Puff Daddy also had an actual song called “No Way Out,” featuring Kelly Price and Black Rob, that was left on the cutting room floor, released later that summer on the soundtrack to the Chris Tucker comedy Money Talks. On it Puffy raps, “They can’t hurt me no more than they already did/They killed Big, in my heart he forever lives/ There’s no way out, like you got Berettas to my wig.”
2. Jay-Z turned down the chance to write “I’ll Be Missing You”
It’s no secret that Sean Combs, who famously declared “Don’t worry if I write rhymes, I write checks,” didn’t pen many of his lyrics on No Way Out, even his chart-topping emotional tribute to his slain friend the Notorious B.I.G. A relatively unknown Brooklyn rapper named Sauce Money got the gig to write Puffy’s somber verses on “I’ll Be Missing You” after his old Marcy Projects friend Jay-Z was asked first. Jay, still a rising star at that point who was routinely collecting checks as a writer for Puffy, Ma$e and others, decided to pass on this gig, even though he was affected by Biggie’s death and paid tribute on many of his own songs. “It could be difficult to open up and try to eulogize a good friend,” Sauce Money told Genius last year, explaining that he used the death of his own mother as inspiration for the lyrics.
3. Puffy’s lavish videos were inspired by Guns N’ Roses
No Way Out spun off several videos, each more ambitious and star-studded than the last, culminating in the epic action-movie-themed clip for “Been Around the World” and the ominous, dramatic $2.7 million dollar short film for “Victory,” still one of the most expensive music videos ever made. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Sean Combs listed his top 5 favorite videos, including “November Rain,” explaining that Axl Rose’s penchant for opulent visuals had inspired his own. “I was a big fan of Guns N’ Roses, and I found out what their budgets were, and I was like, that’s got to be the budget of my video.”
4. Missy Elliott helped mastermind “It’s All About the Benjamins”
“It’s All About the Benjamins” was Puff Daddy’s gritty mixtape hit that set the stage for his solo career, featuring two-thirds of the L.O.X., and remixed for No Way Out with Lil Kim and the Notorious B.I.G. But one major star not officially credited on the song that apparently had a major hand in shaping that track was Missy Elliott. In a 2013 interview with Cipha Sounds, the L.O.X.’s Sheek Louch revealed that Elliott, then a songwriter on the rise, ran the session for the original track, judging the verses they wrote and ultimately making the call to leave Styles P off the song.
5. “Young G’s” has been an interesting piece of sample recursion for Diddy and Jay-Z
No Way Out is famous for its gaudy use of recognizable pop and R&B samples, but the album left such a huge mark that it’s been sampled multiple times in its own right. One of the first times was when one of the album’s guests sampled themselves – a few months after Jay-Z kicked a classic verse on No Way Out‘s “Young G’s,” he sampled his voice on the track for the hook of the In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 highlight “Where I’m From.” In 2010, Diddy created a sort of sample inception when he sampled the “Where I’m From” beat for Diddy-Dirty Money’s single “Angels.”