No Way Out
Label: Bad Boy Records
The artist we now know as Diddy had a lot on his mind in '97. First and very foremost, the Notorious B.I.G.'s murder and Combs' struggle with it, which coats almost every inch of his solo debut, from Biggie's sauntering guest spots (don't miss the fierce "Victory") to Puffy's many tributes to his friend and collaborator ("I'll Be Missing You" is still moving). But No Way Out is more than just an ode to grief -- it's also the producer's attempt to establish himself as a rapper. He does so fairly admirably (especially on hidden gems like "Señorita"), though he's still a better host than MC.