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Best Bad Boy Records Artists: 10 Legendary 90s Hip-Hop And R&B Stars

Best Bad Boy Records Artists: 10 Legendary 90s Hip-Hop And R&B Stars

From street-smart wordsmiths to soul starlets, the best Bad Boy Records artists are innovators who shaped the sound of a generation.


As the brainchild of Sean “Diddy” Combs, Bad Boy Records has helped shape the musical landscape for over two decades by elevating Black music into the pop mainstream, birthing dozens of iconic hits and launching the careers of some of the industry’s biggest stars. As a label that came to define the “shiny suit” era of late-90s hip-hop and R&B, it was beloved by millions across the world for its bling-filled aesthetic and feel-good escapist party anthems, and the best Bad Boy Records artists have left a lasting legacy whose impact can still be felt today.

By bringing together a roster of exceptional talent – most notably, the gritty storytelling of hip-hop legend The Notorious B.I.G., the soulful artistry of Faith Evans and the infectious harmonies of 112 – Bad Boy Records captivated listeners still in thrall to hip-hop’s golden era. Through it all, the label’s in-house producers, The Hitmen, consistently pushed creative boundaries, blending genres and fusing elements of pop, R&B and hip-hop to dominate the charts. As this countdown of the best Bad Boy Records artists shows, Diddy’s trailblazing record label embraced innovation, style and unapologetic self-expression to create world-beating hits that continue to set the bar.

Listen to ‘Bad Boy Greatest Hits Vol.1’ here, and check out the best Bad Boy Records artists, below.

10: Carl Thomas

Bringing the old-school charm of 70s soul crooners to Bad Boy Records, Carl Thomas was a cut above most R&B singers of his era. Born in Aurora, Illinois, he boasted silky-smooth vocals that ebbed and flowed with love and heartache, intertwining poignant narratives of romanticism and vulnerability. From his breakout hit, I Wish, to the heartfelt ballad Emotional, Thomas’ songs are a testament to his R&B mastery, his velveteen voice gliding over lush melodies to summon feelings of passion, longing and introspection. With a timeless quality that transcends its era, Carl Thomas made a long-lasting impression on the evolution of contemporary R&B and easily deserves his place among the best Bad Boy Records artists.

Must hear: I Wish

9: The Lox

A force of nature, hip-hop trio The Lox united rappers Jadakiss, Styles P and Sheek Louch, who quickly solidified their place among the best Bad Boy Records artists. Hailing from Yonkers, in Westchester County, New York, the group unleashed a tempestuous storm of hard-hitting beats and unapologetic rhymes on hit singles such as If You Think I’m Jiggy and Money, Power & Respect. With razor-sharp wordplay and thought-provoking narratives, The Lox immersed listeners in a world where street tales and societal commentary converged, delving into the depths of urban realities with raw lyrical power. The group’s enduring legacy is a testament to their unfiltered expression, their explosive chemistry and their unwavering commitment to hip-hop artistry within the Bad Boy dynasty.

Must hear: If You Think I’m Jiggy

8: Total

Among the impressive roster of talent on Bad Boy Records, the R&B trio Total undoubtedly paved the way for other contemporary girl groups such as Destiny’s Child and, in the UK, All Saints. Comprised of Kima Raynor, Keisha Spivey and Pamela Long, Total effortlessly seduced the charts with sultry cuts such as Can’t You See and Kissing You, boosting their passionate slow jams with soulful harmonies, irresistibly sexy melodies and lush arrangements evoking feelings of love and longing. From empowering anthems to vulnerable ballads, Total’s songs left an indelible mark on the R&B landscape, and the trio’s legacy remains a testament to their talent and allure.

Must hear: Can’t You See

7: Craig Mack

As the first rapper to release music on Bad Boy Records, Craig Mack played a pivotal role in the golden age of hip-hop. Hailing from Brentwood, Long Island, Mack merged the gritty lyricism of hardcore rap with infectious beats, spinning intricate tales of urban life with unwavering authenticity. From introducing the world to The Notorious B.I.G. on Flava In Ya Ear to spinning his own lyrical miracles on Get Down, Mack ensured his music never lacked for vivid storytelling. With his distinctive style and relentless flow, he commanded attention, delivering rhymes with playful finesse and leaving little doubt over his legacy among the best Bad Boy Records artists.

Must hear: Flava In Ya Ear

6: Ma$E

As one of Bad Boy Records’ most charismatic wordsmiths, Ma$e was a once-in-a-generation talent. Born Mason Durell Betha, the Harlem-bred rapper first brought his effortless flow and slick wordplay into the US Top 10 via his debut album, Harlem World. From the funk swagger of Feel So Good to the Neptunes-produced bop Lookin’ At Me, his music combined street narratives, celebratory anthems and introspective musings, often expressing the gritty realities of urban life with triumphant hooks. Brimming with confidence and wit, Ma$e rode beats like a master, infusing his precise cadence with wordplay and imagery, all with a cheeky grin that helped him become an inescapable presence on the late-90s rap scene.

Must hear: Feel So Good

5: 112

Within the Bad Boy Records realm, the R&B quartet 112 are true romantics who continue to captivate listeners with their sensual harmonies and boudoir-ready melodies. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, Marvin “Slim” Scandrick, Quinnes “Q” Parker, Daron Jones and Michael Keith infuse their music with 70s-inspired soulful crooning and a contemporary R&B flair. Their discography is a sumptuous fusion of heartfelt ballads and infectious grooves, casting an irresistible spell of love, desire and heartache. From the tender vulnerability of Cupid to the spirited energy of Peaches & Cream, 112 capture the very essence of lovestruck infatuation with impeccable vocals and unrivalled chemistry.

Must hear: Peaches & Cream

4: Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe is a dazzling star in Bad Boy’s constellation. With her unique blend of soul, funk and R&B, her fearless eclecticism channels the spirit of legends such as Prince, transporting listeners to an imaginative realm of her own making. Mixing futuristic sounds with timeless grooves, the best Janelle Monáe songs leave a trail of stardust in their wake, with poetic lyrics that tackle identity, empowerment and social commentary while urging listeners to challenge social norms. From the infectious energy of Tightrope to the poignant introspection of Django Jane, she has long established herself as a true trailblazer among the best Bad Boy Records artists.

Must hear: Tightrope

3: Faith Evans

With her extraordinary voice, Faith Evans was the soulful powerhouse of Bad Boy Records. Her enchanting blend of soul, R&B and gospel music resonate with grace, touching the hearts of listeners by evoking tenderness and strength. From powerful ballads such as Soon As I Get Home and I Love You to infectious anthems Love Like This and You Used to Love Me, Evans transforms each song into an emotional vessel to convey love, heartache and triumph. With unwavering authenticity and dedication, Faith Evans stands tall among the best Bad Boy Records artists as a modern-day R&B icon whose legacy endures.

Must hear: Love Like This

2: Diddy

As the patriarch of the Bad Boy enterprise (his debut album, No Way Out, was co-credited to The Family), Sean Combs is today regarded as a visionary entrepreneur who transformed hip-hop into a mainstream enterprise and revolutionised the music industry in the process. As Puff Daddy, P Diddy or simply Diddy, his desire to emulate Motown Records’ success saw him found Bad Boy Records in 1993, not only repping a roster of talented artists but also unleashing his own creative instincts. From glossy chart-toppers to sample-heavy production, Diddy’s discography includes unforgettable hits such as the heartfelt I’ll Be Missing You, released just two months after the murder of The Notorious B.I.G., and Bad Boy for Life, an empowering track that embodies the Bad Boy legacy. Showcasing his talent for crafting music which resonates across the generations, Diddy’s feel-good music oscillates between celebration and introspection, and has more than cemented his status as an iconic figure in the world of hip-hop.

Must hear: I’ll Be Missing You

1: The Notorious B.I.G.

A towering influence in hip-hop, The Notorious B.I.G. is not only one of Bad Boy Records’ founding fathers but also one of the most influential rappers of all time. Christopher Wallace, nicknamed Biggie, mesmerised audiences with his magnetic presence and lyrical genius, the best Notorious B.I.G. songs seamlessly blending visceral storytelling with hard-won street wisdom. Like a seasoned jazz musician, Biggie rode beats with precision, using his deep voice and flawless flow to relay the experiences of his urban upbringing with startling honesty. From the confident swagger of Juicy to the bottle-popping vibes of Hypnotize and the uncompromising aggression of Who Shot Ya?, the best Notorious B.I.G. songs undoubtedly helped put Bad Boy Records on the map, establishing their creator’s unmatched legacy as a poetic heavyweight who changed hip-hop forever.

Must hear: Hypnotize

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