PRESS PLAY

-- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:27 PM ET


Diddy
Press Play
(Bad Boy/Warner)

"Y'all know my name!" barks Sean Combs. Sure we do. All of them, in fact -- from Puff Daddy to P. Diddy.

Lately, though, they haven't meant as much as they used to. Once the king of hip-hop, Combs' star has faded over the past few years. But it seems poised to rise again -- if his latest CD Press Play is anything to go by.

On this ambitious disc -- his first CD in five years -- Combs hasn't come up with a new name, but he has changed his game for the better. Instead of relying on samples, he hires musicians to cook up dynamic funk and R&B grooves.

Instead of repeating hip-hop cliches, he and his producers -- including Timbaland, Neptunes, Kanye and will.i.am -- employ imaginative sonics and arrangements.

Instead of writing standalone tunes, he offers a loose concept CD that tracks the ups and downs of a relationship. Instead of sprinkling a few singles amid filler, he turns in consistently strong songcraft and performances.

And instead of hiding behind his well-manicured image, he lets his guard down and emerges with an engaged and creative disc.

The change is evident right off the bat: Combs comes out swinging hard on the first few cuts, spitting solo raps as aggressive and propulsive as anything he's done. It almost seems too good to last -- and it is. A third of the way through the set, Diddy decides he can't have a party without guests.

So he opens the door to A-listers like Xtina, Big Boi, Twista, Brandy, Ciara, Nas, Cee-Lo, Mary J. Blige and Jamie Foxx. They all bring something to the table -- but they also tend to overstay the welcome, nudging their host off to the side a little too often.

Ultimately, like all parties, this 78-minute set goes on too long and ends a lot less energetically than it started. And you can't help but wish he had turned away the guests and given us more one-on-one time.

Still, thanks to his hunger and drive, Press Play is the first Diddy disc that compels us to press replay.

Track Listing:

1. Testimonial (Intro) - Diddy
2. We Gon' Make It - Diddy, Jack Knight
3. I Am (Interlude) - Diddy
4. Future - Diddy
5. Hold Up - Diddy
6. Come to Me - Diddy, Nicole Scherzinger
7. Tell Me - Christina Aguilera, Diddy
8. Wanna Move - Diddy,
9. Diddy Rock - Diddy, Shawnna, Timbaland, Twista
10. Claim My Place (Interlude) - Diddy
11. Everything I Love - C-Lo, , Diddy, Nas
12. Special Feeling - Diddy, Mika Lett
13. Crazy Thang (Interlude) - Diddy,
14. After Love - Diddy,
15. Through the Pain (She Told Me) - Diddy, Mario Winans
16. Thought You Said - Brandy, Diddy
17. Last Night - Keyshia Cole, Diddy
18. Making It Hard - Mary J. Blige, Diddy
19. Partners for Life - Diddy, Jamie Foxx


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