Sean Combs, a man of many stage names (Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Diddy) is the founder of Bad Boy Entertainment, the record label that once represented the timeless hip-hop icon Notorious B.I.G. as well as other prominent artists of the genre’s past. Although Bad Boy has suffered from a thin list of current acts in recent years, artists like French Montana, Machine Gun Kelly, Janelle Monae and Cassie keep the label grounded in the music business, and the label has welcomed Diddy’s son, rapping under the name King Combs.
Diddy signed King Combs, whose full name is Christian Combs, to Bad Boy Entertainment in 2016. The emerging rapper released his first single in 2017, which led to his debut mixtape, “90’s Baby,” and his collaboration with Chris Brown, “Love You Better,” which were both released in 2018.
On March 28, the 21-year-old rapper dropped his debut album “Cyncerely, C3,” honoring Notorious B.I.G. with a self-portrait of the legend hanging over his head in its cover art.
King Combs applies a variety of styles to his debut, such as flirty R&B tunes, nostalgic, boom-bap reminiscent rap and some trappy bangers. The project incorporates an extensive list of features, with notable names like Jeremih and Ty Dolla $ign accompanied by a collection of lesser-known artists.
Jeremih appears on a pretty stereotypical fusion of R&B and rap for “Naughty,” where King Combs spits some lax bars split up by Jeremih’s smooth singing on the track’s hook. The two artists plead for their lady listeners’ admiration over a slow-bouncing beat. Personally, the track makes me gag, and even those who enjoy a sort of party-infused, seductive R&B jam will likely conclude that “Naughty” is a dud. With a forgettable chorus and unsentimental lyrics, the song fails to impress even its target audience.
“Good To Ya” features Ty Dolla $ign and revisits the R&B ambiance of “Naughty,” but here King Combs quickens the pace. The rapper contributes some solid verses, but Dolla $ign’s hook is repetitive nonsense that offers no value to the track. The guest appearance is definitely an eye-catcher for music browsers, but Dolla $ign is unmotivated on “Good To Ya.” Thus, both of Combs’ efforts at crafting poppy R&B jams are severely underdeveloped and together make up the weakest portion of “Cyncerely, C3.”
Despite swings and misses with big-market artists, King Combs impresses with his flow on solo tracks “Birthday Suit” and the album’s intro, “Heaven Sent.” The first track’s instrumental is a lavish amalgamation of thumping funky bass, synthesized flashes and vintage-sounding female vocal samples. Combs provides stout rhymes in the form of one continuous verse over the well-polished instrumental. His lines contain little wordplay, but he delivers head-bobbing flows that keep listeners engaged, and his flow resembles his father’s softer-spoken style as a lyricist.
Similar to the opener, “Birthday Suit” has a strong beat, with an engulfing synth that swallows the boom-bap instrumental during portions of Combs’ swift verses. Unlike “Heaven Sent,” on “Birthday Suit” King Combs adds a chorus, but it is delivered with little energy and fails to act as a peak for the track. He also continues to share his admiration for old-school rap legends with a line shouting out 2Pac in the eight track’s chorus.
In combination with his two ’90s-inspired rap-ballads, Combs also employs new-school sound on tracks “Surf” and “On It!” “Surf” features vocals from Combs, City Girls, AzChike and Tee Grizzley in a ratchet, club-banger concoction. Still, the kicking and pumping beat doesn’t push many boundaries. Tee Grizzley’s unorthodox flow on his appearance was enjoyable, but the three-minute track is hardly special.
“On It!” brings AzChike and 1TakeJay on board for an animated, bass-quaking banger. The rappers’ voices slide well over the beat, their lyrics are extremely coarse and the track disturbs the peace. King Combs is slightly overshadowed by the off-beat flows of 1TakeJay that act as the concluding verse. Off-beat rap is a style that has been revitalized recently by trending artists like SOB X RBE and Blueface, emanating from their West-Coast predecessors, such as the rap veteran E-40. The concluding verse of “On It!” is definitely a high point of the features included on Combs’ debut, although it is rather vain.
One of the strongest tracks off “Cyncerely, C3” has to be “Young Roman$e” thanks to 16-year-old rapper Smooky MarGielaa’s emphatic performance. MarGielaa follows Combs’ decent opening verse with heavily auto-tuned vocals that start nimbly, then advance into an electric crescendo of high notes. The teenage rapper uses an infectious blend of song and rap and switches tempos supremely. Similar to “On It!” King Combs is overshadowed by the guest appearance.
Overall, “Cyncerely, C3” offers a limited glimpse into King Combs’ abilities as a studio artist due to its short 25-minute length, along with its extensive list of guests. Consequently, Combs exhibited a lack of presence on several tracks. His performances are very clean-sounding with neat flows and Combs displayed how he could tackle a variety of beats without sounding like an amateur. However, there is little that is setting him apart musically. He seems to have the right personality and swagger for a thriving rapper, but he has yet to captivate with his song writing.
“Cyncerely, C3” does offer several dynamic instrumentals, especially for those who appreciate old-school hip-hop flavor. Nonetheless, the instrumentation of the album is unable to compensate for the shortcomings of its vocal performances.