Image Credit: Travis ShinnPeople chuckled when Diddy announced that his next project would be a concept album about a tempestuous relationship played out on Europe’s international rail system. They laughed when he declared that his ambitions were so vast, no existing genre could hold him. “I’m ushering in a new movement called ‘train music,'” the hip-hop mogul boasted in one press release. That was in February 2009, and the snickers only got louder each time he subsequently pushed back the disc’s release date. Now Last Train to Paris is finally pulling into the station, and here’s the funniest thing about it: Diddy has followed through on every crazy promise and then some, resulting in his best work in years.
“Train music” turns out to be a highly danceable strain of hip-hop, with at least as much singing as rapping. Diddy isn’t the only one working loosely similar territory these days — just ask the Black Eyed Peas, Drake, or even Kanye West — but Last Train‘s glittery grooves feel authentically his own. It’s the sound of his 2007 hit “Last Night,” an electro-laced torch duet with Keyshia Cole, blown out to album length.
Perhaps realizing that he can’t quite pull off this feat all by himself, Diddy gives equal billing to two singers, Kalenna and ex-Danity Kane member Dawn Richard. The female two-thirds of Diddy-Dirty Money flesh out Last Train‘s skeletal storyline, playing jealous lovers, disappointed partners, and commanding divas to his conflicted playboy. Assorted suave fellows, including Usher, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, and T.I., help fill out his side of the conversation.
As that partial guest list might suggest, this is a very crowded ride. The sheer number of cameos overwhelms the narrative conceit after a while, around the moment when Justin Timberlake inexplicably starts rapping about X-Men characters (“Shades”). But who really cares? By that time, you just might be enjoying yourself way too much to notice. B+
Hyperactive banger “Yeah Yeah You Would”
Club summons “Ass on the Floor”
Redemptive ballad “Coming Home”
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