Due to his high profile at the time, even the international mainstream media compliantly reported that the artist known as Puff Daddy officially ‘changed’ his name to P. Diddy. It’s always annoying to see a celebrity have the media eat out of the palm of his or her hands, but what was even more frustrating was having to witness how these numbnut journalists didn’t realize P. Diddy was merely a variant of Puff Daddy. Ironically, the name change might have been a wise career move for the German market because in German a ‘Puff Daddy’ would be the male equivalent of a bawd – someone who runs a brothel.
Berlin beatmaker Suff Daddy puts his own twist on Mr. Combs’ moniker, ‘Suff Daddy’ approximately translating to ‘wino,’ ‘Suff’ meaning the act of drinking excessively or the state of being addicted to alcohol. He may cite Tha Alkaholiks as his all-time favorite rap group, which we don’t doubt, but a more immediate inspiration (than, say, E-Swift) is yet another renamed rap producer (it’s a broad umbrella) – J Dilla, originally known as Jay Dee. Or more precisely post-Dilla Detroit hip-hop as represented by artists such as Guilty Simpson, Black Milk and Young RJ.
I first took notice of Suff Daddy when I heard last year’s “Tribute to Notorious BIG” song, a promotional piece for the German showing of ‘Notorious’ featuring the all-star line-up of Olli Banjo, Curse and Tone rocking a funked up “Kick in the Door” adaptation (while not explicitly paying tribute to Biggie). Suff Daddy’s just released “The Gin Diaries” full-length was therefore tempting but since it makes a conscious decision not to feature rappers I was drawn towards the free mixtape “Suff Refills” instead.
Refill is Suff Daddy’s appropriate term for remix. Like Madlib he is a loop digga, yet with an attention span that allows him to stick to a song. One of his preferred crates holds spacey underground funk from around 1980 that is as quirky as it is glossy. He uses these loose concoctions of skating synths and wobbly bass for the remix version of BIG’s “Nasty Boy,” Guilty Simpson’s “Before the Verdict,” the “Next Level Refill,” an update of the classic Liks/Diamond collabo and a relaxedly funky version of “Hip Hop Drunkies” (sans ODB).
The remixes that pay homage to Detroit include the opening “Look of Love Refill” from Slum Village’s “Best Kept Secret” record (released as J-88), the slowly developing orchestral groove (a guitar strum here, a string there) matching SV’s low-key profile, and “Game Over Refill,” an unspectacular ’00s indie rap reworking of Dabrye’s 2004 single featuring J Dilla and Phat Kat. Infinitely more engaging is “Nightmare Refill,” which puts a creepy, cinematic spin on the Phat Kat/Guilty Simpson duet from “Carte Blanche.” Clearly, along with “Honey” and “Next Level,” the Refill that makes the most sense overall when you hear the rappers label themselves “major label nightmares / bootleg our own shit, mofo, we don’t fight fair” and claiming to do business overseas without industry approval. The following “Psycho Refill” revisits a song from a Motor City tribute project called “The Movement” released last year by French rap group and Detroit disciples D3CCPT (Detroit Concept).
The only time the ghost of Dilla visibly appears is on the above-mentioned, softly bubbling “Honey Refill.” Erykah Badu herself acts as a reference for German songstress and frequent Suff Daddy collaborator Fleur Earth, who graces the solidly rare-grooving “Wasichloswerdenwollte.” She’s absent from her own song, though, when Suff provides guest rapper Frank Nitty with a Middle Eastern-tinged loop on the “Changes Refill.” Traditional melodic boom bap finally is served up on the tracks with German MC’s, all three featuring the jam-packed, energetic raps of Leipzig native Morlockk Dilemma, “Ich Trinke” and “Unterwegs Refill” both dealing with drinking, while the wordplay-heavy “Isolation Refill” with Audio88 & Yassin would also be at home on a Snowgoons album.
Raised on hip-hop beats from the likes of Marley Marl, Large Pro, Pete Rock, Primo, Erick Sermon, E-Swift, Madlib, J Dilla and J-Zone and producing since 1999, Suff Daddy has an ear for colorful loops that he often leaves dusty and crackling, supplementing them with a little something he conjures up on his MiniKorg or Little Phatty Moog. He doesn’t reinvent the wheel but is still one of the many capable producers around the world that deliver soulful, groovy beats that are fit for rapping as they are for singing.