You can’t blame P. Diddy for trying to make déjà vu into a business plan. After all, he made his fortune “reviving” the music of old through samples of classic pop and soul numbers. But in trying to revisit his label’s early-’90s heyday, the infamous beatjacker and Bad Boy has been reduced to recycling his own artists. His most recent resurrection is Loon, the Harlem heartthrob who can’t get a line out without inviting comparisons to Ma$e, Diddy’s fresh-faced former partner in rhyme. The younger MC, of course, claims to be more than a mere copyist: On “I’ll Be There,” the last track on his self-titled debut LP, he rhymes, “You can hum all you want to/Come all you want to/But I ain’t Ma$e, so run all you want to.” The rest of the album, however, provides little evidence to the contrary. There’s that Ma$e-like slow flow that screams for Sine-Aid, for one thing. And like Mason Betha before him, Chauncey Hawkins is all about pandering to the pretty young things with lazy, lustful rhymes and shallow, tinkling tracks. Occasionally, the approach works: On “How You Want That,” Loon’s short, choppy lines about juicy lips and huge asses are drowned out by Kelis wailing a hook with the cadence of a child’s teasing “nanny-nanny-boo-boo.” “Things You Do” is also saved by a cameo, this time by Aaron Hall, who provides a New Jack buffer between the listener and such lines as “There was a reason I liked you/And there’s a reason I wifed you.” Not so on “Down for Me.” Loon’s corny pleas for a woman who will “wash my hair” and is “always there” are appropriately trite for a rap ballad but are so nonthreateningly boyish that they disqualify the song from the genre’s canon of cheesy come-hither hits. The rest of the album is a jumble of Zapp & Roger-like production, skits, and mumblings about the perfect girl or, in the occasional concession to those who’ve outgrown 106th & Park, street life. In other words, the only discernible difference between the Puffy protégés is Loon’s self-awareness: Whereas Ma$e snarled about being “Ma$e Murda” before Diddy made him pretty, Loon boasts of being “young, pretty, and heartless.” Though it’s refreshing to see a rapper who seems as if he’d appreciate his own special poster issue of Right On! just as much as a Source Award, if Loon is intent on catering to boy-crazy teenyboppers, he might do better to nurture a promising career as a Sean John model and keep his lovely lips firmly closed. —Sarah Godfrey

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