Friday, February 6, 2015

2 In 1: Revisiting Jay-Z & R. Kelly's "Best Of Both Worlds" and "Unfinished Business"

Oh yes, this should be a rather interesting "2 In 1" piece that's for sure. I used to own both of the albums that will be discussed here, and there was a time a few years back when I said I wouldn't revisit them again. A few days prior to this post, I was just chilling and the thought came to mind: maybe I should revisit these joints for the blog, and that's how we ended up here. There's not much to say about Jay-Z going into this. You all know he's my #2 favorite MC of all time and I dedicated a great project to him on this very blog, which you can check out in the archives if you haven't done so already. Now, R. Kelly? He's another story. I've made it clear in the past (and present) that I'm not a fan of his, however, I'll talk about him a bit before we begin with the "Best Of Both Worlds" album.

Back in the day during Kelly's "12 Play era," even at the tender age of 10, I was NOT a fan of this guy. Any time songs like "Bump & Grind" and "Your Body's Callin" came on, I would literally cringe, I kid you not. I don't know what was done to make me feel this way, but you can certainly attribute it to me being HEAVILY into hip hop at the time (since the age of 5). Also, this was during a time when R&B music would not receive my time in any form unless it was Mary J. Blige; it wouldn't be until the summer of '97 that I would begin to appreciate R&B. Continuing on, when I heard "Be Happy" featuring the late, great Notorious BIG, my feelings began to change a bit. The Isley Brothers assisted "Down Low (Nobody Has To Know)" was cool, plus I never liked "I Believe I Can Fly" and if there was a song where an artist like R. Kelly was trying too hard, that was it. His 1998 double album, "R," was decent, plus I liked other songs like the "Fiesta" remix and "Step In The Name Of Love," just to name two additional selections, BUT, when I first heard the allegations that he had (or was having) sex with underaged girls, I began to distance myself from him and his music. I also remember an interview he did with Todd Gordon on BET in 2008, and while I can't recall the question that was asked (even though I clearly knew what the subject was about), it was Kelly's response that to this day made me see him in a different light, completely:

"When you say teenager, how old are we talking?"

My reaction was a total shake of the head, along with a "really dude" remark. His question was not taken out of context nor was it a slip of the lip, he DID ask this and it killed whatever credibility he had with me. In situations like this, you can't simply just brush it off and say, "Wayne, just focus on the music." Sometimes, it's not that easy to just excuse someone's (irresponsible) behavior just because they may produce good/great music, and in this case, R. Kelly does not get a pass from me. And before you ask, even though I'm not a fan of Kelly, I'll be objective in the review of both albums.

A few more things before I begin the review. When I first heard the news of this alleged "big time moment in music," featuring the pairing of the best in hip hop and R&B, respectively, I thought it sounded good on paper, but I wasn't excited to say the least. I'll also save my extended thoughts on the Jay-Z/R. Kelly partnership for the end of this post. So, after all this, let's begin with 2002's "Best Of Both Worlds."

Release date: March 26, 2002

All songs produced by Trackmasters (Tone & Poke) and R. Kelly, except where noted

1. "The Best of Both Worlds"
Produced by Megahertz

Well, this album couldn't have started on a more dope note than this banger. Honestly, I've always liked this song. Megahertz's beat was dope and as far as chemistry, this is about the closest we're going to get with Jay and Kelly. Will that be the case for the rest of this album? We shall find out.
*5 out of 5*

2. "Take You Home With Me a.k.a. Body"

This appropriately titled song was right up Kelly's alley. For the most part it's good and just when you think Jay would sound out of place on a song like this, he makes it work.
*4 out of 5*

3. "Break Up to Make Up"

Part of me would say "if you don't know what this song is about, you have no reason reading this review, but loyal reader, it's not that serious. Now, I understand "make up sex" and how good it can be after an argument or whatever, but hot damn listening to Kelly sing about it was NOT entertaining to say the very least, plus this was a song that Jay sounded so out of place on considering the content.
*2 out of 5*

4. "It Ain't Personal"

"This is business and it ain't personal." That's the main theme on this one. Even at this point in their careers, especially Jay's, this was nothing we hadn't heard before, but it still comes off as a decent song.
*3 out of 5*

5. "The Streets"
Produced by R. Kelly

Ok, I will admittedly let my bias show here. When you look at the title of this song, you already know what to expect, however, Kelly should've been nowhere near this song. Lyrically Jay comes with his usual, but Kelly being on this one interrupts things quite a bit.
*3 out of 5*

6. "Green Light"
Featuring Beanie Sigel
Produced by R. Kelly, Co-Produced by Tone

Kelly's laughable attempt at being aggressive aside, this was a good song. Quite frankly, it would've been that much better without Kelly on it.
*3 out of 5*

7. "Naked"
Performed and produced by R. Kelly

Ok, I know a song like this was CLEARLY for the ladies, but even listening to it objectively it did nothing for me, and if you've heard one song like this from Kelly, you've heard them all. Let's move on please.
*1 out of 5*

8. "Shake ya Body"
Featuring Lil Kim

I was cool with this one, tailor made for the ladies to shake their bodies while the fellas two step (with a twist).
*4 out of 5*

9. "Somebody's Girl"

Well, according to Jay, if you love your girl, you better hold and hug her. Furthermore, I guess it wouldn't be out of Kelly's character to tell you "he has his eyes on your girl," and make no secret about it either. Another decent song.
*3 out of 5*

10. "Get This Money"

It's another song about "gettin money" again, but I'll tell you this, the song is pretty good thanks to the tight beat and how Jay and Kelly work it so nicely.
*4 out of 5*

11. "Shorty"
Produced by R. Kelly, Co-Produced by Tone

I still shake my head and laugh at Kelly's attempt to be "thugged out," even on an R&B tip. The beat here was ok, but lyrically this was nothing special.
*2 out of 5*

12. "Honey"
Featuring The Bee Gees

This seemed to revisit "Shorty" but on a much different level, not much else to say about it otherwise.
*3 out of 5*

13. "Pussy"
Featuring Devin the Dude
Produced by Charlemagne

Well, this is certainly, uh, apply titled, power personified. Usually you won't find guest Devin the Dude too far behind considering the content.
*3 out of 5*

I'm going to get the rating out the way early, and in my view this clocks in at 3 star rating and that's where it's going to stay. Now, allow me to talk about this album. Starting with the lyrics, all around it's nothing we haven't heard before (in R. Kelly's case) and done better (in Jay-Z's case), and for such an album that was seen to be a big deal at the time, the effort here was about as phoned in as they come; Jay at times seemed like he'd rather be anywhere else other than collaborating with Kelly, whether they shared the same studio or not. Production wise it ranges from decent to very good. Looking back again, this was not as overhyped as you may think, but whatever momentum this project had was completely sunk when the allegations against Kelly surfaced and Jay distanced himself from him and anything to do with this album along with Def Jam, rightfully so (more on this towards the end). Critically and commercially, this joint bombed significantly, which was a little surprising being that Jay was coming off of the classic "Blueprint" album, and while certified Platinum is a success the way I see it, this was viewed as a disappointment considering their track record in sales at this point. Overall, it's a fairly ok album at best with a few (and I stress a few) good songs, but other than that, nothing more to say about it. I'd recommend it ONLY if you haven't heard it before, otherwise don't bother, as there's MUCH better from Jay and Kelly for that matter.

Release date: October 26, 2004

1. "The Return"
Produced by Tone (Trackmasters), Co-Produced by Alexander "Spanador" Mosley"

This was a fairly good way start to the album for the most part.
*4 out of 5*

2. "Big Chips"
Produced by Poke & Tone, Co-Produced by Alexander "Spanador" Mosley

Compared to "Get This Money" from the previous album, this one fell a little short, even with the all too familiar subject about money being covered, but I can't front on the nice beat and how good Jay and Kelly sound over it (moreso Jay). And Kelly, I'm SURE you know that this album did NOT move 1 million units in its first week.
*4 out of 5*

3. "We Got 'Em Goin"
Featuring Memphis Bleek 
Produced by Tone and R. Kelly

The Dr. Dre esque track on this one was pretty good, but I could've done without Kelly's attempts (again) at rapping/singing and trying to come off as this "R&B thug" (just stick to what you know man). Other than that, a good song.
*4 out of 5*

4. "She's Coming Home with Me"
Produced by Poke & Tone, Co-Produced by Alexander "Spanador" Mosley

This was basically part 2 of "Somebody's Girl" and of course it's not on the level of its predecessor, which isn't saying much.
*3 out of 5*

5. "Feelin' You In Stereo"
Produced by R. Kelly

Well, the only thing I have to say about this is that the ladies, I'm sure, would love it. It's the usual song from Kelly that's strictly made for the bedroom. Good, but not great I must say (and I RARELY say this, but Jay's verse was not needed on this song).
*3 out of 5*

6. "Stop"
Featuring Foxy Brown
Produced by Tone

This joint was ok, nothing more. I'm not sure why Foxy switched up her voice here; it came off more odd as hell, less entertaining.
*2.5 out of 5*
7. "Mo' Money"
Featuring Twista
Produced by Tone

The remix to "Get This Money," and even with the addition of Twista, someone who has been hit and miss with me over the years, it's not better than the original. (And someone should've told Kelly he should stick to singing and NOT try to rap, ever.)
*3 out of 5*

8. "Pretty Girls"
Produced by Tone and R. Kelly

I'm sure all the pretty girls out there would love this appropriately titled song. It's decent, but nothing we haven't heard before.
*3 out of 5*

9. "Break Up (That's All We Do)"
Produced by Tone

This was essentially a reprise of the similarly titled song from the previous album and it's on the same level, which is not surprising.
*2 out of 5*

10. "Don't Let Me Die"
Produced by Tone and R. Kelly, Co-Produced by Alexander "Spanador" Mosley 

This song could've been so much better even if it was covering familiar territory, however, Kelly rapping is/was something I'm clearly not a fan of and to hear him to try to sound deep did nothing for me, plus the song itself was about 1 minute and a half too long.
*2.5 out of 5*

11. "The Return (Remix)"
Featuring Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick
Produced by Tone, Co-Produced by Alexander "Spanador" Mosley  

As a remix, this was fine for what it was, not a classic or anything.
*4 out of 5*

Well, it's no surprise, this is another 3 star effort here, and whether this was a collection of unreleased songs from the "Best Of Both Worlds" recording sessions, it still would've garnered the same rating. Even with the same rating as "BOBW," it's only SLIGHTLY better, but that's not saying much at all. With lackluster promotion (compared to the first album) and "Big Chips" leaving the radio as quickly as it appeared, this album still managed to move 1 million units. Overall, there's not much to hear here that we didn't get on "BOBW" and again, I'd recommend it only if you haven't heard it before (and if you have some time to kill), otherwise, find something else worthy of your time to listen to.

Now that we got those albums out the way, I'm going to talk a bit about other happenings, plus my overall thoughts on them as a duo.

I won't go too much into the "Best Of Both Worlds" tour,  but I'm going to comment on the incidents that took place. Apparently there was already tension going into the tour; both men had complaints against each other, as Jay stated that Kelly had a lack of concern for rehearsing and was often late; Kelly basically felt he was being left in the dark/sabotaged), which came to a head at a show at the famous Madison Square Garden on October 31, 2004, plus when there's tension going into a tour like this, that's not good and you're already setting the wrong tone. This show wasn't even fully started when Kelly claimed that he saw someone in the crowd wave a gun at him (no one else saw this). In a later interview, Jay sort of laughed this off, rightly saying "you can't get a gun (or a weapon of any kind) into Madison Square Garden..... does he know where he is?" One thing that can't be disputed is the fact that Kelly, in an attempt to continue the show, was met with pepper spray to the face by someone in Jay's crew, who was charged and convicted based on what I've heard and read. From there, Kelly was banned from the tour, citing "lack of professionalism," which in turn produced a $75 million lawsuit on Kelly's behalf. Again, Jay dismissed this on Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot" remix (I'm not 'fr-iz-aid, it's J-iz-ay homie you got pl-iz-ayed/Take it like a man, the flow ran you off the st-iz-age (go sit down)/Wastin' ya time tryin' to sue S Dot/Tell ya lawyer take that civil case and drop it like it's hot"). and that's essentially what happened. The case was dropped.

Continuing on, like I said up top, this duo looked good on paper, but with hindsight being 20/20, this was not the best decision and it all amounted to a colossal waste of time and money. Their chemistry was present on songs like "Best Of Both Worlds," "Get This Money," "Big Chips," and of course the "Fiesta" remix, but that's where it ends. It never seemed like it was a genuine effort on either of their parts, coming off more like a contractual obligation than anything else (nothing more than a failed business decision), and if the fact that they were never in the studio with each other that much, if ever, during the recording sessions, that's another extreme confirmation that it was not a good idea. And one more thing before I close this post, I remember hearing that Kelly and Cash Money's Baby (I'm not a fan of this guy either) were supposed to drop "Best Of Both Worlds 2," but this idea was even WORSE on paper and I guarantee you the actual execution would've left a lot to be desired, so THANKFULLY that never seen the light of day. Overall, it's possible to say that the Jay-Z/R. Kelly duo was the wrong execution of the right idea, and if they had better chemistry, more generosity, motivation and of course without the aforementioned allegations against Kelly, this may have turned out differently. I also think that any plans for another collaboration between them is all but off the table and I'd be surprised if they appeared on another song again.

No comments:

Post a Comment