In no uncertain terms, the Jay-Z and R.Kelly collaborative
album, The Best of Both Worlds, was a bomb. It posted
horrible sales upon its initial release in 2002 and was quickly
overshadowed by a videotape containing R.Kelly engaging in some
questionable sex acts with an underage girl. Expectedly, the wave
of late-night jokes and slew of boycotts tossed the album out
beyond the realm of pop music and into the absurd.

Music Reviews
Ow, this pepper spray is great. (Courtesy of Def Jam)

What’s interesting is that all the urine jokes in the
world managed to taint an album that should have been neglected
simply based on artistic merit. The Best of Both Worlds was
an awful album and pretty much everyone involved knew it. So why
would these titans of hip-hop and R&B try and rehash pure
refuse?

Sure, R.Kelly staged a Rocky-like comeback and happened to put
out the best album and single of his career, 2003’s
Chocolate Factory and the dizzyingly beautiful lead single,
“Ignition (Remix),” while Jigga released two
career-defining albums and “retired” from rap as the
self-proclaimed best rapper alive. They’re two frighteningly
talented, charming, savvy artists at the peak of their fame. Maybe
that’s why Unfinished Business isn’t just a
horrendous wreck of an album, it’s downright mystifying.

The same second-string production team, Trackmasters, who helmed
The Best of Both Worlds, is behind the mixing boards yet
again and nothing in their shallow bag of tricks has changed. The
same decrepit horn sections, all the Indian flutes that don’t
sound good enough for Timbaland and all those same, glossy,
pseudo-Neptunes sonic flourishes clutter the disc’s 11 songs.
Most of these tracks are just simple remixes or corruptions of
songs off of The Best of Both Worlds. Any listener with the
slightest bit of either S. Carter or Kells experience won’t
bite. Even “She’s Coming Home with Me,” the
album’s tightest song, is just “Somebody’s
Girl” with some charmingly sloppy flamenco guitar loops
thrown into the mix.

Kelly carries most of the vocal load. He puts down that distinct
sing-rap over the usual topics of VIP rooms, ridiculously plush
Maybachs and all those freaky girls waiting in the Jacuzzi. His
charming falsetto still manages to elicit both a smile and giggle
from lines like, “Move that ass slow like you in the
Matrix,” even when the other 80 percent of his verse feels
like Chocolate Factory run-off.

H.O.V.A is the most disappointing on the album. Jay-Z appears so
peripheral on each song it’s a wonder he shares top billing
with Kelly. Cruise control is too intense a phrase to describe
Shawn Carter’s output on the album. Even if he is planning on
coming out of retirement, he sounds like he’s too deep on
some golf course in Palm Beach to come back anytime soon. From the
man who brought some of the most tightly packed narratives in rap
history, listeners have to deal with lines like, “It’s
hot tubs, heated pools and no rules / Call your old dude and tell
him he old news / Tell that fella you feel like Cinderella.”
These raps aren’t breezy, they’re just hot air. Toss in
some completely forgettable guest appearances, subject matter than
doesn’t get anywhere beyond sweet-ass ways to enter a club
with a girl on each arm and all the album amounts to Magic and
Jordan playing a game of Sunday pickup and missing 10-foot
jumpers.

As bad as Unfinished Business is, it won’t be
anything more than a sloppy footnote on two fantastic careers. The
real danger ahead, 20 years from now, when kids accidentally turn
on the oldies station, hear Unfinished Business and start to
think this is how R.Kelly and Jay-Z made music. People will seethe
with aging resentment and try to talk their kids into listening to
The Black Album and 12 Play. They’ll dismiss
their elders and thus the chance for parent-child bonding over
“Dirt off Your Shoulder” or “Bump
n’Grind” is forever erased. Seriously, no parent wants
to miss out on that.

Rating:  1 out of 5 stars

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *