Jay-Z and R. Kelly finish business

Michael Ford
Arts & Entertainment Editor   

   The prospect of two of hip-hop’s finest artists collaborating on a record will undoubtedly stir up quite a bit of hype. When those two hip-hop artists are Jay-Z and R. Kelly, hype is an understatement and the project graduates to a hip-hop fan’s wet dream – “Unfinished Business” is just that.

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   Earlier this year, Jay-Z released “The Black Album,” which he claimed would be his last record. It displayed his sheer talent, and showcased why he is the best in the game. However, it is hard to take his claim of retirement at face value when he is at full force in “Unfinished Business,” where he proves once again he can probably even rhyme in his sleep.

   I believe that hip-hop is the new rock ‘n roll,” Jay-Z said at http://www.hiphoponline.com/. “Like back in the days we had James Dean with the T-shirt rolled up with the cigarettes and then, more recently, icons like Kurt Cobain? You know, I think hip-hop has replaced that. I think hip-hop is rock n roll right now. And in a couple of years we gonna look back and we’re gonna see that hip-hop really brought cultures together.”

   On the other side you have Kelly, whose music has always been really smooth but at times overly sappy. So having hardcore rapper Jay-Z on this record definitely works to his advantage, as it makes-up for Kelly’s shortcomings. After listening to a full album of Kelly solo, you will be ready for a dose of heavy metal to counter all the slow whining. With that said, the duo works, because some may tire of Jay-Z’s rough edged vocals as well.

   The first single “Big Chips” is the highlight of the record. Jay-Z and Kelly trade vocals with a Spanish guitar and various horns blaring in the background. Another standout is “Don’t Let Me Die,” where Kelly does nothing but rap, which is rare for him, but he sounds quite convincing and the outcome is surprisingly radio-ready. Other tracks worth noting include the collaboration with Memphis Bleek on “We Got Em Goin,” the smooth and easily accessible “She’s Coming Home With Me” and “Stop,” where Foxy Brown lends her trademark vocals.

   The opening track “The Return” is one of the record’s few weak points. It sounds like a rehashed mess of all too familiar material, as opposed to a sincere attempt at an album opener. Another track subject to condemnation is “Feelin’ You In Stereo,” which is the slowest botched mess this side of a microphone. Exclude these two tracks, though, and you have a fervent record.

   Jay-Z and Kelly kicked off a “Best of Both Worlds Tour” Sept. 29 in Kelly’s hometown of Chicago to coincide with the album. However, they have been down this road before when they released their first collaboration “The Best Of Both Worlds” in 2002, and the result was less than stellar. Although the album sold decent, the music was average at best, and before the tour could kick into full swing, Kelly’s pornography charges were everywhere.

   “Whether it’s hip-hop music, hip-hop R&B, all that stuff, it don’t have no color,” Kelly said at http://www.hiphoponline.com/. “It don’t have color. It’s for everybody, you know? And you’ll see that when you come to the concert. You’re gonna see just a rainbow of, of audience, you know? They’re out there just havin’ a good time and that’s what it’s all about.”

   “Unfinished Business” provides a rare mixture of music that is on contrasting spectrums of the hip-hop genre. Although it is rare for collaborations of this caliber to be successful, Jay and Kelly have outdone themselves and capitalized on the sub-par outing they gave on the original “Best of Both Worlds.” If you have even the slightest interest in hip-hop, I suggest giving this album a go. It really is the best of both worlds.

Grade: A -


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The Voice, 2004
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