Artist: Jay-Z & R.Kelly
Album: The Best Of Both Worlds
Label: Def Jam
Rating: 2 / 10
Everybody knows how celebrities build themselves up prior to a big movie or album release by creating stories and scandals in the media – it could be by doing something that appeals to the public, like donating money to a charity or endorsing Pepsi, or by doing something ridiculously stupid, like dating Geri Halliwell. But you can’t help thinking that perhaps R Kelly went a bit far as the release of his Jay-Z collaboration LP “Best Of Both Worlds” approached – as I’m sure you probably know, he was caught on tape getting fellatio from a 14-year-old, in exchange for him giving her a golden shower. Whether this was an attempt to bring himself up to the same wild, hoe pimpin’ reputation as his good mate Jigga, we’ll probably never know. Because lets face it, R Kelly can hold a Cristal bottle and sway rhythmically from side to side in as many bikini-filled videos as he wants, but most people will still recognise the name as the singer of the wholesome fun-for-all-the-family ballad ‘I Believe I Can Fly.’
And the other guy on the LP? He’s doing just fine thank you very much, he’s just dropped his fourth mediocre album in as many years and had it hailed as a classic by just about everyone. However, what was perhaps special about “The Blueprint” compared to other recent Hov releases was that there were no blatant tasteless half-assed pimpin’ anthems or corny R&B crossover pop hits. But consequently he’s been saving them all up, and now he’s ready to inflict lots of them on us at the same time, with more than a little help from the Bob Dole of R&B, R Kelly. What you expect from “Best Of Both Of Worlds” is exactly what you’ll get. And I mean exactly. That is, if you’re not expecting any originality, soul or an abundance of creativity. If you’re hoping for 13 formulaic R&B/pop-rap crossover Trackmasters joints, you’re going to get just what you ordered.
The title track opens the album, and surprise surprise it’s got a quasi-anthemic, dramatic “We’re here” sound, with loads of big ass horns, a big climatic bass buildup at the end of each loop, and lyrics like “The combination of Perry Mason and Larry Davis, Martin and Malcolm, this is bigger than the album.” See ‘The Ruler’s Back’ for practically the same track, but without R Kelly. Kelly’s contribution is mostly limited to groaning “Best Of Both Worlds” over and over again, with Jay punctuating the melodramatic atmosphere with some really effective Huhs and Yeahs. The effect of an intro like this, if it were actually any good that is, would be to tell the listener “It’s on”.
But it really doesn’t seem to be. You could feel Jigga had actually put some time and real effort into “The Blueprint”, even if you thought the end result was garbage. But here, it’s soulless, it’s generic, it’s pathetic. If you’re thinking “A Jigga and R Kelly album? That’ll be an LP full of Fiesta remixes then?” you’d almost be exactly right. ‘Shake Your Body’, ‘Take You Home With Me’, ‘Somebody’s Girl’, ‘Honey’, ‘Pussy’ – aside from the production formula being altered slightly by slowing or speeding up the rhythm or adding a slightly different guitar loop, they could all be the same track – very generic, sorta danceable club smoochers. Nothing creative or interesting on display whatsoever. If it’s not Jigga spitting “Let’s not test my gangsta, just, raise your glasses Mami, shake ya asses, this is a thug classic” it’s Jigga spitting “I think I might wife her, y’know, powder blue Roc-a-Wear suit, white Nike her, add mami to the cypher, R.O.C. for life cuz, the gang motherfucker.” Isn’t this getting a little old Jigga? We’re all well aware of the fact you get girls now that you’re a famous rap star and all, do you have to preach it so constantly? R Kelly’s contribution to these cuts is never anything more than contributing the hook, and singing a little half-rap verse about popping Cris and ass shaking, so that you know he’s not like, a sweet-singing pussy or anything, and that he’s as really thugged out and as really gangsta as Jigga.
He’s even taken Jigga’s philosophy that battling is “the truest essence of hip hop” to heart. He disses Sisqo (how brave can you get, eh?) on Shorty. You want to know what he said? It’s mad vicious – “Said I wouldn’t mention Sisqo, fuck he’s a bum.” DAYYUM SON!! Maybe the Dru Hill man should just give up now, because that was hard. When R Kelly does go into these half-singing, half-emceeing verses, what stands out most is that he is a truly awful lyricist. I mean come on, Beanie Sigel and Jay-Z could never be called astounding wordsmiths, but compared to R Kelly’s sluggish verse on ‘Green Light’, they actually sound dope for a change. I can’t see Big Tigger taking up R Kelly’s request to “put me off up in the Basement” either, going by this evidence.
Things get a bit more sombre for ‘It Ain’t Personal’ and ‘The Streets’, the overwhemingly predictable token couple of ghetto-themed tracks that everyone knew were going to be on here, serviced by the typical Trackmasters slow melancholic dirges. On ‘It Ain’t Personal’, they moan about fake friends in the hood they left, that highly original topic. On ‘The Streets’, it’s some sub-Pac criminal introspective bullshit executed with zero precision and very little appeal. R Kelly just sounds silly, and Hov just sounds like someone trying unsuccessfully to sound emotional behind the mic. See ‘Never Change’ for practically the same track, but without R Kelly. I’m sure Hov would try to defend simplistic rhymes like “Trying to stay focused but I feel hopeless damn, can’t cope with being broke, I’m a man” by claiming they were real, personal shit, and that’s what makes them dope. But really, can’t he express his inner self in a more interesting and eloquent manner, and not in the same way that 90% of all other wack generic thug emcees do? I’m sure Jay is capable of writing really well, I just don’t think he feels the need to, with his current rate of success and the favourable response he gets to his records. And it’s sad.
It’s equally sad to see R Kelly & Jay-Z resorting to yet another greatly overused and boring topic, getting money. The imaginatively titled ‘Get This Money’ features the standard fare – Jigga talking about Bentleys and Gs, R Kelly doing the hook and singing a horrible verse, with Trackmasters sounding like Trackmasters perpetually do. It’s all pretty stupid – they moan about people in the hood forgetting them and being playa haters, and then turn right around and start flaunting their wealth, fame and possessions. Hip hop at its most worst. Strangely enough, this is probably the only track on the album where R Kelly doesn’t talk about popping Cris.
Perhaps to remind the listener that R Kelly isn’t just a guy who does hooks on rap songs, and that he’s a smooth crooner of cheesy ballads, he gets a whole track to himself, titled ‘Naked.’ It’s a horribly cheesy slurping treacle foreplay anthem, performed like we’ve never heard something like this before. Fair enough, Kelly sounds pretty smooth, but the cool tone of his voice seems at odds with lyrics like “I’m ready, to explore, every part of you, girl I’ll take my clothes off first, then now you.” It reads like love poetry that a 10-year-old secretly passes to the girl he likes.
A notable part of this album is the hook to ‘Break Up To Make Up’, sung by the loverman Kelly. The way he drones out the despicably corny “You and me, havin sex, after an argument, that shit’s the best” like he’s unaware how cheesy he actually sounds creates more than a chuckle. Jigga on this track is the same old same old, talking about lost loves, arguments and the like in his typically dry, insipid manner.
Perhaps an upside to this album is that we won’t see too many more of these generic club Trackmasters joints, because everyone who bought this album (and that’ll be a lot of people, trust me) will be so sick of them they won’ t want to hear another wack guitar lick or hear another person even mutter “pop the Cris”. But really, the template for the whole album was simple, so the outcome is the same. It’s R Kelly sounding very cheesy and looking very out of place on occasions, and Jigga being boring Jigga, the non-Blueprint, non-Reasonable Doubt Jigga that loads of people justifiably think is total ass. This is not a good follow-up to “The Blueprint” if it can be treated as such, it displays nothing of the glimmers of competent lyricism which emerged there. And as for R? It seems all he’s capable of giving the kids these days is piss.