Attention all Biggie fans within the range of my writing voice, listen and listen carefully: In the words of the great Rap poet Nasir Jones, it’s time to “Let the late great veteran live!” – or die (if we really wanna get all technical).
I proclaim this because after listening to The King and I, a new album featuring Faith Evans and leftover Notorious BIG audio, I’ve reached the conclusion that it’s time to stop propping up dead rappers on studio albums and using their past recordings as some kind of twisted ventriloquism in an attempt to satisfy our own selfish need for new music from old greats.
Rarely does this kind of musical cocktail work.
Perhaps if the said dead artist had vaults and vaults of old, unheard music like a Prince or Michael Jackson or even a Tupac, it could make sense. Yet, for someone like Biggie, who doesn’t even have a large released discography much less vaults of unreleased music, The King & I comes out sounding more like some kind of weird Hip Hop Pet Cemetery concoction in which the emcee is certainly animated, but not necessarily alive.
These kinds of gimmicks kill a little bit more of the deceased person’s legacy if you ask me. And if you were to ask me again, I’d say we are better off letting the dead emcee rest in peace instead of trying everything in our technological power to bring him back to life – even if it is just for a song.
But don’t get me wrong, however, The King & I isn’t terrible. A few songs on there are catchy little tunes that you’ll find yourself nodding to. And Faith certainly sings her damn heart on all of the tracks listed. Yet, it needs to be said that the vibe is quite weird in the sense that the album comes off as if the two were romantically involved at the time of his demise and now 20 years later, she is a hurting widow grieving by performing sexually explicit songs with her dead husband on record.
We all know that wasn’t and/or isn’t the case.
Not only that, I personally feel as if Faith may have been held back by the mediocrity of the unreleased Biggie vocals. Finding chemistry with a living person is difficult as it is, but it seems that this brainchild was really put to the task when trying to match up and modernize 90s version Biggie with 2017 everything else.
What we ended up getting was a Frankenbiggie album that underwhelms as a posthumous release. In the end, we’re better off honoring BIG through soundbitten samples on beats or repeated rotations of his Ready To Die and Life After Death joints to remind us that, for a spell, the Notorious BIG was on top of the world.