After Jay-Z and R. Kelly packed dancefloors with collaborations such as “Fiesta (Remix)” and “Guilty (Until Proven Innocent)”, instead of recording just another single together, the duo had an even bigger idea. As kings of their respective genres, hip-hop and R&B, two forms of music that overlap and intersect each other more than we’d like to acknowledge, the only logical thing left for them to do would be to collaborate on an entire album together. Why not craft a whole album of “Fiestas” for unlimited chart success? That’s exactly what they did in 2002, however the Best Of Both Worlds express was halted before it could leave the station. Kelly’s statutory rape charge and accompanying videotape hit just before the album did, and suddenly, Def Jam didn’t want to have anything to do with the project. The album was still released, but plans for a tour were cancelled, and no further promotion, videos, or singles were released for the album. But as time passed, and people forgot about R. Kelly’s run in with the law, his popularity soared, and the labels involved all started to look at the potential money that was lost in the project that was shoved under the carpet. Ideas of re-releasing the album or recording a new album had surfaced, but now they were facing a new problem, Jay-Z had just retired. But just as audiences “forgot” about Kelly’s sex-tape scandal, the big wigs must have assumed we’ve forgotten about Jay-Z’s retirement as well, as the duo have reunited for a new album and a national tour together.
Although while Unfinished Business boasts “11 new tracks”, the word “new” is used quite loosely. Sure, some of this material might be new to people that never heard the first Best Of Both Worlds disc, but much of it will sound oddly familiar to the rest. In all fairness, if “new” means “remixes”, then sure, this is a new album. Granted, it does contain some material we’ve never heard before, such as the catchy opener “The Return”, which acts as the theme song to their Best of Both Worlds tour, as Jay and Kels play Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh, jumping the album off. The similarly flavored “Big Chips” is another sure shot party anthem, as the duo competes to see who can come the flossiest over sports arena horns and bongo drum percussion. The politically charged “Don’t Let Me Die” is also a new addition, as Jay and Kels trade verses on the album’s most personal track.
But that’s about the “best” you’ll find in the “world” of Unfinished Business, as much of the remainder of the album are remixes of songs from the last album, as well as a few leaked tracks that didn’t make the predecessor. Credit is due for new verses from Jigga on “Break Up” (remix of “Break Up To Make Up”), “She’s Coming Home With Me” (last album’s “Somebody’s Girl”), and “Mo Money” (“Get This Money”, plus an impressive verse from Twista). Yet R. Kelly’s almost identical melodies on these tracks unfortunately give bad feelings of deja vu. The rerun feeling sinks in again on “Stop” (which was last album’s deleted track “Hold Up”), and the additional remix of “The Return”, despite a memorable verse from Slick Rick, who reverts back to classic Great Adventures form.
Unfortunately, the other new three new tracks just aren’t enough to justify this album’s hefty $18.00 retail price, especially when we’ve heard at least half it before. Furthermore, while Jay-Z still shines as bright as he always does, unfortunately he is reduced from arguably “hip-hop’s greatest emcee” to “guest rapper”, as R. Kelly hogs much of the spotlight. With a 3-to-1-verse ratio, this leaves no room for the introspective version of Jay-Z found on his solo albums. While this album almost shits on the legacy Jigga meant to close with “The Black Album”, Jay hints he’s not done yet on “Stop” (“Ya’ll nervous, I ain’t back yet/ I’m on extended vacay / I ain’t unpack yet”).
While the original Best Of Both Worlds LP was nothing to write home about either, it held up much better than it’s sequel. In the end, Unfinished Business is just that. It’s an excuse to repackage and reuse stuff we’ve heard before, with a few extras and deleted scenes you didn’t catch the first time around, because the original didn’t go platinum enough. Compare it to the movie companies same shady tactics of releasing “ultimate edition” and “unrated version” DVD’s, this is truly double-dipping by the corporate giants, and in this courtroom, both R. Kelly and Jay-Z are guilty.
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