When Biggie passed away almost a decade ago, the hip hop world lost a truly captivating lyricist. What was unfortunate was that Biggie didn’t leave a ton of material behind for us to gush over like his counterpart, Tupac, who has so much material some think he still roams the earth. Enter B.I.G.’s good buddy, Sean Combs, who hasn’t had as much success in the music game since the death of the Notorious one, but has remained a face in the hip hop game through various other outlets. So what can Diddy do to bring some momentum back to his music career (and make a little cheese off of his man’s legacy)? Make an album of some rare (or not so rare) Christopher Wallace rhymes alongside some of today’s hip hop mainstays. While this is the second time that we have seen this done (Biggie’s Born Again album) Diddy has titled this installment Duets: The Final Chapter. Many of us hope that this is indeed the final chapter, due to a highly questionable guest list and some rehashed B.I.G. lyrics.
While it is refreshing to hear Biggie’s voice again, Duets is full of hit and miss moments. The questionable guests throughout the album, as well as the fact that many of these B.I.G. verses have been heard before, hold back any momentum that could have been gained. Then there are some outright awkward moments such as the Diddy, Eminem and Obie Trice outing “It Has Been Said” where after the three minutes are up, you have to run the track back because you just know they forgot something – Biggie. How in the hell can you make a Biggie album and forget the guy who the album is all about? Not only that, notice who Diddy sounds like on the track (remember he doesn’t write rhymes, he writes checks!). The same blasphemous moment happens on “I’m With Whateva” where Lil Wayne, Juelz Santana and Jim Jones somehow manage to slip through the cracks with another compilation like track.
Outside of those two moments, the album stays pretty much on track as Duets is littered with some unworthy guests spots and proves just how far ahead of the game Biggie was as he outshines most of his guests. “Breaking Old Habits” feat Slim Thug and T.I. and “Hustler’s Story” feat Scarface, Akon and Big Gee of Boyz N Da Hood are probably the most blatant sonnings by a dead man on record ever (except for Scarface, of course). Slim Thug and T.I. are made out to be amateurs by B.I.G.’s relentless delivery on the former while we wonder why in the hell newcomer Big Gee is even on the album. “Ultimate Rush” is ultimately bullshit as a snooze worthy beat and an uninspired Missy appearance banishes this track to hip hop hell.
There are still some noteworthy moments like the reunion of Jay-Z and B.I.G. on “Whatchu Want” as well as the Just Blaze laced “Living In Pain” with Tupac, Mary J Blige and Nas, holding it down. But at the end of the day, you begin to wonder what the real motive of Diddy putting out this record was (dolla dolla bill y’all) and why it feels so thrown together and made around the guests instead of being built around the legacy of the Notorious B.I.G.? At least we know that B.I.G was excessively ahead of his time, but with Duets we also learn that some legacies are best left alone.
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