Faith Evans releases a new studio album, ‘The King & I,’ collaborating with her late hubby, The Notorious B.I.G. The effort exceeds expectations.
Uh oh – it’s one of those! One of what? One of those new albums by a living artist (Faith Evans) collaborating with a dead artist (The Notorious B.I.G.). Often, the first question asked is why? My first impression before listening The King & I was this is going to be bad. After taking the leap of faith, however, the results are much better than expected. Sure, using classic rhymes by a late rapper with a currently living R&B artist sounds weird, but The King & I works more often than it doesn’t.
On “Legacy,” Evans reflects back on “what could’ve been.” Interestingly, the track samples “Would You Die for Me.” “Can’t Get Enough” is arguably stronger, finding Biggie spitting mad game. Evans plays off his sexually-driven come-ons (“Big Booty Hoes”), supported by her own lushly, harmonized background vocals.
“Don’t Test Me” is superb. Set in a minor key and anchored by dusty, soulful drums, it represents one of the most elite moments from The King & I. Evans delivers stunning vocals, once more playing off of Biggie’s classic rhymes (“Get Money Remix”). “Tryna Get By” is also intriguing, fueled by “Sky’s the Limit.”
“Ten Wife Commandments”
“Ten Wife Commandments” flips the seminal “Ten Crack Commandments.” Ultimately, it’s a banger, accentuated by the drum programming and the marvelous pipes of Evans. Even so, the best Faith Evans performance comes on “Fool for You.” Her dedication is undeniable, as she’s able to flex hard on this 6/8 slow jam.
“When We Party,” a feel-good, funk rap joint, brings Snoop Dogg along for the ride. Evans ends up playing a background role here. “Somebody Knows” is significant because it questions who murdered Biggie. Given the nostalgic nature of The King & I, the presence of this hip-hop soul joint is fitting. Busta Rhymes pays ode to the legend.
“NYC” featuring Jadakiss is among the best. The record has East coast rap sensibility written all over it. The way that The Notorious B.I.G. is incorporated is awesome. Jadakiss is a perfect fit with his tough-minded, gruff-voiced rhymes. As for Faith, she keeps on blessing our ears without a hitch.
Ultimately, The King & I plays out much better than expected. At 25 tracks in all, the set runs long at 80 minutes. That said, there’s plenty for fans of Faith Evans and The Notorious B.I.G. to sink their teeth into. This isn’t a classic Faith Evans or Biggie Smalls album, but respectable and nostalgic.
Gems: “Can’t Get Enough,” “Don’t Test Me,” “Ten Wife Commandments,” “Fool for You” & “NYC”
Faith Evans & The Notorious B.I.G. • The King & I • Rhino • Release: 5.19.17
Photo Credit: Rhino