Faith Evans & The Notorious B.I.G., The King & I | Album Review
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 prior to listening to The King & I was this is going to be bad. Honestly, this is an album that I personally considered skipping. However, taking the leap of faith, it made the listening rotation and ultimately, the results are much better than expected. Even if the idea of using classic rhymes by a late rapper with a currently living R&B artist sounds weird, The King & I works more often than it doesn’t.
On “Legacy,” Evans reflects back on “what could’ve been.” This is a cliché topic obviously, but it fits the scenario given the history between Faith and Biggie, as well as his premature death. “Legacy” 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” is sampled), supported by her own lushly, harmonized background vocals. Expectedly, this feels like a return back to the glory days of 90s hip-hop through and through.
“Don’t Test Me” is superb. Set in a minor key and anchored by dusty, soulful drums, this represents one of the most elite moments from The King & I. As always, Evans delivers simply stunning vocals, playing off of Biggie’s classic rhymes (“Get Money Remix”). “Tryna Get By” is another intriguing moment, oozing with classic hip-hop soul vibes. “Sky’s the Limit” fuels the fire here.
“Ten Wife Commandments”
The title of “Ten Wife Commandments” would be enough to separate it from the pack. Indeed, the song itself lives up to the hype of its title. Of course, it samples the seminal “Ten Crack Commandments.” Ultimately, this is a banger, accentuated by the drum programming and the marvelous pipes of Ms. Evans.
“Fool for You” gives Evans one of her strongest vocal performances in years – her vocal command is awe-inspiring. Clearly, her dedication is undeniable, as she’s able to flex hard on this 6/8 slow jam. Adding to the grandness of “Fool for You” is the gospel cues. No, this is by no means a spiritual track, but she truly paints the love as transcendent.
“When We Party”
“When We Party” brings Snoop Dogg along for the ride. The best way to characterize this joint is feel-good, funky rap. This is smooth as butter, with Snoop solidifying the West Coast sensibilities. While Faith Evans is at the forefront of most of The King & I, she plays a background role here. Even so, she still kills it.
“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 legendary rapper, spitting:
“I don’t even know where to start and it’s very hard to address it / A conversation still that most n*ggas don’t want to mess with / Continue his blessings I send to you and Mama Wallace / To this day I carry a picture of BIG in my wallet.”
“NYC” featuring Jadakiss is among the best songs appearing at the end of The King & I. What makes “NYC” so great? First and foremost, it’s East coast rap – production and sensibility – at its best. 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 – an album approaching 80 minutes in length is a rarity in the 10s. 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 album, nor is it a classic Biggie Smalls album, but it’s respectable and nostalgic by all means.
Gems: “Can’t Get Enough,” “Don’t Test Me,” “Ten Wife Commandments,” “Fool For You” & “NYC”