R. Kelly & Jay-Z Unfinished Business

R. Kelly & Jay-Z
Unfinished Business (Def Jam/ Roc-A-Fella/Rock Land/ Jive) Choice Cut : ''She's Coming Home With Me,'' ''Feelin' You In Stereo,'' ''Mo' Money''

Our Rating: 4 / 10
Your Rating: 6.1 / 10 in 11 votes

Compared with the commercial and technical catastrophe that was Best Of Both Worlds (featuring lackluster production by the Track Masters and inauspiciously released about the time when R. Kelly was being indicted on child pornography allegations), the success of its follow-up, Unfinished Business, is astronomical by comparison, the latter having debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 album chart.

Commercial success notwithstanding, R. Kelly’s and Jay-Z’s latest collaboration feels like the two biggest names in R&B and hip-hop respectively are merely going through the motions in order to fulfill their contractual obligations to their record label. No doubt, the overall production this (second) time around by the Track Masters is far more superior to that on Best Of Both Worlds; but from the way Kelly and Jay-Z (a.k.a. Shawn Carter) keep plugging that they are "the best of both worlds" in almost every track on this disc, it sounds like they’re desperately trying to convince themselves and their audience that their latest joint venture isn’t some big mistake. Throughout it all, one can hardly detect any mutual chemistry or enthusiasm -- either for each other or for the project itself -- coming from these two players.

Jay-Z just can't seem to get his rhymes out fast enough and on the money this time around; they're among his most belabored and unimpressive in a long time. R. Kelly fares a lot better with his perfect pitch and timing as shown by his canny ability to sing on the often syncopated beats. Kelly is particularly impressive on "Feelin' You In Stereo" wherein he likens his love interest to a home entertainment system, as he seductively pours on the honey thick and smooth with suggestive lines like "checking out your widescreen, while your hands are upon the headrest." But it says a lot about the pair’s joint stock of ideas (or their lack thereof) when the album’s two most impressive tracks, "She's Coming Home With Me" and "Mo' Money” (wherein guest rapper Twista easily licks Jigga with his exceptional rapid-fire tongue-twisting), are little more than reworked versions of similar songs from Jay and Kelly’s first full-length 2002 collaboration. It appears then that the whole point of this album is to rest on the laurels of past glories and rehash tried and tested formulas, rather than to come up with something truly fresh in terms of style and substance.

While the adage, "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it" may be true in some cases, albeit for R. Kelly and Carter to employ such a modus operandi where Unfinished Business is concerned, their project was doomed to be totally devoid of any artistic integrity from the start.

-- Ivan Thomasz

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