Artist: The Notorious B.I.G.Title: Duets: The Final ChapterRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Bill “Low-Key” Heinzelman
Eight years after his tragic death, the closing chapter of The Notorious B.I.G., album wise, has come to a close. With Duet: The Final Chapter (Bad Boy Records), the original King of New York is paired with the superstar emcees of today for an album similar to his first posthumous release Born Again. This formula is once again hit or miss, as Biggie predictably outshines the majority of his companions. Unintentionally, the album succeeds in showing how ahead of his time B.I.G. was, as the majority of the guests on the album fail to hold a torch to the Brooklyn legend.
This is evident throughout the album, as the overload of questionable guest appearances lead to a variety of tracks that fail to fit Biggie’s mold. “Spit Your Game” finds Swizz Beatz unsuccessfully trying to match B.I.G.’s lyrical prowess with Twista and Krazyie Bone. The forced effort never materializes as Twista is badly outshined by Krayzie and Biggie. The terrible “Wake Up Now” is another dubious move, as B.I.G. is paired with rockers Korn for a laughable effort that will have many asking, “Was this necessary?” Similarly, the gimmicky “Ultimate Rush” featuring Missy, and the generic “Breakin’ Old Habits” with T.I. and Slim Thug should have been mixtape fodder. On top of that, is there any point to having two songs on the album without Biggie? Well, that is what happens with “The Most Shady,” which features Eminem, Obie Trice and Diddy, and “I’m Wit’ Whatever,” by Lil’ Wayne, Juelz Santana & Jim Jones. A mind-boggling decision, indeed.
Thankfully, Bad Boy did wise up and gather some worthy talent for Biggie to work with. The standout track “Beef” recaptures the essence of the original song featured on Life After Death, as the synergy between B.I.G. and Mobb Deep is evident. “Hold Your Head” is a fitting rendition of “Suicidal Thoughts,” as the legendary Bob Marley joins B.I.G. for a striking look inside the mind of Christopher Wallace. But the album’s most memorable effort comes from the reunion of The Commission, as Jay-Z and Biggie give us one more gem for Brooklyn with the Danja produced “Whatchu Want.” With newcomers and vets alike getting outdone by B.I.G. throughout Duets, Jay is the only emcee able to stand his own on the album.
While Duets: The Final Chapter doesn’t offer anything we haven’t heard before, the album is more proof – as if we needed any – that few will ever come close to the lyrical proficiency of The Notorious B.I.G. Unfortunately, the album’s poor execution and selection of guests will have it go down as just another predictable posthumous release.