Unfinished Business

Artist: R. Kelly & jay ZTitle: Unfinished BusinessRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Jayson Rodriguez

If The Best Of Both Worlds was Jay-Z and R.Kelly’s “Fiesta”-fueled Friday night then Unfinished Business (Def Jam), the duo’s second collaborative album, is their Saturday night sequel. Jigga and Kells re-team with the intention of flaunting their fantasy-inducing fairy tales, but fall short on the results with hangover-like sluggishness. For Jay-Z, arguably the greatest emcee of all time, he often ruminated on rap being boring for him and the Roc CEO forced his own hand into retirement to inspire his most recent work. But on Unfinished Business, with no clear challenge, Jay often cruises carelessly, leaving the R. to serve as the life of the party.

On “Big Chips,” the lead single, it’s not without noting, however, Young Hov’s ability to muster a swagger when necessary. “Like old ladies at the park I toss my bread,” he boasts. “And the pigeons start flocking.” And “Don’t Let Me Die” showcases a reflective Jay-Z reminiscent of the rapper’s work on The Blueprint and The Black Album, respectively. The song is easily the finest on the album as—amid Kelly’s soulful pleas—Jay poignantly asks: “How come one that made such foul mistakes/ still be allowed to have a smile on my face?”

Whereas Jay-Z is forced to rely on the ingenuity of his lyrics to succeed, Kelly can get by with melody and harmony when his writing fails him. “Feelin’ You In Stereo” is the controversial singer’s latest allegorical allusion for intercourse (Think “You Remind Me” and “Ignition”.), and is both creepy and convincing with its lullaby-like chorus. The singer also injects liveliness into “Pretty Girls” and “Break Up (That’s All We Do),” two otherwise throwaway tracks, which is a lot considering there are only 10 tracks on the entire album.

Suffice to say, it’s not all Jay’s fault Unfinished Business falters. It’s not as if he spit any quizzical, sub par material. It’s quite the opposite. After thrilling fans for years with spectacular stuff, particularly his (supposed) last album, Jay-Z played it safe this time around. To make matters worse, after hearing Jay rap over the evocative production of both Kanye West and Just Blaze for the past few years, the sonic landscape provided by Tone of the Trackmasters seems skeletal and uninspiring. Maybe for the third Best of Both Worlds installment, Jay-Z and R.Kelly should meet on a Sunday afternoon.

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