Rich moguls like Suge Knight and Sean Combs always claim the reason they’re putting out another album by their deceased artist is for their fans. Yet, these compilations always seem to feature some of the world’s most popular people. The “reason” we’re given is that they’d want to collaborate with these artists, with the “best.” But for a second, please, lets be realistic. The odds of a collaborated album covering such an eclectic span of artists is so far from probable that the fantasy element diffuses into stupidity. Besides, who exactly thinks that collaborating with a deceased emcee is anything like collaborating with them whilst they were alive? In my humble opinion, it’s quite a sick surreal endeavour.
“Nasty Girl” featuring Nelly and Jagged Edge, produced by Jazze Pha is a perfect example of what I’m glad I can’t blame Biggie for. Whoever thought this little atrocity up should be shot. “Living The Life” alongside Snoop and Ludacris would have otherwise been a classic Biggie commercial track, but is still sub par due to Bobby Valentino’s melodramatic hook. “Hold Your Head” is another mistake, Biggie’s “Drugs” hook is re-used and paired above an over-the-top Missy Elliot flavoured track. It just doesn’t work.
“The Most Shady” and “I’m Wit Whateva” are actually decent tracks, the latter actually being quite good. But neither actually feature Biggie. The first is Eminem with Obie Trice and Puffy and the second is Lil’ Wayne, Juelz Santana and Jim Jones. They may be dedicated to him, but isn’t this release entitled Biggie “Duets”?
“Whatchu Want” featuring Jay-Z would have been brilliant had the hook been something else or not present. Jay and Biggie make a great duo, but the hook detracts from the song’s overall quality. “Living In Pain” featuring Nas and 2Pac is a gem produced by Just Blaze. Mary J. Blige contributes a great hook, but yet again, I take great issue with people at odds with one another collaborating because of technology. Arguably the album’s best track is “Just A Memory” featuring The Clipse. Scram Jones assembled the perfect remix beat to fit beneath Biggie, the hook is scratched up to perfection and The Clipse fit in perfectly.
“Wake Up Now” is another surprisingly effective track as Biggie is slapped above a typical KoRn sounding track alongside the group. Pairing him with Bob Marley was a fantasy which grew on me. Initially the re-using of “Suicidal Thoughts” vocal track left me pre-judging the song but the renamed “Hold Your Head” brought me around, the duo works. “Hustlers Story” is another noteworthy track, the song features Akon and Scarface and has quite a charm threaded through it due to Akon’s signature sounds.
Essentially “Duets” is an above average compilation, but disappointing. Hopefully Sean Combs will make enough with this album to stop exploiting his deceased friend.