jayz-rkelly-review-1490655501 jayz-rkelly-review-1490655501

How Good Was Jay-Z & R. Kelly's 'Best Of Both Worlds' Album?

A look back at Hov and Kellz' monumental album 15 years after its original release. 

In 2002, Jay-Z and R. Kelly joined forces to release The Best of Both Worlds, an album that appeared to be a classic in the making on paper, but would ultimately falter under the weight of massive expectations. Arguably the top artists in their respective genres at the time, Jay-Z and R. Kelly had already proved to be bankable stars  with the ability to create timeless music, so the idea of the two combining their talents for a full-length album was more than a pretty big deal---and just short of a wet-dream for hip-hop and r&b fans.

First connecting in 1996, Jay-Z appeared alongside R. Kelly and his group Changing Faces on "All of My Days," from the blockbuster Space Jam soundtrack, the song would be the genesis of their collaborative history. Following Jay's career-changing Hard Knock Life album, the two would connect once again when R. Kelly tapped Hov to appear on the Kellz posse cut, "We Ride," but their first meeting of the minds that truly made major waves was "Guilty Until Proven Innocent," from Jay-Z's 2000 release, Dynasty.

With both artists under intense scrutiny from the media, "Guilty Until Proven Innocent" saw Jay-Z and R. Kelly proclaiming their innocence while firing back at the critics and pundits. The single peaked at No. 12 on the U.S. Billboard Rap Singles chart. The pair would team up again in 2001 when Jay-Z hopped on the remix to R. Kelly's hit single "Fiesta," a track that would run the summer that year. The remix also became their most successful collaboration to date, peaking at No. 6 on the Hot 100,  and spending five weeks atop the US R&B chart.

The "Fiesta (Remix)" inspired R. Kelly to suggest that he and Jay-Z record a whole album together thus birthing The Best of Both Worlds.  The album that saw the two attempting to recapture the magic of his collaborations with The Notorious B.I.G. on tracks like "Be Happy," and "Fuckin' You Tonight." "The vision I'd wanted to bring to life with Tupac still haunted me," R. Kelly wrote in his 2012 autobiography Soula Coaster. "I wanted to marry rap and r&b in a way the world would never forget. With Biggie and Tupac gone, though, I wasn't sure who could fill the bill. There were strong rappers, but I needed the strongest."

READ: Jay-Z’s New Venture Through Roc Nation Will Benefit Startups

Released on March 26, 2002, The Best of Both Worlds debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart, with 285,000 copies sold in its first week, and became certified platinum within months of it hitting the shelves (people still bought CDS back then). Songs like the album's title-track, as well as the infectious single, "Take You Home with Me a.k.a. Body" were accepted by fans but The Best of Both Worlds was panned by critics, who deemed the album as an underwhelming effort that failed to live up to its potential. Another detriment would be R. Kelly's criminal charges in June of 2002 after allegedly appearing in a sex-tape with an underage female. This ultimately caused the the duo's Best of Both Worlds tour to be canceled, and drew a dark cloud over the album.

Fifteen years later, The Best of Both Worlds remains an album of note, and influenced future collaborative albums between rappers and singers in its wake. The passage of time has given us a chance to reassess the album, and we've given it a track-by-track rundown on how the individual songs stack up today.

1. "The Best of Both Worlds"

The Best of Both Worlds opens with the album's title-track, and according to Jay-Z, was big enough of a meeting of the minds to garner comparisons to Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. crossing paths. Produced by Megahertz, the beat is bolstered by triumphant horns and pounding drums which make for a celebratory soundscape for the fellas to commemorate the occasion. "I got a million on that boy singing, whatever on the flow/Y'all got cheddar to blow, whatever, let a nigga know," Jay confidently spits, while Kellz  chimes in with incessant ad-libs reminding listeners that this is indeed the best of both worlds. Although Megahertz's contribution sounds slightly dated by today's standards, and R. Kelly's bits are a bit over the top at time, Hov steers the ship steadily with his brash couplets and contained flow, making this title-track worthy of an occasional spin in 2017.

2. "Take You Home With Me a.k.a. Body"

Trackmasters are among the oft underrated hitmakers in hip-hop, and Tone and Poke's fingerprints being on this Best of Both Worlds track is yet another example of their greatness. "Take You Home with Me a.k.a. Body" is the prototypical mid-tempo club banger with its syrupy hook, provided by R. Kelly, and infectious beat, which Hov navigates effortlessly. Dropping flirty lines like "I crept up behind her/Mami threw it like a quarterback, I caught that like Rice/I call mami Montana, bandana/Tied her hands up - this is gangsta love," Jay-Z and Kelly are in full mack mode with a tag-team like game. "Take You Home with Me" still retains all of the luster it had upon its release 15 years later.

3. "Break Up to Make Up"

Produced by R. Kelly and Trackmasters, "Break Up to Make Up" is another winning effort from The Best of Both Worlds and serves as evidence of the lost duo's chemistry when on one accord. "You and me, havin sex/After an argument, that shit's the best, R. Kelly croons on the hook, while Jay-Z compares his relationship struggles to the War Of The Roses--and make-up sex as the antidote. It's a mid-tempo jam that entices you to get on the dancefloor and bust a step or two, "Break Up to Make Up" is a stellar collaboration between Jay-Z and R. Kelly that has only gotten finer with time.

4. "It Ain't Personal"

Jay-Z and R. Kelly put the boasting and love affairs to the wayside for a bit of reality rap on "It Ain't Personal," one of the more sobering offerings from The Best of Both Worlds. Produced by R. Kelly and Trackmasters yet again, the song finds the guys addressing friends-turned-foes and fair-weather associates--with the latter crooning: "We used to get money together, bone honies together/Pushin chromed out twinkies in custom coach leather/You claim it's all love, but nigga it's whatever/Cause this is business, it ain't personal" on the track's hook. In retrospect "It Ain't Personal" could be perceived by some as being applicable to Jay-Z's own relationship with Damon Dash, which deteriorated in the subsequent years following the release of Best of Both Worlds, but regardless of inspiration, and irony, given Hov and Kels' own falling out, remains a gem.

5. "The Streets"

Intense topics continue to be broached on "The Streets," which features Jay and Kelly reflecting on the harsh environments that shaped and molded them. Produced by R. Kelly, "The Streets" includes a pair of prime verses from Hov, who spins vivid tales of his genesis in the streets---and the high-stakes encounters that he experienced and witnessed. R. Kelly also rises to the occasion, and he gives warning to the young black youth. "Son don't let these streets, get the best of you," he sings whileshowing moments of introspect about the toll that life on the streets can take on the psyche. "The Streets," which sounds like it could've been lifted from the recording sessions for Blueprint 2 continued the two superstars' winning streak on the LP.

6. "Green Light"

Powered by a rollicking guitar and tumbling drums, "Green Light" is another solid pairing between the two superstadrs. Robert's opening verse is initially hurried as he attempts a double-time flow, but quickly smooths out as it transitions into the hook. Jay-Z, for his part, turns in an efficient verse, save for the Mickey Mouse ad-libs, but the best aspect of "Green Light" is surely Beanie Sigel's appearance, and the Broad Street Bully proceeds to get grisly. "Red dot I got 'em, tell that nigga move slow/Head shots pop 'em when I let the uz' go" Beanie barks, delivering a few bars that contributes to the song's overlooked power.

7. "Naked"

R. Kelly gets into his R&B zone on "Naked," the lone solo track on Best of Both Worlds. Crooning "Suddenly, I feel the need to pull you close to me," R. Kelly proceeds to convey his lustful yearning all over the sparse piano-driven track, which is reminiscent of the fare featured on his 2001 effort, TP2.com. Although a bit out of place on this album, "Naked" is among the strongest selections on Best of Both Worlds and can certainly assist in baby-making endeavors, even 15 years later.

8. "Shake Ya Body"

Most albums are guilty of having at least one clunker so glaring that it instantly gets the skip button, and "Shake Ya Body" fits that bill on Best of Both Worlds. Produced by R. Kelly and Trackmasters, the beat is standard jiggy fare and misses the mark when compared to the other superb tracks featured on the album. R. Kelly tackles the bulk of the song, but his performance is a forgettable one, leaving Lil Kim and Jigga to swoop in and attempt to salvage what they can with a few timely quotables, but even their superb contributions can't save the day.

9. "Somebody's Girl"

The Best of Both Worlds regains its footing with "Somebody's Girl," an infectious offering from the album that finds Jay-Z and R. Kelly at their best, owning their respective roles in their partnership. Again the upbeat song was produced by R. Kelly and Trackmasters, and it can be thought of as a "Fiesta (Remix)" revisited. We can't deny that it shares similar qualities to Hov and Kels' masterful 2001 single. Celebrating the joys of O.P.P., Jay-Z and R. Kelly earned a winner with this party-ready selection.

10. "Get This Money"

The Best of Both Worlds hits another snag with "Get This Money," a contrived and pedestrian outing from the two musical icons. R. Kelly takes on the bulk of the workload on this trip, but gives an underwhelming performance, with an uninspired hook bogging down the track even more. Although Jay-Z, who drops gems like "Pull up on the block, cran-apple Benz/White tank top, cran-apple trim/Egg-shaped watch, cran-apple gems/Dice hands 'side both of them," saves this track from being a total dud, "Get This Money" is a track that would've been better left on the cutting-room floor---and has not stood the test of time, if it ever stood at all.

11. "Shorty"

"Shorty" is yet another selection that R. Kelly dominates, which ultimately serves as its detriment. The record finds R. Kelly getting brash and taking it to the competition, bragging "Its like this, some of yall niggas got, legs for lips/Running ya mouth mad cuz I, pop that Cris/Go up in 310, and cop that six/Then roll around with yo chick." Jay-Z, who bats cleanup in the 9th inning on the song, knocks it out the park, boastfully rhyming "C'mon and make moves with a dude who move cane/Like a old man, you know who game this is Young Hov/Name is respected in fifty different languages, mommy come roll." Overall, "Shorty" avoids being an all-out disaster, but is one of the more egregious missteps from The Best of Both Worlds era.

12. "Honey"

Powered by a groovy bass guitar and a sample of "Love You Inside and Out" by The Bee Gees, "Honey" is one of the more refined deep cuts on The Best of Both Worlds. Although Jay's opening verse technically precise, his attempt to channel Nelly is an ill-advised one, and makes for one of his few blunders on this album. Slight missteps aside, "Honey" is an oft-overlooked highlight from Jay-Z and R. Kelly's collaborative history.

13. "Pussy"

Jay-Z and R. Kelly close out The Best of The Both Worlds in grand fashion with the aptly titled track "Pussy," which finds the two lamenting the joys and dangers that come with  falling too deep into the abyss of  love. "The power of the p-u-s-s-y/That's why every motherfucker in the world dress fly/Every baller that can afford it, they cop the best ride/For the power of the p-u-s-s-y," Hov explains before spinning a tale of his own experiences of being infatuated. Featuring a glowing guest verse from Devin the Dude, which would further raise his own profile and expand his reach, "Pussy" always gets overlooked because of its sheer placement, but is an essential offering from The Best of Both Worlds.

 

From the Web

More on Vibe

Gideon Mendel

Uzo Aduba, Debra Lee And More Honor Nelson Mandela's Life And Legacy

I was 5-years-old when Nelson Mandela was released from Robben Island. It would be another 20 years or so before I learned what got him there. Mandela was a distant figure throughout my youth, but I knew he was deserving of respect. His salt-and-pepper hair, his slow yet deliberate walk and his booming voice made sweet by his African lilt informed me, even as a child, he wasn't just some guy.

Growing up in Queens in the 90s, however, made South Africa seem about as distant as Saturn. All the country's woes and its wins wasn't a concern for a shy kid, turned boy-obsessed teenager. "Whatever's going on in South Africa is South Africa's business," I foolishly said to my teenage self.

But as I got older, and injustices became too blatant to ignore, pieces of Mandela's teaching orbited their way from my peripheral to my direct line of sight.

Then, in 2013, when news outlets reported on Mandela's touch-and-go health I learned of his lofty sacrifices, his world-changing accomplishments, and grace made more resolute with his warm smile. During his last year of life, I understood Mandela was actually more than any of us could imagine.

To honor the 25th anniversary of the first Democratic election in South Africa, Mandela's legacy organizations hosted a luncheon at Washington, D.C's Marriott International Hotel. The affair, which celebrated Mandela's becoming the first black president in South Africa, was attended by dignitaries, entertainers, guests and all those inspired by South Africa's resilient leader.

BET Chairman and CEO Debra Lee opened the two-hour event and assured everyone it's her mission as a Mariott board member to execute all of Mandela's ideals.

“I lead the company’s committee to ensure excellence in diversity and inclusion Globally. #LoveTravels – the cornerstone of our purpose-driven marketing program – represents our celebration and support of inclusion, equality, peace and human rights and we cannot think of anyone who embodies these values more than Nelson Mandela.”

Orange Is The New Black's Uzo Aduba took to the stage following Lee's welcoming statements. The Emmy-award winning actress and gifted orator delivered a passionate rendition of Mandela's May 10, 1994 inauguration speech.

"Our daily deeds as ordinary South Africans must produce an actual South African reality that will reinforce humanity's belief in justice, strengthen its confidence in the nobility of the human soul and sustain all our hopes for a glorious life for all."

Aduba, 38, continued, "We, the people of South Africa, feel fulfilled that humanity has taken us back into its bosom, that we, who were outlaws not so long ago, have today been given the rare privilege to be host to the nations of the world on our own soil."

After guests dined, Graça Machel, stateswoman, activist and Mandela's widow spoke. Donning a small blonde Afro, a pink silk scarf and a navy blue knee-length dress, Machel expressed her appreciation to all those who continue to champion her late husband's work and even quipped about her love for leaders.

Aduba returned to the stage this time as a moderator leading an intimate conversation with representatives from the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Nelson Mandela's Children Fund, and the Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital. Before the afternoon was over, guests were treated to live entertainment from Grammy-award nominated singer-songwriters, Chloe X Halle.

Two hours wasn't enough time to appreciate Mandela's legacy or even come to a full understanding of his life, but guests left thankful, full and gracious to have spent the afternoon honoring a man who showed the world, "It only seems impossible until it's done."

Continue Reading
Jamie McCarthy, and Bryan Bedder

Take Five: DJ Khaled Talks ‘Father of Asahd’ And #Summergram Partnership

DJ Khaled started the summer off right with the release of his 11th studio album, Father of Asahd. It’s the second consecutive album where his two-year-old son serves as executive producer after 2017’s Grateful. Although Khaled’s rollout remained quite a mystery, the mega-producer is now in the midst of a heavy promotional schedule, jam-packed with guest-heavy Saturday Night Live performances and summer collaborations with the likes of Lil Wayne, Meek Mill, SZA, and more. Possibly his most appropriate partnership is with Pepsi and Instagram’s #SummerGram.

#Summergram has introduced customizable, reality filters and digital stickers to enhance the digital experience for consumers. Quirky summer-themed catchphrases like "Tropic Like It's Hot," "Turnt Not Burnt," "Catching Rays," and "Call Me On My Shell Phone" will appear with graphic icons and QR codes on Pepsi bottles that will help get fans in the mood for summer fun– pool parties, cookouts, and beach days. In celebration of the new launch, DJ Khaled joined social media maven, Chrissy Teigen, for a week of #Summergram events throughout major cities, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami.

“We are so excited to work with Instagram and bring some of their newest technology directly to our most loyal consumers. We know our fans love sharing their favorite moments on social media, and the summertime lends itself to so many post-worthy moments and occasions,” Todd Kaplan, VP of Marketing, Pepsi said. “The breadth of our Pepsi #Summergram statements and custom AR filters will ensure that there is something for everyone – no matter what you’re doing this summer – to help people unapologetically enjoy their best summer moments.”

No one knows how to make a summer anthem or amass a faithful social media following quite like Khaled. DJ Khaled briefly spoke to VIBE about his latest partnership and walked us through his vision for Father of Asahd.

--

VIBE: What are your thoughts about your new partnership with Pepsi's Summergram? DJ Khaled: This seems like the perfect fit. I am excited to work with Pepsi – they are always spreading positive vibes and the Pepsi #Summergram collection is a lot of fun to play around with. You know I’m always posting to Instagram and these new AR filters help bring my content to the next level. Look out for more Pepsi #Summergram filters from me all summer long.

It seems like you’ve been intentional with this album rollout even more so than your past projects. What can you tell me about your strategy for this rollout? I decided we can’t do anything dinosaur anymore. For this album, everything had to be big. From the music to the rollout, everything had to be big! And watching it all come together is just beautiful. And I love to see the excitement from my fans! At the end of the day, it’s all for my fans.

What was the toughest song to create? To work with so many different artists and so many moving parts, I imagine it can be challenging. Every challenge is a blessing. The toughest ones to make are usually the biggest ones. I’m blessed to work with great artists and be able to create beautiful music together.

Can you speak to your intentions on beginning the album with “Holy Mountain” and ending it with “Holy Ground”? Me and Buju have a special relationship and have been friends for years. The whole album is very spiritual so it seemed right to start and end the project with those records. The message of the album is to not only receive our blessings but to protect them, as well. Everything for my son, Mama Asahd (Nicole Tuck) and fan love.

How did you go about securing the ‪Buju Banton features? He’s been relatively absent for years, so what were those early conversations like to get him on the album? Buju is family to me - and when he came back, I went to Jamaica to welcome my brother back home. He met my son and we were just vibing. Then Buju asked me to “play a chune” and I played him the “Holy Mountain” beat and Buju finished it in one take. We caught that take on film which is now in the “Holy Mountain” video. Then Buju said play me another one. I had this idea for “Holy Ground”—I played it for him and he loved it. The rest is history.

Continue Reading
Courtesy of Think BIG

How CJ Wallace Turned His Connection To Notorious B.I.G. Into A Cannabis Brand

Christopher Jordan “CJ” Wallace was exposed to the music industry at an early age. As the son of Notorious B.I.G. and Faith Evans, the 22-year-old recalls growing up with countless musicians stopping by his family’s home studio. “We had a studio in our house when we lived in Atlanta. This is around the time [of] Bad Boy South,” he tells VIBE during a visit to our Times Square office. “Any given Tuesday, Usher might come over. It would be crazy.”

While his childhood home served as a revolving door to legends, his family members purposefully delivered a reality check in the form of life-altering questions about his future. CJ’s mom, stepfather, Todd Russaw, and paternal grandmother, Voletta Wallace, constantly reinforced this idea of purpose and responsibility. Though he was only five months old when his father was fatally shot in 1997 in Los Angeles, he was expected to uphold Big’s legacy.

“[They] would talk to me very truthfully, like, ‘hey, it’s not fair, but this is how it is,'” he explains. “'You have a responsibility that a lot of people don’t have and that a lot of kids your age don’t have. You could f**k it up, or you could do something right.’”

This jolt of truth unfolded into a mission to discover what he was meant to do. His options were relatively limitless. The obvious path would be to get into music or maybe fashion. While CJ still had many of his dad’s artifacts – including freestyle videos and at-home footage – he wanted to learn what connected him not only to Notorious B.I.G., the persona, but to also Christopher George Latore Wallace, the man. “For me, it was figuring out how I can develop a brand that can honor the legacy of my father, be something I’m proud of and can pass down to my kids and grandkids. And yeah, something my grandma will definitely support at the end of the day.”

And that’s when it hit him. CJ remembered the relaxed and joyful vibe that overcame his family’s old Atlanta studio. “It’s all about the energy and that’s kind of where for me – sitting next to the speaker, smelling the cannabis, smelling the incense – that was what started it for me,” he says.

Wallace went on to found Think BIG, alongside Willie Mack and Russaw. Think BIG, he explains, is a brand and social movement encouraging society to embrace the cannabis industry and realize its potential to heal and stimulate creativity. In its first plan of action, the brand launched its first product: The Frank White Blend, named after one of B.I.G’s many aliases.

Right now, there is a common focus on the recreational use of cannabis; consumers are flooded with images of kids, middle-aged adults, and celebrities sparking up to escape their realities or “have fun.” Prior to the arrival of Psalm West, Kim Kardashian threw a CBD and meditation-themed baby shower for her fourth child in April 2019. In addition to lifting you off the ground, however, Wallace, Mack and Think BIG want to introduce society to the healing and creative benefits of cannabis. Mack learned about cannabis’ healing powers in a major way during his youth.

“As a kid, watching [how] the AIDS crisis ravaged the world and seeing the LGBT community fighting for cannabis to help them with nausea during AZT [antiretroviral medication used to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS] was my first indication of [thinking] cannabis was a drug, but people are actually using it to try to stay alive,” Mack said, noting that he had several family members who were dealing with HIV/AIDS.

Similarly, Wallace uncovered the alternative nature of the plant when his family experimented with it as a form of medication for his younger brother, who was diagnosed with autism. After testing various strains, Wallace confirms they found the right balance, but since cannabis isn’t an approved medication, his brother is unable to use it publicly. “This is helping my youngest brother every day,” he insists. “It’s unfair because we can’t give it to him and let him take it to school and have the school nurse actually prescribe it to him so he’s constantly getting that regular medication. You can’t take it to school, but the kids in his school are being given opioids, which has crazy after effects.”

Creatively speaking, Wallace and Mack consider cannabis to be the “ultimate ghostwriter.” It’s no secret B.I.G. was an advocate. From numerous consultations with his family members, he learned his dad often smoked while recording. (Mack also notes famous smokers like Johnny Cash, Louis Armstrong, and Bob Marley.) Just about every corner of the music industry has dabbled in recreational smoking, but no genre has been hit as hard as hip-hop. While fans love to watch Snoop Dogg smoke on Instagram Live or share a spliff with Kid Cudi during a concert set, the hip-hop community as a whole is met with backlash and often times targeted by police due to cannabis.

“I feel like anything associated with black men is just immediately going to be deemed bad or evil,” Wallace says, referencing the negative connotation rappers receive. It’s Wallace’s mission, however, to adjust that perspective. “I feel like it’s really up to us to change that narrative. That’s why I try so hard to stop saying words like ‘weed.’ Cannabis, it’s actually a plant," he continues. Both Wallace and Mack noted the terms "weed" and "marijuana" hold negative connotations and are commonly used in connection with minorities. "We were lied to for so long. If we were given proper knowledge from the start, I feel like the entire hip-hop community and the entire way we talked about it would’ve changed.”

Beyond educating consumers with their message and products, Think BIG also seeks to improve the criminal justice system as well as launch charitable projects. According to “The War on Marijuana in Black and White,” on average, a black person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person. Such racial disparities reportedly exist in all regions, states, and counties around the United States and largely contribute to today's mass incarceration crisis.

In recent years, the U.S. government has made significant strides to correct this injustice. California, Nevada, and Maine are among the first states to legalize cannabis; states such as New York have already begun the process of exonerating offenders convicted of nonviolent charges and marijuana possession. Despite the steps forward, Wallace and Mack say there is a long road ahead.

Not only is it difficult to eradicate a vicious cycle that has left many black and brown people behind bars, but it is also hard to forge spaces for them to succeed in a rapidly changing industry. “Being able to understand how to navigate the industry that’s constantly changing and to do it without a bank account or full funnel of money, makes it that much harder,” Mack says. “Then on top of that, you got people sitting in jail who should be out of jail for nonviolent possession of cannabis. So, we’re faced with having to work four times as hard to make half as much because of the color of our skin. It’s a constant fight and we look at it as how can we set an example, share our knowledge, [and] show more information?”

It takes a group effort, Mac says. While Think BIG is setting a place at the table for black businesses in the cannabis industry as well as shifting the conversation around the plant, Mack suggests other ways to get involved that ultimately uplift the black community. “It’s much easier to enter into the market based on something you already know,” Mack insists, pointing out the opportunities for design firms, packaging, and communication firms to join the movement.

Wallace and Mack know the journey ahead is going to be a roller-coaster ride fit with many twists and turns, but they’re ready. “You got to dream big, as your dad said, and think big,” Mack says. “Everyone else in this industry is thinking about global billion-dollar companies, why shouldn’t we?” As for Wallace, he understands how difficult the process is and will be, “but, it wasn’t more emotional than the first 21 years of my life.”

Continue Reading

Top Stories