As the 20th anniversary of The Notorious B.I.G.'s Grammy nominated Life After Death album approaches (March 25), fans of the Brooklyn-made rap phenomenon have new music to look out for from the undisputed King of New York. On May 19, Faith Evans is set to release the long awaited duets album with her late husband. THE KING & I boasts features from Busta Rhymes, 112, Lil’ Cease, Lil’ Kim, The L.O.X., Snoop Dogg and more. Biggie's mother, Voletta Wallace, also makes appearances on 3 tracks from the upcoming project.
Constructed with rare and unheard verses from Big Poppa, producers such as DJ Premier, Just Blaze, Salaam Remi, Stevie J, and Chucky Thompson helped Faith blend her cunning vocals with the robust voice of the hip-hop legend. The New Jersey native says she was initially inspired by Natalie Cole's Unforgettable... With Love album over fifteen years ago. Her attorney actually reminded her of the project a few years back, and that's when she really began to take the recording process serious.
"I'm a producer as well as a singer, so I actually put the album's sequence together [myself], but when I finally felt that I had it [right]... I really felt like B.I.G. told me several times that 'I'm doing a great job.,' explains Faith. She says Biggie's spirit was right there in the studio with her the entire time. Evans wasn't concerned with trying to score a radio hit or "sound like the Migos," but says her only goal was to create "timeless music" to extend B.I.G.'s legacy.
It wasn't about recruiting rap's current hot boys, but finding the right architects to ensure there was cohesion between all the songs. The Notorious B.I.G. was known to pick beats that acted as spices used to enhance his universally loved rhymes. "Biggie's verses can still go toe to toe with anyone out now," describes Faith about his vocals on the LP. "But my approach was to make sure these songs sound like new songs."
With influences that range from contemporary hip-hop to artists from the past like The Mommas & The Papas and Ella Fitzgerald, Faith credits her strong musical acumen to her mother --- the lone black singer in a local Florida band who played music of all genres. After releasing 3 albums with Bad Boy Records and an album with Capitol, the singer chose the Indy route and found gratifying success while having full creative control of her music. Faith released both Something About Faith in 2010 and Incomparable in 2014 --- both independently.
"I am half of The Notorious B.I.G. LLC -- his estate," says Faith about her role in the business of Biggie. "I am co-executor of his estate with his mother, and I also did a deal with the people who acquired Biggie's masters from Puff." Needless to say she has been the sole captain of her own ship for a number of years now. That title includes making heavy and controversial decisions about THE KING & I all by herself. The forthcoming album features one of the most talked about collaborations of her career.
"Lovin' You For Life" with Lil' Kim is very special," says Faith with sincerity. "Obviously, our fans have been waiting for that collaboration to happen, [and] I know Biggie would be proud of it. "When I first asked her to do the song, it was during the first rehearsals for the Bad Boy reunion concerts at Barclays. She said 'of course,' but I didn't have the record yet. About halfway through the tour, I told her I had the song and I knew it was the one."
Faith says she personally urged Kim to let her true feelings bleed onto the record. Despite their bad blood in the past, the widow says "All the extra-ness [between us] went out the window when B.I.G. died.
"I told [Kim] to say how she felt about him... keep it real, it's well documented that we both loved Biggie," says Evans. "I thought it was important."
Stay tuned for more from VIBE's exclusive interview with Faith Evans