The Notorious B.I.G.
Duets: The Final Chapter
feni Shakur apparently thinks nothing of plundering her late son’s legacy whenever she wants a little spending money: “Mama needs a new Jag, baby, I’m’a call Suge and tell him to put out another record.” There have now been more 2Pac albums released posthumously than there were during his all-too-short, blazing supernova of a life. The same isn’t true of Violetta Wallace, the mother of the late Notorious B.I.G., the real king of New York. Seeing as how Life After Death was already on the release schedule when B.I.G. was murdered back in 1997, I don’t consider that one such a release, which makes 1999’s Born Again the only one until now. Duets: The Final Chapter is meant as the last word on the B.I.G. legacy, taking some of his classic rhymes and pairing them with new guests and new productions. Yes, the recycling is a little annoying, but you know what? The shit works.
Any album of this sort is largely gonna rise or fall on the quality of its producers, and this one’s got ‘em like you want (well, if you love commercial hip hop, at least). Biggie, of course, brings out the best in everyone, and here you’ve got A-listers like Swizz Beats (back on top with Beyoncé’s “Check On It”), Jazze Pha, Just Blaze, and Scott Storch firing up blazing joints. Jazze Pha contributes the first single, the sex rap “Nasty Girl” featuring Diddy, Nelly, Jagged Edge, and Avery Storm. The UK’s got the right idea—as of this writing, it’s B.I.G.’s first-ever #1 single there, while it languished on the US charts, not even cracking the top 20. Biggie’s sex raps were always great —there’s just something about hearing this big, ugly motherfucker talking nasty, and he’s got the charisma to pull it off. His verse from Life After Death’s “Nasty Boy,” mixed in with a sexy Jazze Pha club-bangin’ beat, a solid verse from Nelly (a pro at this shit) and some just-right choruses from Jagged Edge (Diddy’s verse, sadly, is what you’d expect, but doesn’t detract from the song overall), adds up to a song as hot as it should be.
Biggie of course straddled the pop-street divide like no one—Jay-Z had to learn it from someone, y’know?—and that mix is kept intact here. He throws down with Jigga on “Whatchu Want,” and gets real grimy on back-alley tracks such as “I’m with Whateva” (featuring Lil’ Wayne, Juelz Santana, and Jim Jones, and handled expertly by Stevie J, who samples the theme from Halloween to fine effect) and “Beef” (featuring Mobb Deep, and produced by the group’s Havoc). “Hustler’s Story” starts off promisingly—Biggie rapping with Scarface, what’s not to like? But then Akon starts doing his murdered-chipmunk schtick and someone from Boyz N Da Hood who is not Young Jeezy dumps all over the spare, militaristic track. Much better is “Breakin’ Old Habits,” featuring hot verses from southern kingz T.I. and Slim Thug. No, this isn’t a great album. Korn? What?! And the much-touted Bob Marley collab, “Hold Ya Head,” commits the sin of sounding recycled. But as a trade-off, you get things like DJ Green Lantern helming “Mi Casa,” which features some delightfully nasty vocals from R. Kelly and Charlie Wilson. That’s a trade-off I’m happy to make. Duets: The Final Chapter is by no means B.I.G.’s musical last will and testament, but it’s a solid, final addition to his discography.