Faith Evans’ “The King & I” – Album Review

In the day of diluted verses and annoying beats, this generation has no idea of the legends that dominated the Hip Hop scene over 20 years ago. To them, it’s all about living a lavish life or that of a street pharmacist, when Walgreens is the only pharmacy they’ve been in contact with. In short, this generation is clueless to the truth in the lyrics associated with artists Rakim, Nas, Busta Rhymes, Jay Z, and above them all, the Notorious B.I.G. His rawness and way of camouflaging his looks with his smooth lyrics made him the G.O.A.T and one of the biggest selling Hip Hop artists on the East Coast. By his side was one of the most talented female artist of the culture, Faith Evans, dubbed the “First Lady” of Bad Boy Entertainment. Their rocky marriage was one of the most talked about relationships of the time. During marriage, separation and even after his death in 1997, Faith always support Biggie’s work and considered him the “KING” of Hip Hop.

Two months after the 20th Anniversary of the death of the Notorious B.I.G., right in time for what would have been his 45th birthday, Faith Evans shows us how much she really loved and honored Biggie with a new release, “The King & I.” Usually, when an artist reaches back to include posthumous music, it’s a last an effort to resurrect their career and, in most cases, the music strikes a sour note. But this album full of duets from Faith and Biggie, is far from a miss and is a pleasant display of the authentic rawness of Hip Hop.

From track one, “A Billion,” your expectation shoots through the roof like fire bursting out of the biggest atomic bomb. This is how you set the tone of your album; you almost feel like you’re back in 1994 listening to Faith’s first album. All at once, it’s smooth, mellow and packs so much power; but is sentimental just the same. Faith speaks her truth and, more importantly, what she wants instead of fortune, to have Biggie back with her. It’s touching and grabs your attention.

The follow up track, “Legacy,” reveals an interview of the King expressing the current status of his relationship with Faith. Apparently, they weren’t together at the time, but he made sure to say they were “still cool” due to her recently having his son. The song becomes a conversation between the two. Line by line, Biggie’s verse tells of him calling Faith on the phone after leaving a performance. He would send her to the store to pick up some condoms while jealous females called her “sluts and whores.” Faith replies that she knew that he would be a “King fit just for a Queen.” This track is not too hard, but talks truth just the same. It’s only track two and it makes sense to slow walk the listener.

The “Beatutiful- Interlude” gives a vivid account of the King’s first thoughts of the First Lady. No lyrics, no rapping, just music and real talk. Truth is, Faith couldn’t get enough of “Big Poppa.” But, no Notorious B.I.G. album wouldn’t be authentic without some explicit lyrics as in track 4, “Can’t Get Enough.” Coming out of the gate, he asks Faith a detailed question about her thoughts after oral sex. It’s not uncommon to the nature of the King, but after the first three tracks, this catches you off guard and caves your chest in. You literally must catch your breath. This track may not make the radio, but this is definitely a perfect representation of the legendary MC.

The album moves and flows as an inclusive body of work. It not only makes you remember the music of the King, but it sort of gives a detailed overview of the Faith and Biggie union. Each song is perfectly titled, pinpointing a particular time in their history. Surrounded by explicit moments and bordering erotic passages wrapped in songs like “A Little Romance,” recalling details of Faith and Biggie possibly ending up on her mother’s bed or next to her sister after he “played in between her legs;” Mama Wallace makes an appearance on “I Got Married” and “We Just Clicked.” Not excited at first, she remembers the moment her late son told her of his nuptials and one of her first conversations with Faith as his wife. Eventually, she couldn’t help but be excited that her son would have someone to take care of him.

After a while, “The King & I,” begins to coast on good vibes from great verses and timeless vocals. The train doesn’t pick up speed again until “When We Party” featuring Snoop Dogg, a strong radio hit, and the questions surrounding Biggie’s death in “Somebody Knows” featuring Busta Rhymes. Even though questions remain, on this album, no stone is going unturned without any exclusions. It takes maturity to connect with someone who could be linked to a dark moment in your past, but featuring Lil’ Kim on “Lovin’ You For Life” displays a positive message that Faith and the original Queen B have let the past go into an abyss. The truth is, they both had an intimate love for the King and shared a piece of him. It made sense that Lil’ Kim shared a moment in this project.

Overall, Faith Evans’ collection of duets in her new album, “The King & I” is the ultimate tribute album. From track one to twenty-two, each song is packed with truth and takes you on a ride throughout the life of a legend. The overtone of the undeniable love Faith had for Biggie is consistent throughout each song. Unlike others, not every song is worthy to be played multiple times on the radio; but this album is not like any other. Each song has the potential to be a radio hit; but, due to content restrictions, not every song may make it. Ultimately, “The King & I” is a musical love story patterned behind the famed Bonnie and Clyde. The R&B/ Pop world had Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown; but, the Hip Hop world had Faith Evans and the Notorious B.I.G.

-Torin Derek




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