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More like going out of business

Broderick Henry | Thursday, November 4, 2004

There is no love lost between Jay-Z and R. Kelly.A string of cancelled shows at the onset of a tour in support of their new release, “Unfinished Business,” already had fans and music insiders speculating about the relationship between the two hip-hop stars. Such speculation has only been fueled by a recent concert appearance at New York’s Madison Square Garden in which Kelly was actually pepper sprayed by a member of Jay-Z’s entourage. In response to the aforementioned event, on a New York radio station Jay-Z described Kelly as a jealous egomaniac, and Kelly portrayed Jay-Z as an unsympathetic friend who was willing to permit woeful stage production. Clearly, this exchange has done little to alleviate the tense situation.These recent events beg the question: why did these two giants of urban music join together to create a second collaborative album? The artists’ first collaboration, “Best of Both Worlds,” can easily be categorized as disappointing. Commercially, the album did not move a million units and fan support for the album was minimal at best. Also, at this point in their careers neither needs a spark if you consider that Jay-Z has retired as a solo artist, and Kelly’s latest release from a little over two months ago has been a solid hit. Whatever the reason, the two should have stayed far away from each other, for “Unfinished Business” is unquestionably the most abysmal effort from either of the stars. Overall, the album is characterized by the reluctance of either performer to explore his artistic abilities as he would usually on his own album. As a result, each relies heavily on the other to pick up the slack, but neither does. Fans of Jay-Z’s last release will not find the artist who answered the questions surrounding the lack of a father in his life and the impact of life in the ghetto. Those same fans hoping Kelly would bring some of his “Chicago-step” flavor and R&B standards will be surprised to discover there is not a hint of either on this album. Instead, what listeners will find is that “Unfinished Business” sounds a lot like music they have heard before. In fact a number of the album’s tracks are tweaked up versions of songs that were on “Best of Both Worlds.” Regrettably, the producers of the album, Trackmasters, have not had a real hit in close to five years. Their staccato beats, equipped with a fair share of tired guitar and piano melodies sound like something straight out of 1998. Jay-Z’s lackluster rhymes focus on his new Maybach, girls and homes, and Kelly’s constant sex talking, fail to provide a reprieve from the albums lackluster production. Undoubtedly, at this point in their careers neither should be rhyming or singing on a track that sounds like something his cousin produced in his basement studio.Occasionally, Kelly and Jay-Z find a way to remind listeners why they love their music. “Feelin You in Stereo” serves as a fine example. On the track, Jay-Z states that everything cannot be hardcore and allows Kelly to sing in the rap/singing style for which he has become famous. Jay-Z also adds a verse with an atypical rhyme pattern that is clean and suits the song perfectly. “Mo’ Money” also a reused track is the only other standout.Overall, “Unfinished Business” is aptly titled. It definitely sounds like it is unfinished. Much is left to the imagination, and it is clear this merger is fated to go out of business.