On The King & I, Faith Evans chronicles her whirlwind relationship with the late Notorious B.I.G. through a series of duets that, although heartfelt, are largely painful and clumsy.
There's no effort at all to modernize Biggie's sound on this album, which, though probably deliberate, is also detrimental. Evans tries to preserve authenticity by enlisting producers like Chucky Thompson, Stevie J and DJ Premier (who all worked with Biggie in life). It's an understandable move, but the album's production is simply too dated to resonate.
Not to mention that Faith and Biggie clash like oil and water for much of the cumbersome 25-track effort. On "Can't Get Enough," Evans tries to put a sweet spin on Biggie's boorish "Bust a Nut," which sounds about as awkward as walking in on your parents mid-coitus. She butchers Big's classic "Ten Crack Commandments," reducing it to a tepid carol about jumping through hoops to keep a husband, while "When We Party" is a feeble attempt at reviving Big's "Going Back to Cali" that's hard to take seriously, especially knowing what happened the last time the rapper tried to party on the West Coast. The blunders don't stop there; the album is rife with misses that stronger songs like "I Wish" and "Take Me There" simply cannot redeem.
Biggie is still one of the best MCs to grace a microphone, but too much has changed in the past 20 years for this tribute to work. Some album concepts are better left locked in the vault. (Warner)