Jay-Z/R Kelly : Best Of Both Worlds


Titanic collaboration. Patchy outcome...

As the pair themselves tell us, it’s like Martin Luther King working with

Malcolm X. A secret assignment a year in the making, ‘Best Of Both Worlds’

finds the syrupy lord of the R&B ballad and the reigning king of hip-hop

reprising the collaboration they began on Jigga‘s ‘Guilty Until Proved

Innocent’, and taking it, as Kellz might say, “all the way”. It’s a

blockbuster, a meeting of minds, and a corporate merger all in one.

Except that actually, Jay and R come across much cuter, like a hood-raised

Victoria and David Beckham. They’re at the head of their respective

professions, obviously love each other very much, but the main miracle is

that they’ve got anything to talk about when they’re together. Jay-Z is the

chalk of the relationship. R Kelly, as ever, is the cheese.

Happily, there are some things they have in common. Girls, money, the

hard-knock life… it’s not exactly revolutionary material here, but where

both contribute in roughly equal measure (on ‘The Best Of Both Worlds’, ‘The

Streets’ or ‘Break Up To Make Up’ which features the excellent lyric “She

storm in/I storm out/War Of The Roses goin’ on in my house”
) it sounds very

good indeed. There are some bits, however, on which Jay-Z‘s contribution is

limited to the odd “uh-huh”, and you are suddenly just a person alone in a

room listening to an R Kelly record, which is not a place anyone ever needs

to be.

By and large, though, it’s a beautiful relationship, even if it’s hard to

understand what they’re actually doing for each other, without actually

writing the words ‘excellent business opportunity’. Will it make R.Kelly

‘street’? R.Kelly could hold up a liquor store with a breadknife and still

be the man who wrote ‘I Believe I Can Fly’. Will it make Jay-Z smoove? No,

it won’t do that either. ‘Best Of Both Worlds’ is straightforwardly enough

not a bad record at all, but mainly in the way that if it had the world’s

best rapper on it, the Haven album wouldn’t be a bad record either.

So maybe their eyes didn’t meet across a crowded room, and this isn’t a

marriage made in heaven. But ‘Best Of Both Worlds’ proves that if you work

at it, everything can still work out all right.

John Robinson