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
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.