Hip-hop’s ever-prolific mainstay Jay-Z has joined forces with R&B crooner R. Kelly for what is promised to be The Best of Both Worlds. Indeed, the album covers the gamut of hip-hop and R&B archetypes—cash, 20-inch rims, crissy-poppin’ and ass-shakin’ bitches (note to self: the word “bitch” always sounds better rapped rather than sung). The pair lament the joys of “gangsta love” on the slick “Take You Home with Me” and the minimally percussive “Shake Ya Booty,” which features an especially coquettish Lil’ Kim. The midtempo “Pussy” is a relatively deadpan answer to Kim’s own “Big Momma Thang,” a tribute to the hypnotic power of the female sex organ. Kelly, though, is at his most unaffected on the socially conscious “The Streets” and, to a lesser extent, “It Ain’t Personal.” On that very same track, however, mainstream hip-hop’s bling-bling tunnel vision rears its ugly head, furthering the genre’s transformation into self-caricature. Like Kelly says, “This is business and it ain’t personal.” On “Break Up 2 Make Up,” Jigga blames his girlfriend’s anger on “dick deprivation” and spouts farcical proclamations like “Mommy’s black and Chinese but I made her speak Spanish/Then get up and make a nigga grilled cheese sandwiches.” Until the next hip-hop reformation, I guess this is the best of both worlds. Somewhere, Lauryn Hill is weeping.
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