Marvel Comics’ What If? series explored alternate storylines from the comic company’s “mainstream” universe. What if a radioactive spider bit someone besides Peter Parker? What if the Fantastic Four had different powers? If Elektra hadn’t died, things would be so different for the Daredevil. The latter example succeeded in turning a plot point into a franchise, but the reason for the rest of the series’ mixed success seems obvious: People can actually use their own imaginations. And there was a practical aspect, too. Sure, it’s funny to imagine Aunt May crawling on walls, but do you actually expect longtime supporters of Spider-Man to shell out money to take a peek?
Elektra brings us to the topic of the day: dead rappers and the “revolving door of death.” Like Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace (you know him as the Notorious B.I.G.), all three were introduced to their respective scenes quickly, made major moves early on, were poised to make more before passing away, and have had even greater impact from beyond the grave. Certainly, credit is due to their selves: Who can beat hot knives and nice raps? But the companies behind the music have gone downward dog and beyond to ensure their workhorses’ postmortem presence.
Duets: The Final Chapter is the logical conclusion to this unimaginative phenomenon pushed upon us by the Suits and Ties. Instead of allowing fans the freedom of imagination, the album exhumes Biggie’s raps, both past and unreleased, for a bullshit cut ‘n’ paste party. While the disc purportedly collects all the collaborations a fan wanted to hear (Big Pun, mo’ ‘Pac), all the collaborations a fan couldn’t hear (Bob Marley?) and all the collaborations a fan shouldn’t hear (Korn and Bobby Valentino?!?), Duets only effectively collects the fan’s cash and patience.
Veiled by the big man’s reputation, the album rolls lazily through his legacy. The usual suspects (Faith, Jigga and that cheesecake guy) and the slick yet predictable (Nas, Snoop, Game) don’t even outnumber the purely puzzling (apparently Obie Trice, Twista, Jim Jones, Akon and someone from Puffy’s saddest acquisition, Boyz N Da Hood, are fine replacements for Lil’ Kim). Subsequently, Big Pun’s morose reflection prior to “Get Your Grind On” becomes an inadvertent joke as Biggie’s canned verse coughs and crackles forth. “Hold Ya Head” veers indecisively between a tinny sample of Marley and John Williams-backed Biggie verses.
The presentation of this album alone – from the cover of Biggie with an ill-fitting crown, looking like he doesn’t appreciate being woken up at 5:46 a.m. for this nonsense, to the laughably lazy title (did Diddy see Cappel’s mix and think, Sinatra?) earns it enough demerit points to demote it to sidewalk discard. Hardcore fans of Elektra and ‘Pac can at least indulge in their heroes’ tributes – thank the dearth of comics and endless well of demos – but Duets offers nothing new or of value to the Biggie fan.
Bad Boy Records Web site