R. Kelly / Jay-Z

Unfinished Business

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Roughly as valuable as a half-price poster or mug, Unfinished Business is a glorified tour souvenir. 2002's The Best of Both Worlds, R. Kelly and Jay-Z's first collaborative record, was poor enough. The numbers tell you all you need to know: though that release had no trouble hitting gold status, Kelly's Happy People/U Saved Me outstripped its two and a half years of sales three times over in a matter of two months. So why did these two giants release a sequel to an obvious career lowlight? Unfinished Business' existence, in fact, is suspect in many ways. The press materials made a point to refer to these 11 songs as "previously unreleased," as opposed to "new," suggesting that they are leftovers from the same sessions that yielded The Best of Both Worlds. Further support for this speculation: the two records share much of the same personnel and recording locations, and the later release has even fewer bright spots than the initial one. More damning, perhaps, is that the release of Unfinished Business coincided with a tour that should've happened in 2002, had it not been for R. Kelly's belly splash into hot water, via an indictment on sex crimes. Two years after the indictment, Kelly's problems hadn't cooled down, but neither had his popularity. Touring with Jay-Z, the MC who carefully kept his distance from the situation, obviously became a possibility again at some point -- possibly after the supposed-to-be-retired Jigga witnessed the overwhelming support Kelly received from the fans. Touring in support of a record that's two years old -- and long forgotten -- is a silly proposition, so Jive and Roc-a-Fella (the two artists' labels) likely figured that they ought to capitalize on the development and patch this release together. Greed wins, fans lose. Can you really fault anyone for being paid millions to sleepwalk? Of course not, but you'd be less at fault for ignoring this slight release. Once you put it on, it's instantly evident that it's inconsequential in relation to everything else the artists have released before. Opener "The Return" wastes no time in deteriorating into a drone of background music, and the lack of positive features keeps flowing until the end of the final track.

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