01/01/2000 at 01:00 AM EST
The Notorious B.I.G. (Bad Boy/Arista)
When it comes to enjoying chart success, a little detail like death needn't matter. The Notorious B.I.G. (né Christopher Wallace), who was killed in a 1997 drive-by shooting, left behind a trove of unreleased material, including outtakes, demos and other works in progress that might or might not have one day become actual songs. Biggie's former producer (and friend) Sean "Puffy" Combs has assembled those snippets and, with his team of producers, built instrumental tracks around the late rapper's rhymes; on 4 of these 18 tracks, Combs and crew have taken songs that had been previously released and simply constructed new beats to encase them. With a parade of big name rappers onboard, including Lil' Kim, Snoop Dogg and Eminem, we have the odd sense that Biggie has been reduced to a guest on his own CD. Even the participation of his mother and his widow, singer Faith Evans, as executive producers can't diminish the somewhat exploitative and opportunistic nature of this album.
Bottom Line: Legacy of one of hip hop's true greats receives an illin' treatment