"B.I.G. Is Proud Of What I Did": Faith Evans Talks 'The King & I'

20 years ago, Notorious B.I.G., was killed by an anonymous gunman. 20 years later, he’s still in the upper-echelons of every list detailing the best rappers of time. He’s still played in the club and on the radio, making his legacy something noted even by kids who weren’t alive when he was at his peak.

Posthumous albums have a sketchy past but this latest Biggie album feels different. It’s essentially a duets album with his widow Faith Evans who has also led the entire project The King & I. It features newly recorded vocals by Evans alongside Biggie verses, sounding relevant but also respectful to the era of rap that he once ruled. Featuring his own mother as well as, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes and Lil Kim, it’s a record you’d imagine B.I.G. would be proud to put his name on.

Ahead of the release of the album this Friday, we spoke to a legend in her own right, Faith Evans. Evans took us from the birth of the record to its finish, talking about everything from feeling Biggie’s approval to choosing something organic over something forced and modern.

How’s it feel to be speaking about the record and Biggie’s life? Does it make you feel better about what you’ve produced?

I would say the other way I around. I would say what I produced makes me feel better about speaking about it, if anything. A few people have heard the music and it feels good that they receive it in the way that I wanted it to be.

What’s the biggest validation for you? Is it when the fans hear the music or is it speaking to family and friends after they’ve heard the record?

It’s sort of a gut thing, something inside me that makes me feel B.I.G. is proud of what I did. To be quite honest that’s really enough for me. So far it feels like a lot of people like it. The reality is, people are gonna like it or they’re not. If I feel good about what I’m presenting then... you know, I’ve had a few different things that have made me feel like I’m not the only one that feels that way.

Was there a certain song on the record that made you feel like you’d nailed that sound and made something that B.I.G. would be really proud of?

Not one in particular because it seemed like everyday things were either off to a great start or we finished a great record. It was always feeling very progressive all the way up until we were done and started mixing and mastering.

One of the biggest things about his music is 20 years later people are still playing it in the clubs and on the radio. This radio feels like it’s harking back to those times rather than chasing for something modern. Was creating something he would be attached to a great concern?

Not so much because to be quite honest, if he were alive I can’t really say what he would be attached to or like but my approach every time I do make music is not to make things based on what’s being played. My creative approach is pretty much always the same except I had his vocals to factor in and his fans to consider but at the same time my approach is always to make good music so I don’t really put unnecessary pressure and standards on myself. I’m not opposed to learning new stuff and working with new people but that still won’t change my creative approach.

The features on the record are impressive with everyone from Snoop to Lil Kim. Was it important for you to have people on the record that have been around you and B.I.G. for a long time?

Yeah. Not even so much the length of time but just people who have had a connection to him or the both of us for that matter. There’s a lot of artists who were suggested but if I did it would just be because...obviously, I would have to respect them as an artist but it would just be because they’re hot right now but not because they have a personal connection for me and B.I.G. So for me some of the suggestions didn’t feel organic. I might want to work with those people but for this project in particular I wanted it to make sense. I didn’t know I was going to have as many features but we got into creating and certain songs I was like, “this sounds like such and such would be good on it.” It just kind of came the further I got into creating the album.

Obviously one of the names that people were surprised to see on there was Lil Kim. Did you have to swallow your pride at all to get her to appear or was it natural?

I didn’t have any hesitation with that and she didn’t hesitate to say yes. We’ve wanted to work together before now but as things turned out, it was even more special that it was on this record.

Let’s go right back to the beginning to when you started thinking about this project, how long has it been in the works for?

From the time I actually started working on music, a little over two years.

What sparked the beginning of the project?

Well what sparked the beginning of doing the project was Natalie Cole Unforgettable with Nat King Cole but that was a long time ago. I thought that was a really nice idea and it would be good to do something similar one day. What sparked me actually pursuing it though was actually my Attorney’s suggestion. He reminded me of the idea so that’s when we went about trying to make it happen.

Had you been listening to the Biggie verses in the vault for a while or did you start going back through it when you started the project?

Yeah, I listen to stuff all the time but I didn’t have any of his acapellas in my personal collection of stuff. I didn’t have any of that so I started by looking for acapellas on YouTube and then some of the producers actually had some vocals also.

Was the project finished when you were doing the Bad Boys reunion shows?

No actually it wasn’t. When we had breaks in the tour I would go to Atlanta or Miami to keep recording.

I know that it probably wasn’t planned to release it at this time but it’s lined up perfectly coming out two days before his birthday and a year after the reunion shows. Does the timing feel right?

That was God’s plan because I was definitely hoping that it would be out before this year but it wasn’t ready, everything wasn’t lined up. That’s just how it turned out. It wasn’t a bad thing but that wasn’t the original plan.

Did the Bad Boys shows last year re-energise you and fuel this album?

Well no, I was actually already working. I was more than halfway done with recording the album by the time we went on the tour. If anything, it put me in the comforts of some of the people that ended up on the album a little more often. That was my main source of income doing performances with or without them. It was a lot of fun. My shows aren’t on that level of production and I don’t usually play arenas but it was a lot of fun.

Have you thought about touring this album?

Oh yes, absolutely.

Have you thought about what it would look like?

Not yet. There’s a lot going on with doing interviews and video shoots so I am kinda thinking about those things but I haven’t really started to focus on them not as yet.

The King & I is out Friday. Grab your pre-order here