Album: Faith Evans

Faithfully, Arista
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The Independent Culture

Four years ago, the hip-hop diva Faith Evans's second album, Keep the Faith, appeared to have put the cap on her career. Recorded in the aftermath of the murder of her husband, the Notorious BIG, it failed to deliver on the promise of her 1995 debut, Faith, and her mentor Puff Daddy's interest in her waned accordingly. Despite having sung the hook on his biggest hit, "I'll Be Missing You", Evans found herself waiting longer and longer for the hip-hop tycoon to turn his attentions toward her, so instead of just sitting there, "waiting to hear tracks that Puffy sends me", she and her new hubbie, Todd Russaw, took matters into their own hands, recording enough tracks to pique the Diddyman's interest again. The result is Faithfully, by some distance Evans's most impressive album. With production duties spread between Puffy, Mario Winans, Evans & Russaw and such intriguing names as Battlecat, Buckwild, Chucky Thompson and Michael Angelo Saulsberry (not forgetting the ubiquitous Neptunes on "Burnin' up"), the album has a far broader range than her previous releases, although P Diddy's predilection for in-your-face sample quotes continues unabated through borrowings from the likes of Outkast, Indeep, the fusion flautist Hubert Laws, and Mtume's "Juicy Fruit". But it's Evans's voice that dominates proceedings, even when buried beneath the patina of "old skool" vinyl scratches on the groove of "You Gets No Love". A creditable incursion into Mary J Blige's home turf.

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