R. Kelly and Jay-Z changed the landscape of hip-hop and R&B when they dropped their 2002 tag-team album Best of Both Worlds, but according to the Pied Piper, it was the late Tupac Shakur who originally sparked that genre-melding idea.
On Tuesday Rolling Stone ran an excerpt from Kellz’s upcoming autobiography, “Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me,” and in the chapter titled “Yo Pac! Yo Biggie!” the singer expresses his admiration for the two slain rap greats.
Kelly recalls a 1996 meeting with ‘Pac in front of a hotel frequented by rappers and other music industry types. He says they planned to release a collaborative album at that meeting, but the idea came to a tragic end after Shakur was murdered later that year.
“Come September, and it looked like my schedule was opening up just before the holidays. I set up a meeting with Pac for us to plot our strategy, get firm dates and make the musical bomb that we both know would explode all around the world,” Kelly wrote. “But another bomb exploded that no one saw coming.”
Though he never got the chance to work with Shakur, Kelly and the Notorious B.I.G. did log in a few recording sessions. In 1995 Biggie made a cameo on the singer’s “(You to Be) Be Happy,” and they hooked up again shortly before B.I.G. was murdered, on 1997’s “F— You Tonight.”
R. Kelly described Biggie as a kindred spirit of sorts who appreciated R&B music in ways that most rappers did not. After a night of partying, Kelly remembers playing a piano in a Detroit hotel lobby, writing the chords to what would soon become his Grammy Award-winning single “I Believe I Can Fly.” According to the singer, Biggie rolled into the lobby and Kelly played a bare version of the song for his rapper friend, who immediately began to sing praises.
“I’m gonna tell you right now, B, that’s a smash. That’s a big hit right there. That’s a Grammy winner, Rob,” Kelly recalled a tearful B.I.G. saying. “They gonna be playing that when you and I have moved on to the other side of time.”
“Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me” is due out on June 28.
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