Faith Evans’ relevance to hip-hop and R&B has been cut down to her being one of the original members of the Bad Boy family and her being married to hip-hop’s beloved icon, The Notorious B.I.G. Faith, or (ghost?)writer Aliya S. King, recognizes this and opens the book with the night of Biggie’s death. The prologue sees Faith showing up at a party at Andre Harrell’s house in LA after a Vibe magazine party only to be told by Heavy D, “Faith. Get back in the car. You need to get to the hospital. I think something happened to Big.” Keep the Faith constantly struggles with the fact that most people will read this book because of Faith’s connection to Big and her involvement in a number of scandals and controversies. But that’s not to say that she doesn’t have anything interesting to say.
The earlier parts of Faith’s memoir didn’t interest me much. Maybe it’s because I’m an insensitive young man, but Faith recounting her teenage experiences with her abusive drug-dealer boyfriend and her abortions were just a little too Lifetime movie-ish for me. Put it in an angry rap song and maybe I’ll be more interested. Regardless, these parts are necessary to show who exactly Faith is. An interesting piece of trivia from this part is that Faith grew up around a guy named Reggie who would later become Redman, and they dated too. Faith never goes into detail about their relationship, but Red is attributed this darling little quote: “You need me to fuck somebody up? ‘Cause I’ll fuck a nigga up for you. You know that.”
It’s also interesting to see an artist rise from singing in her church to having a number one song. Faith goes from hanging around the studio with Christopher Williams to working with Al B. Sure to writing songs with Mary J. Blige.
The book’s greatest asset is its priceless depictions of Big and Puff. Big is characterized as being a man of few words with infinite confidence. Faith first met Big at a Bad Boy photo shoot. She was looking through an envelope of pictures from a party when a fat, lazy-eyed Biggie Smalls sat down next to her and asked, “Can I see your pictures?” Puff on the other hand, comes off as a loud and demanding boss who’s all about the money. Faith tells a story from the early Bad Boy days when some producer made the mistake of saying he had to be somewhere and Puff responded, “Did you just say you needed to get out of here? This nigga just told me he needs to leave. Do y’all believe this shit?” Puff shows a much darker side later when he screams on a mourning Faith to get her to perform “I’ll Be Missing You” with him at the VMAs.
There are plenty of great stories from the Bad Boy days: Faith picking up Usher to go to the studio and having to wait for him to finish his homework, Faith and Big going to Busch Gardens and Faith buying a wedding ring from a man named Jacob who would end up becoming hip-hop’s official provider of shiny things.
And then there’s the scandal. As Faith recalls, she was hanging out at the Hollywood Athletic Club in LA and 2Pac sent Treach from Naughty by Nature over to get them introduced. 2Pac told her he wanted to record a song with her and after she got the go ahead from Big, she agreed. The next night at another party, Pac made sure to be seen with Faith all night. Later, Pac personally picked up Faith from her hotel in a Benz to take her to the studio. Apparently, Faith hadn’t heard that Pac was signed to Death Row and became terrified at this point. Suge Knight came over and gave her a friendly hello and she was asked to record vocals for “Wonda Why They Call U Bitch” which Faith complains “wasn’t really that good.” Sorry Faith, I’m going to respectfully disagree on that one. Faith ends up going to Pac’s hotel to be paid where he tells her “This situation with the money is like this, if I give it to you, then you my bitch.” He also adds, “You know you want to suck my dick, bitch! Don’t fucking lie.” Faith runs away crying and is never paid. Despicable as Pac’s behavior may be, it’s still great to see him using his enemy’s wife for his a scheme and living up to his alias by being truly Machiavellian.
One of the frustrating aspects of Faith’s tell-all memoir is that she stops short of revealing certain details. Names are often withheld and it’s obvious she isn’t telling the whole story. There’s a producer she only refers to as Terry Dollars who she admits to sleeping with a few times who later stiffed her on some money, but for whatever reason Faith won’t give his real name.
Some bias is also evident. Faith makes sure to pull out stories about Big’s mistresses Lil Kim and Charli Baltimore whenever she can. She recalls Charli calling up after Big died and claiming ownership of one of his cars and Ms. Wallace telling Kim she couldn’t come out to LA with her when he died. Early on, Big is seen screaming at Kim, telling her she could easily be replaced by Foxy Brown.
A major problem is that parts are fishy. All too often, Faith portrays herself as the innocent party. So many incidents start off with her saying she had no idea what was going on at the time. Did she really not know that 2Pac was signed to Death Row, the biggest independent label at the time, which was run by a man that is known for beating people down and making a guy drink urine? Did nothing happen between her and Pac despite all the weed and alcohol in the room? Also, it’s impossible that all of the quotes are accurate unless Faith recorded every minute of her life. The fabrications are obvious at times; Faith has an epiphany about her life at Big’s funeral after Mary J. Blige snubs her, which conveniently gives the book a well-placed climax.
It should be noted that Keep the Faith comes before the release of the Notorious B.I.G. biopic, Notorious. Faith is likely trying to tell her own side of the story before the movie comes out and says otherwise.
For the hip-hop head, Keep the Faith may be disappointing because it doesn’t really tell the type of stories that heads like to hear. When it comes to legends, we hip-hoppers like to hear stories about Big going to Pete Rock’s house and asking to watch him make a beat (which actually happened). Faith tells us plenty about the man behind the mic, but not enough about the music. A prime example of this is when Faith goes with Big to D&D Studios where he would record “Unbelievable”. Faith writes that she later learned that Big told Premo that he was going to marry her, which is a cute story, but most would like to hear more about what it was like when the greatest rapper of all time and the greatest producer of all time were in the studio together. Keep the Faith is heavy on drama and isn’t really meant for music lovers.