Ask her how she’s come this far and she’ll simply answer, “Faith. Faith has given me the strength to get to where I am now, It’s allowed me to become the strong woman I am. I have Faith in God. I have faith in my abilities. I am what I am. I am Faith.”
As anyone touched by the presence of things truly powerful and divine can testify, acts of faith are meant to be experienced. Such is the case with Faith Evans sophomore album, Keep the Faith. Written and co-produced almost entirely by the 25 year old songwriter, producer and vocalist, Keep the Faith is a breathtaking tour de force. In the tradition of vocal powerhouses Phyllis Hyman and Angela Bofill, Faith’s voice delivers emotions that are alternately sweet and loving, then visceral and raw-with a sincerity that strikes deep in the solar plexus.
With flawless production provided by David Foster, J-Dub, Ron Lawrence, Chucky Thompson, Babyface and Puff Daddy, Keep the Faith is poised to take its rightful place as one of the best R&B albums of the year. The single “Love Like This” has uptempo grooves guaranteed to conjure up memories of early ’80s house party vibes.
On lush ballads like “Lately I” and “Caramel Kisses,” Faith delivers riffs with a power and effortlessness that will make you feel every bit of her joy and know every bit of her pain. Faith’s superior vocals are designed to elicit unconditioned emotional surrender. She’s about to ‘take you there,’ whether you’re trying to go or not.
She does this because she knows no other way. “I’m really an inner spirit that only makes itself known through the music,” Faith confesses. “A lot of people think I’m an introvert, or quiet and moody. I’ve even heard some people say there’s a certain mystery or darkness about me. I’m not that way, I’m just really into what I do. My mind is so musically inclined that I couldn’t completely express myself if I wasn’t a singer and a songwriter. I keep everything in my mind and heart until I lay the tracks. Everything I feel comes out in my music.”
Informing every track on Keep the Faith is the sense of spiritual and emotional evolution that Faith has experienced since the release of her self-titled Platinum debut album Faith. Maturity, confidence, love for her family, her man, her music and, above all herself have graced this album with the dignity, integrity and womanliness so often missing in contemporary female R&B singers. This album is the work of a woman who has discovered who she is.
“Musically I’ve matured so much on this album,” she says proudly, “I’m more in tune with my voice. Producing other artists has helped me see what I am capable of. The time between the first and second album is like the ‘school of hard knocks’ for most artists. I put all the experiences and emotional changes I went through from the time I completed the first album to the new album. The whole team worked endlessly to make sure that it was really tight, and it is tight.”
When it comes to life experiences, Faith’s racked up more in her young life than people who are more than twice her age. A lot has happened since she was a little girl in Newark, New Jersey. By the tender age of four, Faith figures out she could blow from the tears her gospel renditions evoked from her church’s congregation. Even as a high school honor student who went on to earn a full academic scholarship to Fordham University, Faith Evans knew she was born to sing. She left Fordham after a year and ended up doing background vocals and writing songs for the likes of Mary J. Blige, Pebbles and Christopher Williams. Later, she met a man named Puff Daddy who could say only that her voice reminded him of rain-the fury of a storm, the baptism of showers and the serenity of mist all wrapped up in one.
As the First Lady of Bad Boy, she released her first album Faith. Somewhere in the midst of all of this she kicked it on the phone with a rapper named The Notorious B.I.G., fell in love and got married two weeks later. However, tragedy struck soon after-giving way to her unwanted rise as hip-hop’s most memorable widow.
The multi-Platinum single, “I’ll Be Missing You” (a moving tribute to her late husband The Notorious B.I.G.) was Faith’s singular public comment on her husband’s brutal murder, simultaneously conveying the sorrow of death and the hopeful promise of rebirth. Faith’s voice lifted her man above the din of the tabloid speculations and hand-delivered him into the arms of his maker with love. It also created a world-wide anthem for mourners grieving the loss of their loved ones.
Although B.I.G.’s death changed Faith’s life forever, she wants her fans to know that she is doing her best to move on. “It had an incredible impact on my life, I had to raise our son without his father’s input. I just had our baby three months before. And for at least 6 months after that I was just blank. Just like any other human being, I went through an extremely painful stage. I hurt. I cried. I thought it was going to be a very long haul with a heavy block on my shoulders.”
“But, thank God, I was able to free my self from all of the bad aspects and look at it as another life experience. I mean, I’ll never forget about B.I.G. We had good times. We had bad times. He’ll always be a fond memory. But I can’t change the fact that he’ll never be here so I’m just trying to move on. Take care of my children. Be a wonderful mother, a wonderful artist, further my career and expand it into other things.”
Since “I’ll Be Missing You,” Faith has written for Tevin Campbell, performed a duet with Ray Charles and co-written and produced songs for L.S.G. and Aaron Hall.
Not surprisingly the most significant song for Faith is ‘Keep the Faith,’ the album’s title track. “It’s the most emotional for me because talks about being free of spirit, being happy and in touch with yourself. I know now that I don’t have to fight anymore. I don’t have to cry anymore. I don’t have to feel like I’m bound, because I’m not. I know now that I can hold on to peace and let God light my battles. All I have to do is “Keep the Faith.”
“I want my fans to know that right now, in my life, I’m very happy. I appreciate all the love they gave when B.I.G. died and after; but now the best way the best way for them to support me is to just be happy with me. Because if they’ve ever been happy then they know it’s a wonderful feeling. I just want them to know that I’m trying to seize the moment, hold on to the feeling and keep it that way.”
“Keep the Faith” is a Faith Evans survival song. Her gift to her. Her gift to you.