Beanie Sigel, The B.Coming
Tapping into righteous grief, anger, and tortured honesty
In between The Reason and The B. Coming, Beanie Sigel was convicted of federal guns charges; he had already "done a stretch in a triflin' cell," as he once put it, and now was headed back in for another year. Possibly much longer, if the ensuing second-degree murder charges stuck. The B. Coming was recorded in the brief period between his sentencing and the beginning of his jail bid. For Sigel, prison was an obsession, a state of mind — in every single one of his first three album covers, he is posing inside, or in front of, a jail cell. "Even my brain's in handcuffs," Nas once memorably rapped. Sigel's The B. Coming could be seen as taking this line as a jumping-off point for an entire worldview.
Another cornerstone line for Beanie Sigel: "I sit alone in my four-cornered room/ starin at candles." This bleak, evocative couplet is the opening line for "Mind Playin' Tricks on Me," by the Houston legend Scarface's group Geto Boys. (Not coincidentally, Beanie Sigel and Scarface are close friends who have many times batted back and forth the prospect of recording an album together.) On The B. Coming's soulful opening track, "Feel It in the Air," Beanie quotes this line in his second verse, drawing it out with reverence. "Feel It In The Air" is Beanie's greatest four minutes, a drizzling downpour of softly wailing saxophone and Keith Sweat keyboards.
The rest of the album emerges slowly from that song's downcast glow. The album's small army of producers — lesser-known Roc-A-Fella stalwarts like Bink!, Chad West and Ty Fyffe as well as marquee stars like Just Blaze and The Neptunes — paint the album a dozen glorious shades of steel blue, evoking the grown-man heft of Sigel's Philly soul forebears like Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. There was always a hint of his city's sweat-and-tear-stained soul legacy in Beanie's grittiest music, and The B. Coming makes this link more explicit: In the gospel-tinted "Lord Have Mercy," Beanie is "tryin' to find that lost treasure like Eddie LeVert," the lead singer of the O'Jays. At his best, as he was here, Beanie taps into the same righteous grief, anger, and tortured honesty.