UNFINISHED BUSINESS

R. Kelly and Jay-Z

Even before their recent tour collapsed in an orgy of recriminations and police reports, things didn't look promising for "Unfinished Business," the latest spawn of the unholy union between rapper Jay-Z and R&B singer R. Kelly. The release of the pair's first collaboration, 2002's "The Best of Both Worlds," unhappily coincided with Kelly's arrest on child pornography charges. The follow-up isn't even a new collaboration, since Kelly and Jay-Z's weapons-grade dislike for each other apparently prevented them from being in the same room long enough to put one together.

Officially, "Business" is composed of "previously unreleased" tracks -- basically outtakes from the original sessions -- and it has the shopworn feel you might expect from a 2002 hip-hop record.

"Unfinished Business" (an ominous title, when you think about it) is a pretty indifferent affair, teeming with recycled beats and warmed-over ballads. Jay-Z would clearly rather be elsewhere, but Kelly, who gets top billing, along with lead songwriting credit on every track, has a few decent moments ("Feelin' You In Stereo," "Mo' Money").

Though it's nice that they've tempered the gratuitous misogyny of the original, "Business" feels like a missed opportunity: The promisingly titled "Break Up (That's All We Do)" isn't an examination of the duo's relationship, a hip-hop version of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," but a pedestrian romantic ballad, and although the producers throw in horns, Spanish guitars, gospel choirs and even Doug E. Fresh, "Business" is pretty inert. What could have been a genuinely inspired merger between two colossal talents ends up as the most ill-considered pairing since "Ebony and Ivory," one that oozes dollar signs and cynicism from every pore.

-- Allison Stewart

Jay-Z, left, and R. Kelly onstage in Uniondale, N.Y., before their tour's demise a week ago.