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Singer Faith Evans Talks Christmas Hip-Hop

ED GORDON, host:

Now for a little holiday hip-hop.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. FAITH EVANS: (Singing) Here we go. Here we go. Here we go. This is a game to play. It's Christmastime again.

GORDON: It's been a good year for singer Faith Evans. With the success of her CD, "The First Lady," Evans may have put an end to all the bad press that has seemed to follow her since the death of her then husband iconic rapper Notorious B.I.G. Today, the singer is remarried and has three children. Her latest CD, "A Faithful Christmas," is filled with songs you might expect from Faith and a few choices that may surprise you.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. EVANS: (Singing) I want to spend Christmas with you. Let me unwrap you; you can unwrap me, too. This Christmas will be bringing in a year that's new.

People didn't think--would never think Faith Evans, you know, cover a Frank Sinatra song or "The Kid," you know what I mean? So from there, we sort of started building on those two artists and then we went, you know, went on iTunes and saw all the different ones and said, `OK, let's get this one, that one.' And it worked out, and I love it. I think it's a great album.

GORDON: Does this--is this a reflection of the music that you grew up with? Did you grow up with all types of music at home?

Ms. EVANS: No. I wouldn't say so. My childhood was limited to mostly gospel music. We didn't have, like, a lot of records in our house, you know. It was like my grandparents who raised me. They were pretty old-fashioned in their religious ways, so it was like church, church, church, school, school, school. I didn't grow up listening to a wide variety of stuff, so I think that once I became an adult and, you know, got more--actually more so when I got closer to being an artist and being around the industry, I just, you know, started listening to a lot more broader ranges and just kind of did my homework. I had to make up for like all those years in my childhood. So I just overloaded on getting a bunch of old records. I mean, my husband certainly probably was the first one to buy me like a few catalogs. And I just found that I was learning so much and just understanding a lot more about what made those type of artists important, you know, in their time. And, you know, I'm, like, `Gosh, they influence us in so many ways.' I hear stuff now that I'm, like, `OK, I know this from that.' So I have a much broader musical knowledge, you know, than I did.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. EVANS: (Singing) Santa, baby, just slip a sable under the tree for me. I've been an awful good girl. Santa, baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.

GORDON: All of us reflect during the holiday time, the end of the year, look back. It's been a big year for you. You released a new album, "Faith: The First Lady." It was well-received, yet you dealt with a lot of rumor, a lot of innuendo and you channeled it through the music. How difficult of a year has it been for you or was it like an awakening to some degree?

Ms. EVANS: Well, it certainly was a great year because people listened. They wanted to hear--and I think that we certainly chose the right record to come back with after having been gone for so long without a record and having gone through various things that, you know, were in the media. And even if someone still wants to address it, I already put it out there in my record how I feel, so it was a good thing. And it felt good just to have people who were still even here to want to hear my record after, you know, all this time.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. EVANS: (Singing) Oo, oo, oo.

I've certainly had to go through trying to change the fact that I was always identified as the widow of Notorious B.I.G. You know, I'm never going to be able to get away from having been married to him, but that's not what identifies me. You know, my life isn't just about that.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. EVANS: (Singing) Now I done felt a lot of pain, and I done seen a lot of things, from struggling and broken heart and fancy cars, oh, yeah. And even though my money change, I tried my best to stay the same, but, you know, with no money, more problems came.

GORDON: Was there any concern of yours when you put "Again" out, which I said, talks to some of the issues? You know, there was question whether you had drug habit, whether you'd been arrested for drug paraphernalia, all of the things that you dealt with in that song and dealt with straight up and also made people realize don't believe everything you read. Was there any hesitancy before you put that song out that maybe this was not the right way?

Ms. EVANS: No, not at all. Because, I mean, it's just one of those songs where the point that I made in it, it kind of just makes you kind of just, like, `Hmm, OK. I guess she's right. I have heard bad things about me before,' or, you know, I guess I have even on that side of it in terms of the law. I mean, people have been through that where, you know, it's not what was perceived or what was said about them was not the case, or they weren't arrested for something that they didn't necessarily do. But they didn't have to go through it the way I did, and what I felt that was a good way to in three and a half minutes, give it the energy I felt it deserved and give people the--my truthful feelings about a few of those things, you know what I mean? And it would be played over and over and over again.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. EVANS: (Singing) Nobody knows what life may bring...

GORDON: Before I let you go, I want to ask you about your husband specifically because I'm curious how you all have dealt with the idea--a lesser man would not want to always hear about your first husband and that he is helping you raise CJ, Biggie's son, who, you know, at every look, he starts to look more and more like Dad to some degree.

Ms. EVANS: Mm-hmm.

GORDON: So it must be a unique experience and something that I think you all had talked about before.

Ms. EVANS: Well, the relationship he has with CJ has been that way since, you know, since he was like a baby. And he just has such a great love and respect for him, for Ty(ph). You know, he's--it's just beautiful 'cause it definitely could have been, you know, I don't know. I can't imagine it's always that easy, but he just always had a love for him.

But as far as, you know, the fact with him being married to me and me having been married to someone of the status of a Notorious B.I.B. and who was definitely constantly talked about, that's going to happen. But he's a human being, so naturally he has to have thoughts or feelings about it, but I don't think--I think that as a wife that that's my job to constantly deal with him with the proper love and sensitivity in that vein, you know, whatever it might be. But it's not something that comes up like every time Biggie's on the radio. You know, he's upset, but I mean, I'm just--I'm sure that that's a natural emotion. It's like, `Damn, I'm married to someone who'--you know, I was married to someone else who was a icon.

He teaches CJ more about his dad than anybody in CJ's life, you know. Like, they'll buy a Biggie album and he'll, you know, tell him about the different things he's talking about and he'll make him rap. `Can you rap like your dad?' But CJ calls, you know, my dad and my dad. He definitely, you know, he's aware. But it's a beautiful thing.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. EVANS: (Singing) Now are you talking or just a tease? People like you don't grow on trees. Look at him...

GORDON: When you're wrapping the gifts and putting the lights on the tree and making eggnog or whatever you all do to celebrate Christmas, will we hear in your home "A Faithful Christmas"?

Ms. EVANS: I am playing it now. It's in my car right now. And, actually, I play it when I cook dinner, so I've been playing it for months.

GORDON: Well, I'm sure you want that to be played all throughout the holiday season in many, many homes, and the CD is called "A Faithful Christmas." If you want to hear some holiday classics, some that you're very familiar with and others that you'll say, `Oh, yeah, I remember that one,' this is the CD to pick up. Faith Evans, "A Faithful Christmas," the new CD. We thank you for making time for us today.

Ms. EVANS: Thank you, Ed.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. EVANS: (Singing) You know that I love you, happy new year, good cheer. I love it.

GORDON: Thanks for joining us. That's our program today. To listen to the show, visit npr.org. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. EVANS: (Singing) Oh, baby, baby, just you and me, together that's a good thing, baby, baby. Oh!

GORDON: I'm Ed Gordon. This is NEWS & NOTES. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.