Speed Reading

Faith Evans' Keep the Faith
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KEEP THE FAITH

By Faith Evans with Aliyah S. King

Grand Central Publishing

353 pages

$24.99

She was Biggie's wife. She's still the mother of his son. She was in the middle — stuck on the very fault line — of the Biggie and Tupac saga. She's put up with Sean Combs through all his nicknames. She wrote and sang gorgeous backup for Mary J. Blige on choice tracks from Mary's classic 1994 album My Life (MCA)that is, before she and Mary got quite contrary. She's had more than a lil' issue with Lil' Kim. She was friends with Missy Elliott before Missy became famous. In Etta James' wild and unfiltered 1995 autobiography Rage to Survive (Da Capo Press, 304 pages, $18), she's the one James singles out as a daughter figure. You best believe Faith Evans has a story to tell.

A page-turner with nary a false note, Keep the Faith is a tale beyond any groupie's intelligence or contemporary pulp fiction hood novelist's imagination. While Faith never made a flat-out classic album like My Life, her recordings (especially 2001's Faithfully, on Bad Boy) are underrated, and she didn't Oprah-size herself like Mary. She's kept it understated, so her memoir isn't a tell-all. It presents some well-known stories from her perspective, adding the occasional new twist — for example, it turns out she beat up Kim not once, but on two different occasions. We learn Missy can be a bit two-faced. We wonder how sensible, Clark Sisters–loving Faith could be so foolish as to get caught up with Death Row Records and a buck wild Tupac, and so strong as to not go insane with paranoia once people started talking and shit started going down. Faith's Biggie stories — including vivid memories of days on the stoop before his first album dropped — are funny and endearing. They're also far from sugar-coated, building up to a cathartic account of his funeral that's not flattering to Mary or Kim — but isn't vindictive or judgmental either. She speaks her truth.

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