Jadakiss is the Charles Barkley of rappers. Both are bruising, outspoken, bald, black men who dominated their respective games, but they also both seemed cursed by circumstances largely beyond their control. Barkley played 16 years in the NBA without winning a championship, and Jada, though widely regarded as a premier rapper, has yet to drop an album truly representative of his talent. It’s hard to read Jada’s resume without wondering “what if?” First there was The LOX debacle, then more contract disputes with Diddy derailed his admittedly weak solo debut Kiss The Game. He rebounded …
DJBooth Album Review
It’s hard to read Jada’s resume without wondering “what if?” First there was The LOX debacle, then more contract disputes with Diddy derailed his admittedly weak solo debut Kiss The Game. He rebounded with the banging Kiss of Death, but was knocked off course again by a gun charges arrest. A move to Def Jam finally put him in position to win that championship, but his latest effort The Last Kiss was delayed repeatedly, resulting in an album that could have easily been his best if it was tighter and fresher – the delays seem to have allowed several weaker tracks to sneak in. You have to hope and believe that Jadakiss will someday drop a classic album, but today is not that day.
You can’t talk about Jada without talking about his vocal cords. It sounds like the man smokes cigarettes rolled with broken glass. In fact, one of the only rappers with a gravel-laced voice to match is Jeezy, which makes their monstrous collaboration Something Else an incidental “Best Raspy Voice in Rap” contest. Something Else is an expertly produced track with hard rock roots , but its Jeezy and Jada’s verses that take it to the next level. It’s not Shakespeare, but that’s exactly why hardcore fans should love it. For my money Cartel Gathering is even better, a 70s funk track that Ghostface almost takes over with a ridiculously dope verse, but Jada more than holds his own, making Cartel one of Last Kiss’ best. Jada even manages to out rhyme Weezy on the dark Death Wish, easily the album’s hardest track. Jada’s no stranger to the streets, and Last Kiss is at its best when he’s walking down them.
It’s no surprise then that Last Kiss stumbles the closer it gets to the R&B side of the spectrum. By My Side was supposed to be the album’s hit lead single, a track for the ladies that brings in Ne-Yo’s usually golden songwriting and singing touch. Even with all the right ingredients By My Side doesn’t cook, I just can’t buy Jada rhyming “kissin and huggin, I need your lovin” over a bouncing bass line. By My Side is a classic compared to the travesty that it is Who’s Real Me, a track comprised of the aggravating trio of some Swizz Beatz’s production that sounds like a first draft of Swing Your Rag, a guest verse from OJ Da Juiceman and a painfully repetitive hook. Good times. Fortunately Real Me’s low quality is an aberration on Last Kiss, but the softer side of Jada just doesn’t work, even his Mary J. Blige duet comes across flat. You can’t blame Jada for taking a few shots at mass commercial appeal, but those shots are the misses that stop Last Kiss from being a truly great album.
In between all this talk of tougher than nails tracks and bids for radio play it’s easy to overlook Jadakiss the lyricist - big mistake. Jada proves he’s one of the game’s elite rappers with the rewind-worthy Letter to B.I.G., a track that has Jada reflecting on the state of hip-hop and his place in it since his close friend Biggie’s death with honesty and precision. I don’t know anyone who could claim to love hip-hop and not love this song. By contrast it’s hard to know what to think of What If: on one hand it’s lyrically the album’s best (especially with the addition of Nas), but on the other hand it’s such an obvious remake of his classic hit Why it feels uninspired. What if N.W.A. did a track called F**k Law Enforcement, or if Snoop released a single called Vodka And Juice? Sometimes the past if better left alone. Come to think of it, as long as we’re asking questions I’ve got some of my own: what if Jadakiss released more than three albums in nine years? What if The Lox hadn’t signed to Bad Boy? What if The Last Kiss was five tracks shorter? Will Jada ever release an album that goes down in hip-hop history? Only that last question can be answered, and only Jadakiss can answer it. I hope someday he does.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 04/8/09
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"It's A Problem ft. Beanie Sigel & Jadakiss" (2006)
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