By the time he quit high school, Jadakiss / Phllips was already renowned as a freestyler and was rapping for his rent when he attended the ‘Jack the Rapper’ battle fest in Florida as a 16-year old. A friendship with the Ruff Ryders management folks lead him to hang out at the studio, watch in envy as artists like DMX came and went and conquered. Still a teenager Phillips formed The Warlocks with Sheek Louch and Styles P and they made their debut guest staring on The Main Source’s 1994 album track ‘Set It Off’. This in turn pushed Jadakiss into the clutches of The Notorious B.I.G. and now calling themselves LOX. They paid tribute to the Big man with ‘We’ll Always Love Poppa’ – b-side to Puff Daddy’s ‘I’ll Be Missing You’ in 1997.
So far so good, but contributions weren’t the only thing that Jadakiss wanted to be known for and Puffy’s slick, radio-friendly approach wasn’t where his head was at either. The LOX made their stand with the album Money, Power, Respect in 1998 (it would eventually go Platinum) and hit the new millennium in some style on the follow-up ‘We Are the Streets’ where you find them working with Timbaland early on and the esoteric Swizz Beats. Both these are cult items.
Now signed to Ruff Ryder's, Jadakiss made his break out with Kiss Tha Game Goodbye. His star was in the ascendant now and the album shifted close on a million copies thanks to a canny blend of Gangsta, Mafioso and Horrorcore with lashings of suave East Coast funk thrown on top to keep listeners guessing and dancing. With producers including The Neptunes, Icepick, Alchemist, Just Blasze and Mahogany, this brilliant collection of MC style, toast and boast and hilarious bravado cuts like ’Stick Yourself (skit)’ and ‘Cruisin’’ (featuring the aforementioned MrDogg) rapidly became a word of mouth must-have on both sides of the Atlantic and Jadakiss was well feted when he visited these shores to promote. The samples were sharp and the originals crisp so the interplay between borrowed pieces from Michael McDonald, the Jackson 5 (always a winner) and Sounds of Blackness created a seamless fusion.
Jadakiss waited three years to let that all soak in before revealing Kiss of Death in 1994. Recording now in NYC and Los Angeles (at Groovyville) this is just as accomplished and the writing is broader. Stand out cuts include ‘Why’ (with Anthony Hamilton) and the smash ‘U make Me Wanna’ (with Mariah Carey) and the album’s best known piece ‘Welcome to D-Block’ performed with LOX and Eminem, who also produces. Jadakiss is now established and his continuing collaborations with The Neptunes, The Alchemist and Kanye West result in a fully grounded and rounded disc that is a joy to behold. This time the samples are off the wall – cut ups from British hippy group Gong and Roger Troutman are integrated into real Old Skool faves – Melba Moore, Curtis Mayfield and Atlantic Starr. It’s a soulful shoot out that is now considered to have attained classic status in hip-hop circles.
Another five years will elapse before Jadakiss returns, this time with the crunchy, The Last Kiss (the original title Kiss My Ass didn’t fare well at retail tests for some reason). Over a dozen producers work their thing here and we’re particularly enamoured of The Neptunes mixes on ‘Stress Ya’ and ‘Rockin’ With the Best’ (featuring Pharrell Williams and Bobby V). The hits are everywhere though: ‘By My Side’, the infamous ’Letter to B.I.G.’ and the switched on ‘Who’s Real’ are all the business. You can also hear where Jadakiss is at musically since most of the samples are old soul grooves. Rhymes wise this is an incredibly detailed affair. Plenty of ad-libs, some torchy vocals and even layers of violins make this stand out from the crowd with ‘What If’ revisiting his big hit ‘Why’, while he’s right on the street for ‘Things I’ve Been Through’ ably assisted by Luther Vandross’s borrowed ’Promise Me.’ One of our favourite emcees, Jadakiss has an output that still thrills. We wish there was more of it but what he’s done to date is great. Whisper it quietly, a new album is in the pipeline for late 2014. We’ll kiss that when we see it.
Words: Max Bell
In terms of sheer anticipation, Jadakiss' buzz was at an apex at the time of this album's release. While fellow LOX members Sheek and Styles flashed improved flows and lyrics on their group's sophomore strike, We Are the Streets, Jadakiss remained the group's undisputed frontman. And with the streets virtually foaming at the mouth, Jadakiss returned from the lab to birth his solo debut, Kiss tha Game Goodbye. As the last bars of Kiss tha Game Goodbye ring out, you can't help but be left with one lingering impression: kiss tha buzz goodbye. Sure, there are some bangers here: the celebratory, Alchemist-produced "We Gonna Make It," featuring Styles bubbles; the DJ Premier-blessed "None of Y'all Betta," featuring Styles and Sheek; and the gully "Un-Hunh," featuring DMX. Yet these harder-hitting efforts are leavened out by uncharacteristically smooth production, a lack of direction, and, gasp, Jadakiss' yearning for commercial love. With self-explanatory titles like "Nasty Girl," featuring Carl Thomas; "I'm a Gangsta," featuring Parlé; and "Cruisin," featuring Snoop Dogg, it becomes abundantly clear that Jadakiss is trying too hard to please everyone, with little success. But he is not the only one peeling wheels here, as the interchangeable production supplied by Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, and a host of others offers very little assistance. After jumping ship from one former label of the moment (Bad Boy) to another (Ruff Ryders), what did Jadakiss' change of address really accomplish? After all, if he wanted to go the commercial route, who better then P. Diddy to lead him there? Somewhere in the midst of all this you can be sure the shiny-suit man is smiling.
Words: Matt Conaway
The most startling thing about Kiss of Death is that Jadakiss dumped a bunch of Neptunes productions and kept only "Hot Sauce to Go," one of the record's poorest tracks. This, along with a particularly ill-suited "soft and smooth track for the ladies" featuring a carted-in Mariah Carey as well as a too-familiar-sounding Scott Storch production, is thankfully the only outright blights on an otherwise satisfactory showing. These issues aside, Jadakiss makes good on his promise to become a rounded lyricist and receives some valuable help in the form of tight production work from a handful of pros -- surprisingly enough, Swizz Beatz's work on "Real Hip Hop" tops anything that producer did for Cassidy's debut, and the Red Spyda-manned title track (bizarrely tucked near the end) is Jadakiss' most vicious track yet. No matter the number of bright moments, you can't help but feel that Jadakiss has his best days ahead of him. For further proof, listeners looking to go deeper are strongly advised to seek out The Champ Is Here, a teaser mix presented by Big Mike and Green Lantern. Provided you can stomach the Will Smith version of Cassius Clay proclaiming "The champ is here!" about every 30 seconds (Jada's cackle could've been kept in check a little more, too), you should find that it's actually superior to this fine record.
Words: Andy Kellman
In a genre where albums frequently miss their street date, Jadakiss' The Last Kiss is an especially late hip-hop release, having been pushed back, retitled, and retooled numerous times. This problematic arrival shows too in the final product, but the problem may not be the much maligned rapper's ability or inspiration but the constant mishandling of his material. So many prime street cuts have been given away to comps, mixtapes, and soundtracks in the five years since Kiss of Death was released that only the slick, polished numbers remain, save the misleading kickoff "Pain & Torture." Two tracks later he's singing the silly "If you're real and you know it/Clap your hands" over an unsurprising Swizz Beats production, but it's "Grind Hard" that really disappoints, with the Mary J. Blige support coming off as standard. That's a first, but "What If" isn't a first at all, using the exact same structure as Kiss of Death's Nas collaboration "Why." One of the more interesting cuts, the heartfelt "Letter to B.I.G.," already appeared on the Notorious soundtrack, and the album's title is nonsense, as Jada had already declared his intention to keep going. Despite what the haters say, this is another missed opportunity for Jadakiss, a man whose best work never lands on the high-profile releases.
Words: David Jeffries
They may have hoped for a free download or a Lox reunion, but Jadakiss’ 2011 “gift to the fans” is a commercially released half-EP, half-mixtape that’s all good. “I call it a good summertime introduction CD," is the way its creator correctly explains it, beginning with the light-as-a-feather club track “Hold You Down” with Emanny, and ending with the pleasingly off-kilter, back-from-prison ballad “Gone Too Long.” Along the way, there’s the prime hood power ballad “In the Streets,” the polished gangster celebration “Toast to That,” and the worthy trunk-rumbler “Inkredible Remix,” which nails Rick Ross’ style so hard, the Teflon Don himself had to show up for a verse. Styles P. and Fred da Godson are the other guests of note, while producers like Duane “DaRock” Ramos, J. Butta, and Black Saun contribute the brand new -- not mixtape-recycled -- beats. Serious and sometime fans should be more than cool with all the familiar, safe, and comfortable “love” Jadakiss throws at them, while his detractors will find little to love on -- or for that matter, hate on - during this sideline release.