Its been a long time coming for Jadakiss. Ever since his debut as a member of Puff Daddys "Family" in the late 90s, fans have been patiently waiting for the Yonkers emcee to become one of the leading stars in Hip-Hop culture.
Unfortunately, the celebrated LOX frontman has been hampered by one glaring flaw; the ability to make a cohesive, memorable album. And now over a decade into his career and several labels later, an older and wiser Jada hopes to shed that image with his third studio album, The Last Kiss (Def Jam).
The LP begins with promise courtesy of the slick "Pain And Torture." With the heavy violin riffs of Buckwilds production, Jada delivers the braggadocio rhymes fans have come to expect from the Ruff Ryder ("I flip words around / Sort of like treys and pounds / Rub shoulders in the industry with nerds and clowns / Give it to whoever deserves the rounds / Hollow tips moves organs and nerves around").
And even when going blatantly for radio on the R&B heavy and Ayanna Irish-assisted "Cant Stop Me," Jadas brisk lyrical flow and declarations ("Ringtone Rap / This is not the season") compliment the crooning hook and adlibs.
However, the Achilles Heel of uninspired production first surfaces on the Swizz Beatz produced "Whos Real?"Although OJ Da Juiceman and Jada do their best to make the track work, they cant quite overcome Swizz Beatz trite nursery rhyme chorus ("If youre real and you know it clap your hands") and pedestrian production.
The Inkredibles dont fare much better, supplying Jadakiss with DJ Khaled-styled synth rhythms on the formulaic "Grind Hard." The confines of the production do a disservice to Hip-Hop soul icon Mary J. Blige, whose chorus duties reflect the by the numbers structure of the song.
Things pick back up when Jada returns to his familiar and comfortable confines of the streets. Def Jam colleague Young Jeezy comes through to help deliver a nice, Southern-styled street banger on the Fiend / Don Cannon produced "Something Else."
Over the soul sample loops of "One More Step," Jada exchanges back and forth bars with life-long partner in crime Styles P. While years of chemistry is still apparent, the stilted mixing of the track causes both emcees to sound off in the early verses before hitting a stride midpoint.
Seeking to revisit his biggest hit "Why," the Yonkers native reworks the concept as "What If." Although underwhelming as Jada keeps the majority of his inquiries surface level ("What if the pain went away? What if you changed in a day?"), Nas lyrical contrast helps drive home the songs aim ("What if I went instead of Notorious / Who would tell my story after?").
Over the LPs latter half, Jada balances his commercial, major label requirements with the street tracks his fans expect. "Things Ive Been Through" showcases Kiss storytelling ability, as he details his Hip-Hop history over samples of Luther Vandross classic "Promise Me."
The partnership with Jazmine Sullivan yields the NY lyricist another potential single in "Smoking Gun." Despite Denaun Porters somber production, and Jadas heavy content of single parenthood and child molestation, the track remains radio-friendly and far superior to the standard fare of the NeYo collaboration "By My Side."
Ghostface and Raekwon deliver solid, no frills cameos on "Cartel Gathering" before Jada closes strong on the chorus-less track ("My Clientele is Supreme and its proven / That Im only Built for the Link if its Cuban").
Sheek Louch ("Come and Get Me") and an uncharacteristically sinister Lil Wayne ("Death Wish") provide the hardest offerings on the album and prevent the R&B-leaning tracks ("I Tried," "Rockin With the Best") from holding dominance over the LPs direction.
In The Last Kiss, fans can witness not only the skills that have given Jadakiss a loyal following, but also the miscues that have kept his catalogue away from the top echelon of emcees. But while Jada has yet to have that defining album, The Last Kiss shows marked improvement over past offerings, and shows the Loxs most popular member is headed in the right direction.
"Pain & Torture"
Jadakiss Featuring Nas