Artist: JadakissTitle: Kiss Of DeathRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Matt Barone
Whether or not Jadakiss possesses an abundance of lyrical skills has never been the question that has plagued the Yonkers-bred member of the Lox. For skeptics, the main reason why Jada hasn’t been able to reach superstar status is his limited subject matter, rarely opening up while frequently covering familiar topics such as gunplay and battle-threats. His solo debut Kiss The Game Goodbye did little to advance the self-proclaimed ‘Black Babe Ruth’ into the game’s commercial elite, as Jadakiss tried to please too broad a spectrum of listeners rather than providing a more intimate portrait of Jason Philips (his government name). Thankfully, he seems to have taken all of this into account, because his second solo-go-round Kiss Of Death effectively shows off facets of the MC’s abilities that have been dormant. Simply put, those filled with that unfortunate four-letter ‘H’ word would have to search long and hard for reasons to pan Jadakiss’ solo endeavors again.
While Kiss Of Death will undoubtedly spark slight anger from Jada’s street-corner following due to some high-profile collaborations, J-A-D-A has put together a solid album that appeals to all audiences and exhibits our host at his best. He gets his grown man on for the Anthony Hamilton-assisted “Why”, offering deep social and personal introspection over a beautifully constructed Havoc instrumental comprised of soft bells and percussion. Further self-examiation takes place on “Bring You Down” and “Still Feel Me”, while he teams up with Mariah Carey on top of Scott Storch’s seductive flutes for the formulaic yet catchy “You Make Me Wanna”. Fellow Lox member Styles makes sure his brother doesn’t completely abandon the group’s signature hardcore sound though, servicing the violent hook on “Kiss Of Death”, and flawlessly tag-teaming with Jadakiss over Elite’s devastating arrangement of electronic guitars and pounding bass on the blazing “Shout Outs”.
A perfect rap album is extremely hard to come by this day in age, unfortunately, and Kiss Of Death falls victim to this sad truth. “Hot Sauce To Go” is as unappealing as its title, suffering from a bland Neptunes beat and an equally forgettable Pharrell-delivered hook about (surprise!) female bottoms. Hearing Jadakiss spit over a Kanye West production seems like a sure-fire banger, but “Getting’ It In” is a missed opportunity due to sub-par verses and a beat that was most likely salvaged from West’s cutting room floor. A second dream-collaboration gone sour is ‘Welcome To D-Block”, a track that does find all three Lox members and guest Eminem in top vocal form, but disappoints with its mediocre audio backdrop and awkward chorus.
By the time the heartfelt “I’m Going Back” concludes Jada’s sophomore effort, those who have been waiting for him to bless ears with a truly focused album will place Kiss Of Death in their CD players for months to come. Proving that his rhymes have matured just as much as the man himself, Jadakiss has finally capitalized on his God-given gifts and crafted a well-rounded collection of honest music. If growth continues within Kiss, then that allusive ‘perfect album’ previously mentioned might not be far away, but for now, Kiss Of Death is a must-have release that should help place Jadakiss amongst rap’s current elite without any argument.