Album: Kiss Of Death
Label: Ruff Ryders / Interscope
Rating: 5.5 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
For me, Jada has always had something about him that drives me away from what is arguably a nice emcee. Since he jumped the Bad Boy sinking ship with the rest of his Lox chums for the deck of the SS Ruff Ryder, he’s continually managed to get on my tits like no other emcee in recent memory. First of all, it was his continual harping about how hot he and the Lox were, and how things would be different now they were signed to the Double R. When “We Are The Streets” finally dropped one felt that a revisit to the drawing board and a lesson in not talking big unless you can back it up was in order. More annoying still were the number of people giving this record props, and talking Jada up as something amazing.
Giving him the benefit of the doubt (of course it was Styles and Sheek who brought him down to their level AND picked the beats, right?) we listened to him again as he blew up his own spot before the release of “Kiss The Game Goodbye” – then we laughed in his face as the extremely patchy album went off like a damp squib.But annoyingly the number of people giving this record props, and talking Jada up as something amazing hadn’t dwindled.
Zero for two, and it seemed the problem was an emcee who did have some genuine skills for micplay, but absolutely none for picking beats. Round here we like to call that RasKassizm…
Following his appearance on the Gang Starr album last year, and the leak of a few tracks from “Kiss Of Death” long before its release, it seemed that finally the pieces of the puzzle had fallen into place. It seemed that Jada spitting hot lyrics over hot beats could be a reality. But as usual he had to do something to piss me off…
When it happened I don’t know, maybe someone else can tell me. Shit, maybe he was chillin’ at the crib one day, and his air conditioning broke, making him open a window. As he opened the window he couldn’t help but SWALLOW THE LARGE CROW SITTING ON THE FUCKING WINDOW LEDGE. Or maybe he just has a penchant for eating crows on the regular… like I said – I dunno. One thing is clear though – having a crow stuck in your throat, and advertising the fact at the start of almost every track is a recipe for getting you an A to the L backhander. Its right up there with having a track with rock guitars finding its way onto your tracklist. What the hell was going through his mind? “Hmmm, I need a trademark noise or phrase… let’s see, Master P had that ‘uuuuuuuunhggggng’ thing so I can’t do that… shouting ‘Just Blaze!’ at the start of my cuts is taken… Oh I got it! I’ll caw like a rabid crow – that’s what’s good! The street’ll eat it up!”
Rant over. For the duration of this review I will strive to keep the crow-hateration at bay.
Lets cover the basics first. Its seems that Jason did indeed listen a little to what people were telling him before he went in the studio this time – finally he does have some nice beats behind him – IN PLACES. However at many points throughout the album, the patchiness factor is still in effect, with some seriously below-par beats still making the final tracklist.
Opening with the Just Blaze-ish ‘What You So Mad At?’ is a nice move though – aimed at the clubs, this will definitely get the head moving, and at the same time introduce cats to Jada-over-decent-beats. Of course with such a club oriented cut, thought-provoking lyrics are at a minimum, but he still sparkles over the bouncy beat and spits some witty punchlines here and there as the track progresses.
The Jelly Roll-produced ‘Shine’ is a blantant bite of the ‘On The Boulevard’ Dre and Snoop cut from “The Wash” soundtack – identical sounds, identical sound effects, identical sounding hook, almost identical Snoop Dogg guest verse. DJ Quik also pops up to add additional West coast bounce, before Jada gets on the mic to show that he can ride an LA beat supremely by spitting cash-in-duffel bag rhymes that drip with New York flavour, and STILL make it sound tight.
The first stumble comes with ‘Bring You Down’ where Neo.com’s pedestrian beat, filled with stuttering chimes and a mind-numbingly boring hook produce a skip-button reaction by the end of Jada’s first verse. His other production joint on the album, ‘Air It Out’ is equally bland, and perfectly illustrates the problem of Jada’s lyrics dropped over anything but a slamming beat – the man barely exhibits any emotion in his voice, and its this lack of a spark that quickly renders his lyrics dull if they aren’t supported by decent boardwork.
Luckily Scott Storch, who is currently blowing up MANY a rapper with his sterling work behind the mixing desk, has no such difficults in finding hot beats for Jason. ‘Times Up’ features an uptempo track brimming with echoing pianos, and a haunting Nate Dogg hook, while ‘U Make Me Wanna’s’ swirling indian-styled synths mask the track’s harder edge. Unfortunately on this cut, it seems that someone felt the need to water the bare beat down, by dropping some syrupy Mariah Carey guest vocals all over the hook – change the chorus and this definitely works for me, but as it stands, don’t be surprised to see a video for this.
The track that has seen Jadakiss get so much props and so much flak at the same time, is the inspirational ‘Why’. Here he attacks many issues that afflict the black community and society at large and addresses current events in news and sports over a stunning Havoc beat, while Anthony Hamilton’s soulful voice provides a golden hook. The range of topics that ‘Kiss covers here is amazing – and its truly refreshing to see a mainstream rapper finally speak on some thorny issues. Of course the right-wing media has been quick to ignore every serious social comment in the song to jump all over the “Why did Bush knock down the towers line”, but that’s to be expected. For the rest of us saner individuals however, its easy for us to recognize a truly great Hiphop song, and this is definitely one.
“Yo, why is Jadakiss as hard as it gets?
Why is the industry designed to keep the artist in debt?
And why them dudes ain’t ridin’ if they’re part of your set?
And why they never get it poppin’ but they party to death?
Yea, and why they gon give you life for a murder?
Turn around only give you eight months for a burner, it’s goin down
Why they sellin’ niggaz CD’s for under a dime?
If it’s all love daddy why you come wit your nine?
Why my niggaz ain’t get that cake?
Why is a brother up North better than Jordan but ain’t get that break?”
This is definitely the high spot of the album. Next to this, tracks like the horrific ‘Hot Sauce To Go’ (where the Neptunes go to extreme lengths to prove that they ARE falling off); ‘Real Hiphop’ (where Swizz Beats’ goes all Superfly on the sample tip… and fails to produce listenable results, and where Sheek seeks to prove that yes, maybe he does handicap ‘Kiss when his lame lyrics are on the same track); and ‘Shoot Outs’ (where the slow track from Elite limps along lifelessly while ‘Kiss and Styles P spit unconvincing gangster rhymes); can’t possibly stand up.
And that seems to sum up much of “Kiss Of Death” once ‘Why’ finishes. Nothing comes close to touching that moment of brilliance, and its positioning on the album so close to the start is an extremely bad move. Even beats from heavyweights like the Alchemist (who’s signature sound on ‘Still Feel Me’ ends up sounding like a monotonous loop), and Kanye West (yes, ‘Gettin’ It In’ does indeed prove that Kayne To The’ IS spreading himself thin on the ground – ain’t overexposure a beeyatch?) cannot stand up to the Kiss / Hamilton / Havoc collab on track six. As for Eminem’s contribution on the mic and on the boards for ‘Welcome To D Block’ – the less said the better. In fact the only track that really does beg for repeated listening in the second half of the album, is the title cut where Red Spyda replicates his production success with G-Unit for Jadakiss with impressive results.
I’m amazed again by the amount of cats tossing praise at this album. Though not as skilled as Jay-Z, Jada suffers from the same problem as S Dot Carter (post-“Reasonable Doubt”) – he can’t make a cohesive album to save his life. In this day and age though, I suppose its not surprising to find people looking at this as something special when it has 5 decent tracks – most of today’s commercial emcees have only 1 or 2 tracks padded out by bullshit. However 5 from 18 tracks is not really a decent return. Perhaps that’s why ‘Kiss went the mixtape route and released the miles better “The Champ Is Here” mixtape in the same month that his official album dropped. For me at least though, the jury’s still out on Jada despite what popular opinion says. And as for the fucking crow sound (18 tracks – only 2 are crowless)? AK-47 is the tool…