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Jadakiss – Kiss of Death

Kiss of Death
Ruff Ryders/Interscope

Letthis be known from the jump: Listening to Jadakiss will not stamp yourticket to heaven. His second solo album offers little in the way ofsocial commentary, colorful storytelling, playful humor–all thehallmarks that make albums by your average God’s son or college dropoutcompelling. Straight outta Yonkers with a Lox/D-Block membership cardin his wallet, Jada’s an East Coast alpha male who deals exclusively inthreats and boasts, shifting gears only to flex a catalog-likeknowledge of guns, ammo, and fine automobiles. That said, he’s one ofthe four or five best MCs breathing.

He knows it too: “Fuckriding a beat, I parallel-park on the track.” With all due respect tothe recently “retired” Jay-Z, Jada is rap’s preeminent formalist: It’snot what he says, but how he says it. In a voice honed on Hennessy,Purple Haze weed, and (apparently) the occasional handful of metalshavings, the self-described “Gemini nigga with mood swings” punishesthis collection of top-shelf beats with surgical precision. Every linesnaps with menacing wit and morbid humor: “Are you a thug or a dummy?I’m neither / But I’ve been hot so long it feels like I got a fever.”

There’s a gloomy cloud hanging over this album in places(see the introspective “Still Feel Me”). And Jada’s veteranstanding–his trio the Lox hooked up with Bad Boy in the mid ’90s–hasgiven him a bit of perspective. “The Bible starting to make more senseto me,” he says at one point. But quality time spent with the Good Bookhas not dulled his edge: Jadakiss attacks these tracks witheyebrow-scorching energy. Over Scott Storch’s diet-Dre string stabs anda Nate Dogg hook (can you buy those at Target yet?), Jada proclaimshimself “in the hood like bootleg movies.” The Neptunes and Kanye Westcoax the clubgoer out of the ‘bow-thrower with “Hot Sauce to Go” and”Gettin’ It In,” respectively. But it gets no better than “Real HipHop,” where Swizz Beatz loops a Curtis Mayfield sample into a careeningroller coaster as Jada and his D-Block compatriot Sheek run punch-linerelay races. Enjoy the ride; if there’s a hell below, we’re all gonnago.

Grade: A-