It has been six years since we got to hear the iconic “A-Haaaa” ad-lib on a major project coming from Yonker’s own Jadakiss; of course, he held us over earlier in the year with the #FridayMorningMassacre series, but we are talking from an album perspective rather than just mixtape tracks. The Last Kiss was just that, the last time we heard what Kiss had to musically offer on a major scale. Although the project had a few solid tracks, it was met with a meager response from his audience. — to say it pleasantly— It wasn’t what life-long Jada fans were expecting at all.
In this new era, Jadakiss has had an issue where he either wants to stick to his hard, lyrical driven tracks, or conform to the more live, trap-like songs. His first two albums Kiss Tha Game Goodbye and Kiss of Death are exceptions to this dilemma. His last album The Last Kiss is a perfect example of this internal struggle; it’s like he wants to make the music that has made him a rap legend, but at the same token he wants to blend in with the sonics of the time. The question is, does his new project Top 5 Dead or Alive follow the same suit of “Album Personality Disorder”, or does Mr. Raspy deliver the body of work that his fans have been waiting for?
The intro “First 48” serves as the perfect entrance into the Top 5 DOA domain; Montega Jada offers a formal introduction to his audience as well as a thank you for the purchase. He even thanks all the bootleggers out there who downloaded the album for free, but what follows is what’s the most important asset in Jada’s arsenal- BARS.
“I’m getting better every week / and I don’t talk too much, the longevity will speak.”, Jada asserts as he talks that slick braggadocio talk that he has made a living off of. The album follows the theme that Jada is just what the project’s title says: a Top 5 Dead or Alive MC. There are a number of tracks on this album that verify that notion to an extreme degree, and we’ll get to those in a bit.
Throughout the project, you hear skits such as “Shop Talk” which is meant to set the aesthetic to where these types of discussions occur—in the barbershops, on the block, et cetera. Also you hear whispers sprinkled throughout the tracks saying “Top 5” in a soft tone, as if Kiss is trying to effectively train your mind to believe that he is just that by the end of the project.
Following the intro, we hear “You Don’t Eat”: a track with hard drums and an infectious sample that exhibits some of Diddy’s now infamous motivational monologues. “If you don’t hustle, you don’t eat. Hustle harder.”, Diddy exclaims at the beginning of the track. This song strengthens the fact that Jadakiss is in his pocket and is very comfortable with where he is bringing us along in this journey. Songs that follow this same pattern are “Y.O.(Youthful Offenders)”, “Ain’t Nothin New”, “Rain”, “Man in the Mirror”, and “Synergy”, to name a few. These tracks exemplify exactly why Jadakiss is an OG in the game and why he has lasted for so long. They are tracks where he shines in every aspect because he is—once again— comfortable in his musical setting. This batch of songs is also where he talks real shit, spitting bars about life and motivational aspects of everyday situations; the kind of material that his fans love to hear. Taxstone once said that you could probably raise a kid in New York City just off of Jadakiss bars, and he is absolutely correct; that’s exactly the type of material he gives us with these songs.
The feeling that is established in tat group of songs suddenly disappears with the song “You Can See” featuring Future. This track echoes the point that was made at the beginning of this review, that Jada is trying to blend his sound with the sonics of the present time. He does his thing lyrically, of course, but it seems out of place with the other more serious, unapologetically hip-hop songs on the album. The same can be said for the Bangladesh produced and Weezy assisted “Kill”; Lil Wayne says, “she a Cancer, I hit her with that chemo dick…”, we collectively roll our eyes and press the skip button without hesitation. Swizz Beatz lends a hand on the track “Jason”, but he places that hand over the flame, effectively dimming it via his lackluster hook. One hundred praises to Swizz and all that he’s done in hip-hop, but he doesn’t need to jump on these types of hooks anymore. Minus that factor, it’s another dark, piano chord driven track that Jada tears up effortlessly.
Songs such as “Critical” featuring Jeezy,
Overall, we should be glad that Jadakiss came back on the scene with a fresh hairline, some good music, and a durag in his back pocket. Top 5 Dead or Alive serves as a message to the public that Kiss is still out here and he can deliver a solid project full of bars and meaning, even if he’s underrated for the caliber of MC he truly is. There are some misses on the album, but the strengths outweigh those weaknesses, making this a strong statement to the industry and the nay-sayers. Jadakiss sounds more in-tune with the type of artist he is on this project, and the streets will be happy for that fact.
Standout Tracks: “Rain”, “Y.O.”, “Synergy”
Skippable Tracks: “You Can See”, “Kill”