It's been six years since Jadakiss released a full-length solo album, 2009's The Last Kiss. However, the Yonkers MC maintained his relevance with his Freestyle Friday installments, four mixtapes, and collaborating with a new generation of rappers such as Meek Mill, Tyga, Chief Keef, and Bobby Shmurda. Now, Mr. Raspy himself has returned with his long-awaited new album, Top 5 Dead or Alive.
Overall, it's a gritty album with some dope lyricism. Unfortunately, weak production, labored hooks, and unimpressive skits bring the album down as a whole. The strongest tracks in my opinion are "Y.O. (Youthful Offenders)" (featuring Akon), "Synergy" (featuring Styles P), "Man In The Mirror," "Ain't Nothin New" (featuring Ne-Yo & Nipsey Hussle), "Kill" (featuring Lil Wayne), "So High" (featuring Wiz Khalifa), "Rain" (featuring Nas & Styles P), and "One More Mile To Go."
The album features production from fellow Ruff Ryders cohort Swizz Beatz, as well as Just Blaze, Akon, Bangladesh, Scram Jones, Ty Fyffe, and many others. As far as featured artists, he enlisted lots of big names. In addition to those listed above, we hear P. Diddy, Future, Young Jeezy, Young Buck, and Sheek Louch.
"Synergy," produced by Just Blaze and featuring Kiss' childhood friend and long-time collaborator Styles P, displays both rappers performing their classic in-and-out flow throughout the entire song. For fans of The LOX, a track like this completes the album due to Jada and Styles history of using that style.
"One More Mile To Go" is definitely a favorite of mine. Apparently, I'm a sucker for anthemic beats equipped with deep verses and pop-influenced hooks. The track, which features singer Chayse, is an inspirational cut driven by the theme of motivation, determination, encouragement, and trudging through hard times. He raps in the second verse:
First the depression kicks in, then you get animal-like
Hate can turn to motivation if you channel it right
Its like you at a seminar, on the panel of life
If you don't reach the destination they don't hand you your stripes
And the work is just keeping my name alive more
All I'm tryna do is finish the game with a high-score
I done laughed and cried and then laughed and cried more
And I know what I want, so don't ask cause I'm sure
When asked in his HOT 97 Interview why he took so long to complete the record, Jadakiss responded:
I had twins. I had to get my team right, my internet, my digital savvy up. I had to cross some T's and dot some I's with Def Jam. Just had to absorb some things and we here. It'll never be that kind of gap again. I understand with the climate of music now, they want more content, they want more music, they want more break-dancing, they just want more so that's what we're gonna do.
Quick fun fact: The title of the album derived from a line he rapped on the remix to Nas' 2002 single "Made You Look." Jada rapped, "I'm top 5 dead or alive and that's just off one LP (2001's Kiss Tha Game Goodbye)." After the song gained popularity, "top 5 dead or alive" became an alias for Kiss.
Jadakiss has yet again released another solid album with great lyrical content but there is room for some criticism. The song "Man In The Mirror" is lyrically one of the best tracks on the record. However, the hook and production are not as strong as the verses. A lively, soulful beat with a melodic hook would have complemented the lyrics perfectly.
With another project under his belt, where does Jadakiss stand in your top 5 list? Even though he's only on his 4th solo album, he stayed relevant with dozens of features, mixtapes, and his work with his Yonkers-based group The LOX. He stated in his Sway in the Morning interview:
When I'm making music, I want it to be like a Sunday soul food dinner. Greens, yams, (mac and cheese), I want it to be all of that with dessert and a nice cup of half-and-half iced tea lemonade. I try to get all of that and make a marriage of what I love and what's going on now and season it well with everybody so y'all can enjoy the entree.
You may ask if Jadakiss is "Top 5 Dead or Alive" in my book. Now, I've always loved Kiss's rhymes but he doesn't quite make the cut, simply because Nas, Eminem, AZ, 2Pac, and Jay-Z occupy my "Top 5" slots. It's great to see that Jada is back with a new studio album, but a few flaws stop Top 5 Dead or Alive from being the great project it could have been, which might have helped elevate his status. An upside to this album is the open discussion it's spurred about who stands in your "Top 5 best rappers" list and why they deserve to be there.
For more music, news, videos, and tour dates from Jadakiss, visit his Zumic artist page.