Jadakiss has been calling himself “top five dead or alive” for some time now. The funny thing about it is, nobody in hip hop has challenged him. Nobody even questions it. Fans and peers alike are all aware of the talent possessed by the Yonkers, New York representative. He has mastered the “slick talk” as a rapper and his punchlines are among some of the most quotable in hip hop history. Still. . . there has always been a question with Jada: “Why isn’t he bigger than he is?” It’s a valid question and it’s usually answered with a shake of the head accompanied by a response like “He’s too hood.” It might be a cop out answer, but there is some truth to it. There is not a rapper from the old school or new school, who would (or should) test Jada on the mic. This is why he has anointed himself as “Top Five D.O.A.”
Jadakiss’ theme is simple: He’s better than you and he challenges your street cred to match his. On “First 48” he sets the tone for what’s to come over a soulful sample laid out by Ty Fiffe: “Yea they love to hear the don speak/That’s because my dialog ain’t in arms reach/Nah, I ain’t with the coward ‘ish/First the skinny jeans, now they wearin’ blouses/ Don’t ever confuse wireless for powerless.”
Swizz Beatz reunites with his Ruff Ryders brethern on “You Don’t Eat” and “Jason.” Both tracks give Jada’s raspy tone a nice back drop as Swizz has never lost touch with his street-production. “You Don’t Eat” shows Jadakiss in his usual defiant nature, telling people how he is a legend in the game, and has been looked over for unknown reasons. Jada has a way of sounding aggressive on tracks without having to get rowdy and still be able to throw in a slick bar here and there “I put an end to you I save all the small talk for the interludes.” It’s true mark of an O.G. – of the rap game and the street. “Jason” has some layers and depth to it although the intro verse by Swizz is a bit out of place. . . Jadakiss touches on the violence in communities today, especially from police towards minorities (Kiss cleverly utters “I can’t breathe” over the hook of the song in ode to Eric Garner.) The song isn’t a shot towards the police, it’s more a message to the listener as in – you have to protect yourself and better your pride because nothing is promised and there are people who are plotting on your demise. Even if the path chosen is one that is frowned upon.
On “Y.O.” you can picture Jadakiss on a corner talking to the younger cats on his block, schooling them on the harsh realities of what a life on the streets can lead to: “learned how to clap before he knew how to stack/ now he doing thirty something years in the max. . . Drop on the jux you can give him a quick call/But kicking it with him is like talking to a brick wall/Comes from a good fam so his books stay right/He only 23 he got a chance to see daylight.”
Jada flexes hard on “You Can See” which features Future on the hook: “Top 5 DOA, niggas know he don’t play/I can sell a ki a day, guess it’s in my DNA/Comfortable with being at the top, that’s where he gon’ stay. .. I’m the general of the block, I’m a lead the way/Either way, call me Paul – as long as Peter pay.” Jadakiss has an undeniable truth to his diction and one can easily tell by how easily the street metaphors and lingo flow out of him, that he’s a man who lives by what he says.
The album takes a few steps back with the boring “Man in the Mirror” and the disappointing appearances by LOX member Styles P on “Rain” and “Synergy.” It might not even be the fault of Styles, the beat on “Rain” is nothing more than a loop with some nonsensical noise in the hook while the beat to “Synergy” is actually over powering. It’s tough to make out what either rapper is saying as the highs in the beat are almost screeching, never making it an easy listen. Lil Wayne appears on “Kill” but the song would’ve been better off as just a Jadakiss solo because the apparent decline of Weezy is evident. . .
There are other collaborations on the album that actually don’t fall flat. “So High” is Jada’s “weed song” on this album and who else to feature on that topic than Wiz Khalifa who fits on the track perfectly and actually balances out the song well with Jadakiss. “Realest in the Game” features Sheek Louch and Young Buck and the only issue with the song is trying to figure out which of them bodied the track best.
Kiss has been pretty consistent in dropping albums, but he ends this one the best with “One More Mile to Go.” Here Jada is telling listeners to simply never give up and fight off feelings of self-doubt. He spits bars that anyone can relate to : “Ain’t scared to die, but you thinking ’bout a coffin/And quitting ain’t an option but you think about it often/Saying to yourself, how this ain’t fair/You got the strength but the energy, just ain’t there.”
It’s fitting that Jadakiss ends this album talking about perseverance because that’s been a key component in his life and career. Top five dead or alive is a high claim but one that hasn’t been argued – at least not to his face and Jadakiss gives people a lot of reasons to not argue it. . . or get in his face.