(So while you two hold your breath wondering just how long it will take for Max to get to Life Is Good (let me spoil the surprise: I don't intend on the wait lasting for much longer), let's bring back the Reader Reviews with Taylor's take on the solo debut of The Lox's Jadakiss, Kiss Tha Game Goodbye, one of those albums that fell by the wayside during my hiatus (or refocus-ining, if we're into using words that aren't really words). Leave your notes for him below.)
Jadakiss is a name that many hip hop heads have heard before, both as one of the three rappers in the group The Lox (or The LOX, depending on your preference) and as an artist with a mixtape career which is, ironically, more successful then his actual solo career.
Before any of that happened, though, Jason Phillips was a hungry battle rapper who rhymed his ass off. His hard work resulted in an invitation to a rap battle competition in Florida, where he met the two guys behind Ruff Ryders (which was more of a movement than a label in those days). Shortly thereafter (and in rapid succession), he co-founded The Lox in 1994 (under the name “The Warlocks”) with fellow Yonkers natives Sheek Louch and Styles P, got signed to Puff Daddy's Bad Boy Records (thanks to an assist from fellow Yonkers native Mary J. Blige), split from Bad Boy Records after dropping one album (Money, Power, & Respect) due to massive creative differences, signed to Interscope, and dropped a sophomore group effort entitled We Are The Streets (nearly all of it was produced by fellow Ruff Ryder Swizz Beatz). The rest, as they say, is history.
Let me cop to the slightly lazy recapping of The Lox's history up to this point. In case you couldn't tell, I am not much of a Lox fanatic (or historian, for that matter), but I did buy Kiss Tha Game Goodbye, the debut solo album from Jadakiss, based on curiosity alone. Kiss has one of the most distinctive voices of all time, and he does know his way around the hip hop kettle (also, he did sound pretty good on the majority of We Are The Streets), which is probably why he was the first of the trio to land a solo deal. Repeated listening to the Alchemist-produced single “We're Gonna to Make It” furthered that belief.
Of course, that was my opinion before I, you know, actually listened to the album. After it hit store shelves, interest in Kiss tapered off; even with his choice of A-list producers (Kiss somehow scored beats from DJ Premier, Timbaland, Just Blaze, and The Neptunes, in addition to the aforementioned Alchemist and the at-the-time-ubiquitous Swizz Beatz), nobody really wanted to hear the man rhyming by himself. I remember an interview shortly after Kiss Tha Game Goodbye dropped where Jadakiss blamed the quality of the project on some sore of contractual obligation Puff Daddy forced him into during The Lox's short tenure on Bad Boy.
Considering the fact that Kiss Tha Game Goodbye was released without any apparent Bad Boy involvement (aside from a guest and some production work), I wonder just how true this claim is.
This is somehow more pretentious than the usual rap album intros.
2. JADA'S GOT A GUN (FEAT. E. MCCAINE & ANTOINE STANTON)
Ooohhh, Jada's got a gun. I'm soooo scared. I'm currently pissing myself in fear as I'm listening to this song. Why didn't I just turn it off, you ask? Just so I could make it crystal clear to those reading that this song sucks.
3. SHOW DISCIPLINE (FEAT. NAS)
Jadakiss and Nas (hey, look, there he is!) seem like they should be a versatile, volatile combination, but that doesn't come to fruition here (or ever, really); while Jadakiss is more than capable of holding his own, he never really sounds confident enough over this Mahogany concoction, one which isn't as menacing as it could have been. As for our guest, Nas manages to best Jadakiss without even really trying, feeling more at home then our own host. Perhaps had this been a Nas song with a Jadakiss cameo, I may have liked this one more, but as it stands, “Show Discipline” fails to live up to anybody's expectations. Also, the chorus is really really bad.
4. KNOCK YOURSELF OUT (FEAT. PHARRELL)
The beginning of the working relationship between Jadakiss and The Neptunes (well, mostly just Pharrell Williams, but you get the idea), one which never turned out to be as wonderful as everyone expected it to be. The main fault of this “Knock Yourself Out” has to be the beat, which to me seems really, really annoying: even Kiss doesn't know how to handle himself on this song, choosing instead to spit on autopilot. I understand that this was one of the singles from Kiss Tha Game Goodbye (not a very successful one, though), but I honestly have no real recollection of ever hearing it outside of the album's context. (True fact: the instrumental for “Knock Yourself Out” was one reused by The Neptunes after the Clipse's aborted first debut album Exclusive Audio Footage was locked away in the vaults. Not that (No) Malice and the artist formerly known as Terrar (currently doing business as Pusha T) did any better with it, mind you: go check out the Clipse's “Hear Me Out” on YouTube and leave your thoughts below. If you care about that sort of thing, anyway.)
5. WE GONNA MAKE IT (FEAT. STYLES P)
Infamously known as the track with the beat The Alchemist somehow sold to both Ras Kass and Jadakiss (as the result of some shady business practices, to hear Rassy tell it back in the day). I liked this track when it first came out, and in listening to it today I realize that I still do, but not nearly to the same extent. Don't get me wrong: this is still a good song, but the track's moment has long since passed, and any impact it once had has been deflated. Jadakiss and Lox partner Styles P do well with their back-and-forth routine, complementing each other like peanut butter does with jelly, but even though they sound okay on here, they can't hide the fact that “We Gonna Make It” doesn't hold up over time.
6. NONE OF Y'ALL BETTER (FEAT. SHEEK LOUCH & STYLES P)
The first of a number of posse cuts that tend to appear on nearly every Lox member's solo album output. DJ Premier (who helmed “Recognize” from We Are The Streets) returns to produce and he does not disappoint: in fact, he breaks out all the stops and manages to create the best track on the project thus far. A haunting boom-bap instrumental (and a hook made up of the perfect selection of scratched-in sound bites) supplies the perfect backdrop for The Warlocks to spit their crime tales, one they do not take for granted, as all three artists rip the beat to shreds. I don't think there was even a weak link to this song. (Okay, if pressed, I'll say it was Styles P.) While it may not be as good as “Recognize” was, it's pretty close, and hey, who doesn't enjoy anything produced by DJ Premier? (Apparently I don't, if you misinterpret what I wrote in the comment section for The Alchemist's Russian Roulette, but I digress.)
7. STICK YOURSELF (SKIT) (FEAT. BIG WILL, CROSS, & ICEPICK)
8. I'M A GANGSTA (FEAT. PARLÉ)
No, you're really not. After that last song, I was hoping things would turn around, but instead we're presented with this exercise in monotony. It's hard to even decide if what Jadakiss was spitting on here was good or bad, thanks to the godawful beat and the godawful chorus. If you were one of the lucky ones who have discovered the skip button, please feel free to use that instead of listening to this garbage.
9. NASTY GIRL (FEAT. CARL THOMAS)
Oh look, Carl Thomas, one of Puff Daddy's stable of R&B singers, appears on this track. Well, that certainly gives more credence to the claim that a Bad Boy Records contract influenced the recording of Kiss ThaGame Goodbye. But not by much. Oh, the song? Well, it's nothing that special, as Timbaland provides one of his weaker beats while Kiss dedicates a generic ode to all of the “nasty girls” around his way. Nothing to see here; move along.
10. PUT YA HANDS UP
11. JAY JERKIN' (SKIT) (FEAT. THE LOX)
The sequel to “Rape'n U Records”, a skit which appeared on We Are The Streets that, to be honest, I kind of liked, seeing as how it was relevant to what The Lox were going through at the time, since, let's be clear, they did get somewhat fucked over by Puff Daddy. Also, I thought it was funny. This second installment, however, is unnecessary, as it pretty much kills the joke and does nothing to move the story forward. Obviously, I think this skit sucks, but I'm pretty sure that most readers will wonder why I wrote this many words about a skit in the first place.
12. ON MY WAY (FEAT. SWIZZ BEATZ)
Swizz Beatz provides one of his patented works of “music” (edited from Taylor's original “Muzak”, which I altered because I felt that was insulting to Muzak) while Jadakiss does his best with what he has been given. The result? Something that most people wouldn't care about even if Swizzy held a gun to your head and forced you to listen to the thing.
13. CRUISIN' (FEAT. SNOOP DOGG, O.D., & RITA)
Not as bad as its intro suggests, but it still manages to feel quite generic, rendering Jada's rhymes inconsequential, despite the fact that said rhymes are among the best this project has to offer. Snoop Dogg is so nonessential to this track that I'm sure even Jadakiss was surprised to learn that he appeared on the final cut of this track.
14. KISS IS SPITTIN' (FEAT. NATE DOGG & MASHONDA)
Like Warren G.'s “Regulate”, except five times as derivative and one hundred percent less entertaining.
15. FUCKIN' OR WHAT?
On one hand I want to fuck, but on the other, I really really don't. Can someone help me out here?
16. IT'S TIME I SEE YOU (FEAT. INFA-RED, CROSS, DRAG-ON, EVE, SHEEK LOUCH & STYLES P)
The requisite Ruff Ryders posse cut, featuring more of the family this time around. For a posse cut, this was alright, but I fail to see the long-lasting appeal of this, especially when three of the contributors aren't all that well-known. (I assume Taylor's including Drag-On in that assessment, but for me (and others like myself), that guy will always be known as the rapper who sounded like Cam'Ron when we already fucking had a Cam'Ron to kick around.) All of the artists appear competent enough to hold their own, but the track won't entertain anyone who is outside of the core faction of Ruff Ryders fanatics who still exist. Also, the fact that a Ruff Ryders posse cut appeared on what was allegedly a Bad Boy contractual obligation surprises me: if he had such a hand in the making of the project, why would Puff Daddy seemingly allow Jadakiss to make many of his own choices? Why doesn't Kiss Tha Game Goodbye sound more like, well, like Puff Daddy?
17. WHAT YOU RIDE FOR? (FEAT. 8BALL, YUNG WUN & FIEND)
I don't know. I was hoping you four would be telling me.
18. UH-HUNH! (FEAT. DMX)
Sounds more like a DMX song than a Jadakiss track, which is evident when you first listen to it. The beat is particularly menacing, and fellow Ruff Ryder Earl Simmons fits right in, delivering what are unquestionably the best verses on this song. Which is unfortunate for Jadakiss, who comes across as out of sorts and even confused at times. As a result, he treats this as just another day at the office, speeding through this track just so he can get to the next song that much quicker. I wouldn't be surprised if this was a originally supposed to be a DMX song featuring Jadakiss, but since it appears on a Jadakiss album, we have to focus on our star attraction, and so far he has been disappointing as shit.
19. FEEL ME (SKIT)
More of a rapping interlude than a skit. Jadakiss raps his heart out over an Alchemist instrumental, one you can actually (pun notwithstanding) feel him on. It's a shame that this wasn't longer, but I suppose two minutes is more than enough time for Jadakiss to get his point across.
20. KEEP YA HEAD UP (FEAT. ANN NESBY)
During the introduction Jadakiss tells a kid that everything could be worse, ironically leading into the actual song, where he proves the kid right by turning in a track that is much worse than what any of us could have ever imagined. Guest singer Ann Nesby (who has done some good work in the past) is wasted, which is a shame, as she really deserved better then to sing on this Bad Boy abomination of a song (it was co-produced by Chucky Thompson, one of Puffy's Hitmen). Kiss spits some rhymes and stuff on here, but you'll never know it, since everybody else who started listening to this track quickly shut it off a quarter of the way through in order to stave off brain damage brought on by the song's shitty quality. True story.
21. CHARGE IT (SKIT) (FEAT. CHEP & GAB)
A five minute skit? Are you freaking kidding me Jadakiss? Did you want people to suffer? I'm sure Jada's a nice guy, but choosing to end his debut album with a five-minute makes him come across as kind of a dick.
FINAL THOUGHTS: KissTha Game Goodbye is a disappointing debut from a rapper who most people claim to be exceptionally good, even though he has yet to really prove himself as such. On his debut, Jadakiss targets the pop crowd while including some throwaway joints for the streets, and the results are less than impressive, as a lot of the production sucks balls and Kiss doesn't feel confident about most of his surroundings. People who choose to listen to Jadakiss expect him to spit over hard beats that don't scream out “mainstream” in any way, the kind of stuff that hits you like a hammer in the back of the skull with its “I'm from New York, I'm from the streets, and if you don't like that, fuck you!” aesthetic; people don't expect the kind of shit that Kiss Tha Game Goodbye actually consists of. I don't know or care if Puff Daddy had any say in the direction of this project, but I don't understand why artists feel the need to lie to cover up their failures: just own it and move on (lest you wind up like Canibus, a guy who has yet to accept any blame for his flailing “career”, and yes, I realize that I just invited Canibus's stans to come out of the woodwork, so have at it). Regardless, the mere fact that Jadakiss chooses to distance himself from this project says a lot.
BUY OR BURN: You absolutely should not buy this. There is one good track, though, so just download that and call it a night.
BEST TRACKS: “None of Y'all Better”
(Questions? Comments? Angry threats? Leave them in the comment section.)