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Ruff Ryder

Jadakiss Affirms His Legacy on 'Top 5 Dead Or Alive'

Music ReviewSean McHughComment

The Internet’s pervasive nature has helped society in countless ways. One “helpful” new bit of knowledge is that we as human beings seem to love lists. People waste countless hours insouciantly arguing and spewing vitriol in defense of their beliefs on which grumpy cat has the funniest ugly Christmas sweater (I died when I saw #8!!!).

So as one might imagine when Billboard released their “10 Greatest Rappers of All Time” in early November, there were the given masses that disagreed with how certain “locks” were left off the list. Granted, there was sure to have been plenty of politicking amongst the Billboard staff on which rapper included might cause the most pushback amongst readers (looking at you Kendrick), but perhaps the publication’s biggest blunder was the exclusion of the original Ruff Ryder of hip hop, Jadakiss.

Whether or not Jadakiss had any actual knowledge of Billboard’s inconsiderate omission of his body of work to the list is certainly in question. Luckily, Jada has taken it upon himself to inform the masses that there’s no need for his inclusion in a “Top 10” article because he’s released his self-asserting and all-time affirming, Top 5 Dead or Alive.

T5DOA serves as Jada’s fourth solo album, and his first since 2009’s The Last Kiss, though Jada has released a mixtape and a handful of singles during his six-year major release hiatus. After little to no prodding from 105.1 FM’s The Breakfast Club, Jada claimed that T5DOA was “something to enjoy your holiday festivities, your Thanksgiving, your Black Friday shopping, get into your Christmas feeling… all the way to Easter.” Jada continues to share his inspiration in the interview, stating that his inspiration for the album came stemmed from his time in the '90s, coming up with Notorious B.I.G, Nas, Eminem, and the fact that those “greats” had shown him proper respect as peers.  

Jadakiss showcases his verbal versatility on T5DOA, with little to no need for the theatrics and histrionics purveyed by today’s other popular hip-hop artists. The first track, “First 48,” is a beautiful narrative from an emcee opining about his hip hop prowess with lines like “They love to hear the don speak / That’s because the dialogue ain’t within arm’s reach,” further asserting his place on the Mount Rushmore of rappers.

T5DOA is set up like an old-school hip-hop record, with skits popping up intermittently throughout, but features the brazen bravado that’s become so popularized by the likes of Drake and Kanye West. The album is a departure for Jada, with some particularly uncharacteristic beats that force Jada to stretch his lyrical musings in more involved manners. “You Can See,” featuring Future is equal parts trap music and classic Jada bars that carries one of the original Ruff Ryders into the modern age of hip-hop.

The features on T5DOA further cement Jadakiss’ versatile foray into the modern hip-hop canon. Artists like Future, Diddy, Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, Styles P, and Jeezy seem to span the spectrum of 2000s hip-hop standards, with Jada continually bringing the fire. Each feature shows some sort of new vein of Jada’s classic flow and cadences, “Ain’t Nothin’ New” feels more like a Ne-Yo or Nipsey Hustle track that happens to feature Jadakiss, rather than 48 bars from Jada with a harried chorus thrown together by the other two.

Ruff Ryder fans can rejoice as well, though there is no full-blown reunion track, Styles P and Sheek Louch both feature on the album. “Synergy” featuring Styles P is one of the albums throwback tracks, with Jada and P exchanging verbal couplets over a Just Blaze beat. “Realest in the Game,” featuring Young Buck and Sheek Louch is perhaps the most aggressive track on the album, with Buck, Sheek, and Jada all assessing their streetwise power; think 2005 G-Unit (Young Buck).

Granted, Jadakiss has never quite experienced the same Top 40 success as his other rap counterparts, but he always managed to carve out his own sort of “street life trepidations” and was never really challenged. That is not the case in T5DOA. Jadakiss may be the closest thing to a “rapper’s rapper,” and T5DOA serves as Jada’s self-celebratory, cocky assertion of his staying power in the rap game, having managed to come out with another “banger” after six years of top line silence.