“I Am Top 5 Dead Or Alive”
Jadakiss spends the majority of his fourth LP in ‘cruise control’, doing just enough to let listeners know that he’s not washed up, but never fully committing to spitting at the level it takes to be considered Top 5.
“Fresher than a young nigga, mind of an OG”
When Jadakiss penned that line in the album’s intro (one of the standout tracks) I’m sure he was trying to make some profound statement about striking the coveted balance between ‘originator’ and ‘innovator’. It did foreshadow what was to come in the album, but not in the way he might have hoped…
Instead we hear a rapper who is struggling to find his identity within the game’s ever-changing landscape. On several tracks Kiss succumbs to played-out narratives, like turning to hip-hop’s resident hook-maker Future for the very lackluster radio single “You Can See”, or teaming up with Wiz Khalifa on the ode to weed ‘So High’… very original Jada.
Unfortunately a careless use of features is a recurring theme on this project. Lil Wayne’s run of shoddy output post Carter IV continues on the track ‘Kill’, with the Young Money MC screaming his way through another below-par verse.
When Kiss isn’t shamelessly cheapening his craft in search of filler material for his album, he’s spitting the gutter Yonkers’ ish that has won him many admirers over the years. Jadakiss is one of the few MC’s blessed with an unnerving ability to make life’s most gruesome occurrences sound oh so beautiful- an ability which is best showcased on the menacing Swizz Beatz produced track ‘Jason‘.
“Bullets soaking in pine, let it open your spine, use your brain a lil my nigga open your mind”… poetic isn’t it?
Why Couldn’t You Rap Like This The Whole Album? With the exception of a few songs, it takes rhyming with his 90’s contemporaries (e.g. Nas) to truly bring out the best in Kiss. It’s almost as if he needs a challenge to stay interested in his own album.
On the album’s centerpiece “Synergy”, we hear Kiss and fellow LOX member Styles P effortlessly trading bars in a style reminiscent of their 2001 classic “We Gon Make It” (featuring Eve). The song serves as an example of veteran MCs sticking to a ‘tried-and-tested’ sound whilst avoiding the trap of sounding dated. It’s one of few finer moments scattered around T5DOA where Kiss genuinely pushes himself to rap like we all know he can.
Don’t Skip The Skits. Shaky track-listing aside, you can always count on Jadakiss to come through with some memorable skits, in particular the “Shop Talk – Skit” where we hear a discussion taking place at a barbershop, seemingly about Jadakiss’ position as a Top 5 rapper. On the skit, one of the men states that “he can’t just do it off of bars that shit is not gonna work no more”. It’s a moment of self-reflection where Jadakiss acknowledges that two decades of being consistent on features, remixes and mixtapes may never be enough to stake a serious claim at being Top 5 Dead Or Alive.
T5DOA exposes Jadakiss’ fundamental inability to put together an album which does his lyrical prowess justice. Thus ensuring Jadakiss will probably only ever be a peripheral figure in the Top 5 DOA discussion.
Overall Rating: 5/10
Tracks To Listen Out For: First 48 (Intro), Synergy (featuring Styles P), Rain (featuring Nas), Jason (featuring Swizz Beatz)
Did You Like T5DOA? Where Does Jadakiss Rank On Your All-Time List? Is He In Your Top 5 Rappers?
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