He might not have touched as much paper as rap's other heavyweights, but ask any true hip-hop fan about Jadakiss, and you'll probably get similar answers. Top 5 Dead Or Alive? Sure, it's debatable, but for 'Kiss to even be mentioned in the long-argued conversation after all these years shows how much clout he holds.
See, it's been 5 years since Jada dropped a solo album, and 9 years since his group The LOX put one out. But after signing a new deal with Roc-A-fella/Def Jam, he's hoping that his forthcoming third album The Last Kiss will solidify his legacy. With the LP dropping March 10, we spoke to Y-O's finest about working with Jay-Z, surviving 50 Cent, the best New York rappers under the age of 30, and why he really does mess with the Internet bloggers...
By Joe La Puma
Complex: Talk about the new album. Did you feel a little more pressure since you haven't put out a solo album in five years?
Jadakiss: Nah, I ain't really feel no pressure for the album. There's a little pressure because of how the game is changing, and all the digital technology, and how finicky the fans ears are. I'm just a blessed person, just to get love in general. Of course this album is going to be different than my other two because there was much more money spent. The computer thing is sort of trickery, so it's really not even the music. If you make good music, they believe in you, but you have to have your websites poppin', you got to be on these blogs, you got to be at all these types of events. You got to be everywhere, and doing everything, and the more they see and hear you, the more chance you have at success.
Complex: The album's original title was Kiss My Ass. Did the label make you change that to something a little more Wal Mart friendly?
Jadakiss: The label would have left it at Kiss My Ass and let it sell five units if that's what I wanted to do, but from a business point, business man aspect of it, that wasn't smart. People loved it, hardcore hip-hop fans and genuine fans that have been following me loved the idea of that title, but just the fact that Circuit City is closing, Virgin Megastore is closing, there's not too many outlets where you can even get CDs, so to limit my joint to two of the biggest retail stores, I would have been an asshole.
Jadakiss: So I decided to make the mixtape with Green Lantern. I teamed back up with Green to make the mixtape that's going to come out on February 10 called Kiss My Ass, and the album will come out March 10, The Last Kiss. So I still covered my grounds.
Complex: So how's it been like joining Roc-A-Fella? Is there any camaraderie there like there was back in the Dynasty days, or is it more like just a division of Def Jam now?
Jadakiss: It's a little bit of both. But the Hov factor is always a plus, having some affiliation with someone that successful. But as far as the music tip, I ain't a new artist, I'm good in the studio, I don't need somebody to hold my hand in the studio. I don't even really want them all over my album or anything like that. That's why you might hear him or you might not. 'Cause then you have people saying you went over there to do this. Nah, I can stand on my own, even if I was on MC Hammer's label.
Complex: How does Hov as an executive compare to Puff, or Dee and Wah?
Jadakiss: Dee and Wah are like my family, there's different conversations that I would have with them than I would with Jay or Puff. Jay is cool though, he's an artist so he understands more, he comes from the same vision, the same point of view. Dee and Wah ain't artists, and Puffy is a producer. Well, Puffy is a dancer-turned-producer-turned artist. Hov is mainly an artist that turned into an entrepreneur so he knows where I'm coming from.
Complex: After Fabolous and Ghostface, you're the third Def Jam rapper from New York to have a lead single with Ne-Yo. Has this become Def Jam's go-to formula, or are all New York rappers just big fans of Ne-Yo?
Jadakiss: I'm a Ne-Yo fan. That's the truth, and it's hard out here for a pimp! It's so much different from back in the day to get features. The bullshit you have to go through, it's not even worth calling anybody. My next album, I don't think there's going to be any features, due to all of the bullshit. I'm not used to that. When I came in the game, I'd get on everyone's track. I was really trying to get Maxwell on my joint, but the timing kept being off.
Complex: What's the deal with the new LOX album?
Jadakiss: I'm trying to get that to you no later than July. We did some recording, had some meetings, and I'm trying to set it off with this Last Kiss project'keep everyone's ears up and then blast you off with it. We actually have a D-Block compilation that's going to come out the end of April, middle of May, called No Security, as a KOCH release. The LOX album will come out on Interscope.
Complex: You said in "Letter To B.I.G" that you're tighter with Puff. How has your relationship improved?
Jadakiss: You get tighter as you grow. I've kicked it with him in the studio and talked about life in general, not just music. This was after the bullshit, the big publishing argument on the radio. I don't know what made us get tight, I guess time heals all wounds. Not for nothing, I learned a lot about the game from Diddy, despite whatever happened with us, however it turned out. We [The LOX] had some of our greatest times in the world with him.
Complex: What song was more important for you to write, "Letter to B.I.G" or "Why"?
Jadakiss: That's a funny question, because they were both important at different times. When I wrote "Why?" we were in a state of confusion. Like, waking up in bed and seeing those planes go through the towers, all I could think of is, Why? It hit so hard because a lot of people felt the same way. With "Letter To B.I.G.," I had that song done months prior to them even starting to shoot the movie. I made that for my album, but [because] of Notorious, I used it as a marketing tool to let people know the album was coming.
Complex: Were you happy with the movie? How accurate would you say it was?
Jadakiss: 75 percent, and that's coming from D-Roc, BIG's right hand man. It was an unsolved murder so they had to make it somewhat fictional. There are some scenes in the movie that I was actually there in real life, and I got goosebumps. I kept thinking to myself that I was going to see myself. And I'm happy with that. But it doesn't even matter if I'm happy with the movie, it's about if his mother is happy, and Wayne Barrow, and Mark Pitts, and his family and loved ones are cool with it. If they're cool with it, then I'm cool with it.
Complex: In our interview with you last year, you spoke about your fashion sense, saying that you're tightening things up a little bit...
Jadakiss: Don't get me wrong with that. I have kids, I'm a grown man. I don't sag as much, but I still need a belt with my pants. I'm not trying to go in the direction where you can read the faces of the coins I have in my pocket, but I'm not trying to be sloppy. When it comes to kicks, I do Supra a little bit, I'm looking for an all-black pair. I do dunks, but I'm mostly an Air Force One and Jordan guy.
Complex: You spit "I really don't mess with the internet bloggers..." but from our conversation, it seems like you're aware of how important the internet is right now..
Jadakiss: Well, I have my site coming up, HipHopSole, which will be based on all types of stuff. New sneakers, new music, new images and music from me that I will be putting up there. I had my staff take a class on how to upload stuff to the net, as quickly as we get it. I'm taking it serious, I'm not playing with this. I read Kanye's blog, I go on Thisis50, I go on Pharrell's joint, Nah Right, Bossip. I check all of them everyday. The laptop is apart of our entourage, whoever leaves it, they have to go home. The laptop has to be there like the wallet.
Complex: Your "top 5 dead or alive" line always gets referenced when people are arguing about their favorite MCs. Who are your top five favorite New York rappers under the age of 30 right now?
Jadakiss: Out of the new up and coming niggas that I know about? I like Charles Hamilton, Kid Cudi. I like Red CafÃƒÂ©, even though I don't know his age. As far as New York right now, Fabolous, Red CafÃƒÂ©, Maino, Uncle Murda. Everybody coming up, I will do songs with all of them. I know it's hard for them to reach out to the higher type of artist, so I show all of them love and do a song with them, just to let them know I'm feeling them.
Complex: 50 is in a heated battle with Rick Ross, and he's been know to damage careers in the past. Why do you think he wasn't really able to dent your armor?
Jadakiss: I really don't know, besides me knowing that he wouldn't be able to do it lyrically. He was going to have to spend some money and that wasn't even going to work, because when it comes to the music, that's what it's going to be. You can have a $100-trillion, but as long as I have a studio with producers, I can make something everyday. And the people know what type of quality it's going to be. He just set that out, because The Massacre needed some fire to sell some units. He did a good job at it.
Complex: It seems like you guys have patched things up. Do you plan to work together?
Jadakiss: It could happen, if it's good for both parties, and it's beneficial. I'm a business man too. If it's going to help me, then we can do it.
Complex: How do you feel about what he's doing to Rick Ross?
Jadakiss: It's good for hip-hop, I think sometimes the line gets crossed, but if they don't cross the line and keep it all hip-hop, it could be a good thing. I can't really say who's winning. 50 is putting a lot up on his site, and driving a lot of traffic to his site, which is building up heat, which will help him drop his album. He came in the game like this, so he doesn't mind spending time and money doing that. I think it will be cool. The Boss got some power and 50 got some power. All I can say is come out swinging. [Laughs]