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‘Kiss Of Death’: A Perfectly Balanced Jadakiss Album

The album thrust the sharp-spitting punchline pugilist into a mainstream political debate.

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Cover: Courtesy of Ruff Ryders

Kiss Of Death will likely be forever known as an album that thrust sharp-spitting punchline pugilist Jadakiss into a mainstream political debate during the summer of 2004. Having previously forged a reputation for delivering razor-edged braggadocio through the lens of block corner hustling smarts, Jadakiss ventured into conceptual territory for the project’s second single, “Why.” Specifically, the track included the accusation that former President George W. Bush was involved in an inside job to facilitate the September 11th terrorist attack on New York City’s World Trade Center. Jadakiss’s conspiracy-minded claim quickly saw the former Lox MC being assailed by a gaggle of conservative commentators headed up by hip-hop foe-for-hire Bill O’Reilly.

Flowing with trademark precision over a subtly ominous chime-infused backdrop crafted by Mobb Deep‘s Havoc, “Why” is constructed around Jadakiss reeling off a series of curt questions that take in queries about the murders of The Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac, music industry mechanisms that keep artists in a debt-ridden state, and the disbelief that people would ever order single shots rather than entire bottles of Cristal champagne. Then, at the start of the second verse, the MC poses an altogether more politicized comment: “Why did Bush knock down the towers?”

Order the Jadakiss album Kiss Of Death on vinyl now.

Bolstering the track’s anti-Bush stance, the video to “Why” includes a scene showing a protestor holding up a placard emblazoned with the not-too-subtle slogan “BUCK FUSH.” Unsurprisingly, Jadakiss’s words prompted an avalanche of criticism from a Republican-aligned cabal of pundits, capped by O’Reilly tagging the MC as a “smear merchant.” According to Jadakiss, the Department of Homeland Security even went so far as to keep a suspicious eye on him.

Jadakiss - Why (Uncut Version) ft. Anthony Hamilton

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The furor about Jadakiss’s Bush comment saw “Why” banned by certain radio stations – and played in a censored form by other outlets, including MTV – but the controversy also provided a promotional boost to the single and its parent album. Kiss Of Death quickly achieved gold status, notching up half a million sales, and “Why” was certified as one of the rapper’s calling card tracks.

Beyond the attention that “Why” received, the remainder of the 18 song Kiss Of Death is a snapshot of a moment in time when New York rap artists were asked their own creative question: How do you balance the region’s traditional set of hardcore aesthetics with the more melodic stylings that were increasingly breaking into the pop scene?

Jadakiss - U Make Me Wanna ft. Mariah Carey

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Jadakiss’s answer with Kiss Of Death was to show a willingness to embrace the more tuneful times – headed up by calling on Mariah Carey to bless the honeyed Scott Storch-crafted love rap “U Make Me Wanna,” and employing Pharrell to bring a falsetto hook to the club-geared “Hot Sauce To Go” – but making sure to include enough heavyweight reminders that at heart he’s an MC hardwired for the fight. “These fake rappers getting by with these hell of a gimmicks,” rags the MC on the title track, flowing with steely precision over a gnarly Red Spyda production. Then after Jadakiss whirs off a series of brags about his street credentials – “F— rap – I make mils off reefer!” – the MC inches towards a line that represents his essence: “My strength in the hood outruns my wealth.”

Order the Jadakiss album Kiss Of Death on vinyl now.

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