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15 April, 2009@5:42 am

Let’s get one thing straight: Jadakiss is not retiring.

Yes, his new joint is called The Last Kiss. but it’s not because he’s thinking about leaving the rap game. Instead, he sees it as the final part of a trilogy (with 2001′s Kiss Tha Game Goodbye and 2004′s Kiss of Death), even if a label switch and delays have pushed it further away from the first two chapters.

As part threes go, this one starts out in promising fashion. Jada comes out of the gate grimy on “Pain and Torture,” then switches gears with a more radio-friendly cut called “Can’t Stop Me” (produced by Neo Da Matrix).

Since one of Jadakiss’ strengths is his versatility, it’s only right to hear him keep switching things up. Whether it’s vowing to support a woman caught in a bad situation (“Smoking Gun”), explaining what he did to come up (“I Tried”), or calling out phonies and fakes (“Who’s Real”), his flow works on just about any subject.

Jada can do conscious too, as evidenced by his biggest hit ever, “Why?” This time it’s “What If” that aims to make listeners think, but it doesn’t quite soar to the same heights, even with a guest verse from Nas.

Better things happen when Kiss teams up with other like-minded lyricists. Ghostface Killah and Raekwon are in classic form on “Cartel Gathering,” helping paint ghetto mafia pictures like it was still the 90s. And “One More Step” is four-plus minutes of goodness with Jadakiss and Styles P trading verses and finishing each other’s lines: “This is audio crack, guess who’s cheffin’ it?/Jadakiss and SP do this effortless./Gunplay make you do whatever son say./If the Lord send you a flight, ticket is one way.”

The good times don’t run the whole way though all 18 tracks though, and it’s in large part because the production is such a mixed bag. Getting signed to Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam gives you access to a lot of talented beatmakers, but using them all on one album isn’t necessarily a good thing.

That’s the case here, as all the different sounds make The Last Kiss seem like a big collection of uneven singles instead of one tight project. Even big names like The Neptunes, who do “Rockin’ With the Best” and “Stress Ya” (a song about girls wanting to be seen on blogs – what, no Twitter song?), don’t really knock it out of the park.

Fans have been waiting a long time for Jadakiss to live up to the anticipation that grew before he first started releasing solo material at the beginning of the decade. Even with this third record, he’s still showing only tantalizing glimpses. But don’t give up on him. He’s not going anywhere, remember? – Nick Tylwalk

  Mixtape D.L.
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