The Last Kiss


April 07, 2009|By RASHOD D. OLLISON


[Def Jam] ** (2 STARS)

Jadakiss generated much buzz in hip-hop circles nearly a decade ago. But since then, his official releases have been spare and mostly unsatisfying. Five years have breezed by since his last album, 2004's Kiss of Death, went gold.

In the interim, he has put out well-received mix tapes and appeared on compilations and soundtracks. But the official follow-up to his sophomore release has been pushed back, touched up and renamed several times. Finally, the album, The Last Kiss, hits the streets Tuesday.

But it is not worth the wait.

The numerous setbacks in its arrival may have had something to do with the limpness of the tracks and the uninspired way Jadakiss raps over them. The CD is also overlong with 18 cuts, and nothing really stands out, save for a few tracks already heard on previous releases.

Not all of this is the rapper's fault. He's surrounded by marquee guests and beat makers (perhaps too many), but nothing sparks. "Who's Real" is a throwaway Swizz Beats production over which Jadakiss sings "If you're real and you know it/Clap your hands." Clearly aimed at the clubs, it comes off as a Dave Chappelle parody.

Mary J. Blige lends a surprisingly flavorless vocal to "Grind Hard," a number about making it out of the 'hood with all the superficial accouterments of wealth. "We grindin' hard to buy the mall up," Blige sings. What a perfect track to release during a time of record job losses.

But Jadakiss becomes "conscious" on "What If," where he asks such "provocative" questions as "What if Oprah made them comments like Imus?/What if you was caged in?" It goes absolutely nowhere.

The best moment on the album is "Letter to B.I.G." a warm, soulful tribute to the Notorious B.I.G. But it was already heard on the soundtrack to the recent movie about the acclaimed rapper.

Too bad Jadakiss' new album doesn't feature more moments like that.

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