Even if the end times weren’t nigh, it’d be hard to know what exactly to make of Jadakiss’s commercial prospects these days. The plump Yonkers MC has stayed relevant in the mainstream for over a decade now without ever dropping a true smash, proving, in the process, that at least some part of the music industry still operates as a meritocracy: Although consistency has never been his strong suit, on any given verse dude is liable to come out swinging like the best rapper alive. But when Jay-Z signed him to Roc-A-Fella in late ’07, it seemed more like the next stop in his rap-crew carousel (from Bad Boy to Ruff Ryders to here) than his once assumed-to-be-inevitable breakout moment.
Recent developments seem to have confirmed suspicions. None of the material preceding The Last Kiss, now pushed back to April 7, has suggested a sea change for Al Qaeda Jada. Instead, a series of pop friendly singles -- including "By My Side," featuring that radio mercenary Ne-Yo -- and last-minute recording sessions for the album have made it clear the label’s fishing for a hit. Jada, of course, has always seemed more comfortable talking shit on a mixtape than mugging in a music video. But, as he indicates below, as long as he gets to keep making music, he’s happy.
You’re one of the last '90s guys who is still relevant. Do you feel a responsibility to that era?
Yeah, I mean I really just feel responsible for covering my own ass. I appreciate still being relevant, but I’m trying to do my own thing. Trying to keep my name, my brand strong, keep D-Block going, and L-O-X alive, you know what I mean?
What have you learned about the business side of the industry?
You learn a little bit more as you go every day, but the most important besides the music is that your business team has to be strong. You need good legal representation, you need good management, you need the people that represent you to be well liked and respected and know how to conduct business for you to get over the hump -- as well as the music being solid. I was working on that as well as working on the music, and we’re gonna give it another shot. I know the music is better than the last time, and I know my representation is better. So we’re just gonna step up to the plate. We ain’t looking for astronomical numbers. We just wanna do better than last time. That’s my personal goal for every album I do.
You made a comment on “Letter to B.I.G.” that you haven’t touched the paper that you’re supposed to yet. I think that’s a sentiment that people feel about you in general , that you should be bigger than you are. Do you think about that often?
I think about that everyday. But you gotta just be blessed with what you got. I got a chance to always have another shot to do it again. I have success. It might not be the success that I’m supposed to be. But I gotta be thankful for what I have. 'Cause when you ain’t, that’s when you start going downhill.
People love your mixtape stuff sometimes more than the studio stuff. Do you think that maybe the studio system just isn’t right for you?
Nah, nah, I feel it is. You gotta do both. In this game, timing is everything. When it’s the right time, it’ll happen. It’s a big world out there. For most of the people to like you is an accomplishment in itself.
With this album, your solo output will eclipsing the output of the LOX. Did you think you’d be known more as a solo artist when you were starting out?
I still represent that. That’s where we came from. I would never let people forget about L-O-X. That made me the artist that I am, coming from the group. And we’re gonna put that album out in the summer, New Lox Order, and let everybody know what it is.
What’s your relationship like with Jay-Z? And what’s your opinion on the state of Roc-A-Fella?
It’s cool. I mean I can only speak on my behalf. I’m doing all right, they show me love. Hov comes through in the clutch when I need it, 'cause I ain’t a new artist -- I can tread the water by myself. I just might need him to throw me a life preserver every now and again. But so, far so good.
Do you get the feeling that you could be the cornerstone of taking Roc back to what it was in the past?
Nah. When you’re dealing with success you ain’t really thinking about the past. You’re thinking about the future.
I read a comment from someone on your label that was talking about promotion for the album, and mentioned you wouldn’t be blogging or anything like that.
I’m damn sure on all the blogs. I’m trying to do as much blogging as I can. This is what’s going on, this is how to reach the people. So that’s what I got to do. I don’t know, that might have been a sabotage statement. I got my own site going up, hiphopsoul.com, where I’m going to be doing a bunch of blogging. Every day I’m going to be talking to people. I’m on Twitter as the real kiss, got Jadakiss MySpace, got jadakiss.com. I got a bunch of sites. So that statement is asinine.
Speaking of Twitter, do you follow people on there?
Hell yeah. I follow everybody. I mean, some are my personal friends. I follow Angela Yee from Shade 45, Raekwon, Shaq, Styles P. I got a couple of friends on Twitter.
One last thing. The “Why” remix is the first time I heard someone mention Obama on a rap song. Have you been backing him ever since then?
I don’t know him personally, but I voted for him. That’s the first time I ever voted. He made me like him enough that I went and voted. I definitely did that. Now we just gotta kick back. He got four years; we gotta try and get him another four. And hopefully we see some results in the end of that.
Photo Credit: Mack Petion/Prefixmag.com