Album Review: Jadakiss, Top 5 Dead or Alive

top 5 dead or alive


Top 5 Dead or Alive (released November 20, 2015)

Well, since I know it’s gonna come up, let’s go ahead and get this out of the way:

Top 5 Rappers Dead or Alive:

  1. The Notorious B.I.G.
  2. Nas
  3. Jay Z
  4. Rakim
  5. Eminem

Not even the mighty Jadakiss can crack that list. But that doesn’t mean Jada isn’t one of the best ever to bless the mike.

Back in the mid-90s, when The LOX kicked the doors of hip-hop off its hinges, Jadakiss was always the group’s standout  MC — trademark raspy voice, charisma that bled through the speakers and punchlines that could floor Tyson. With three solid solo LPs and a handful of successful singles under his belt, Jada’s unquestionably one of the game’s greatest voices.

But he’s not THE greatest voice. At least not yet. That’s the hunger that drives Top 5 Dead or Alive, an album a half decade in the making.

“Most of them is lovin’ me, some of them hatin’ me/Say he’s underrated, depending on whose rating me,” Kiss quips on the album intro “First 48.” Jada’s an underdog who makes moves like a heavyweight champ, spitting bars as if his life depends on it but with the confidence of seasoned pro.

And if you’re a fan of unbridled lyricism, this is the album for you.

Jadakiss is no stranger to Top 40 mainstream success but he’s truly at his best when delivering endless punchlines over concrete-cracking beats. The haunting “Jason” puts Kiss directly in his comfort zone, threatening his foes who make a move for his crown. “You Don’t Eat” reminds young rappers of his OG status:

It’s the angel versus the reaper
You might not know but it gets deeper
You heard my name on the last verse of Ether

While even putting fellow veterans on notice on “Rain”:

It’s a lot of pain in my tears
Dark thoughts turn into criminal ideas
Just like where do you see yourself in five years
I’ve always been a superior to my peers
Yeah and my reign ain’t stop yet
Even though its mostly the lames that got wet

And speaking of those peers, Jadakiss always delivers his best work when he can play off other strong voices. Nas brings his usual brand of excellence to the aforementioned “Rain.” Sheek Louch and Young Buck link for the self-explanatory “Realest In The Game” and Lil Wayne continues his comeback tour on “Kill.”

But as always, it’s Kiss’ tag-team delivery with Styles P on “Synergy” that really steals the show, effortlessly meshing the pair like two rap superpowers. Best of all, Just Blaze’s triumphant horns transforms the track into a spiritual successor to the duo’s 2001 classic, “We Gonna Make It.” It’s one of the strongest beats on the album.

Despite the wealth of material here — with Jadakiss sounding more focused than he has in a decade — the album falls into the same pitfall that plagued The Game’s releases this year. There is just too much material and sometimes the album starts to crack under its own weight. “Man in the Mirror,” “You Can See” and “Cutlass” all  feature overbearing hooks and sound more like mixtape fodder. And considering America’s current social climate, I wish we could have heard more tracks like “So High” and “Y.O. (Youthful Offenders),” which really speak to the soul of black America. The latter is an especially poignant commentary of America’s penal system:

Learned how to clap before he learned how to stack
Now he doing 30-something years in the max
With numbers like that it take years to relax
And it’s violent so it’s mandatory years on the back


That’s when Jada’s status as hip-hop’s elder statesmen really shines brightest.

Top 5 Dead or Alive is the typical strong outing from one of hip-hop’s greatest lyricists but probably not the undeniable classic we’ve been promised for so long. Top 5 Dead or Alive might be a stretch, but Top 5 Album of the Year? That’s more like like.

Best tracks: “Jason,” “Synergy,” “Rain”

4 stars out of 5



  1. Rap is not my genre, but I do not disrespect its value; however, I am beginning to better understand why the veteran rappers are losing their status. It’s because they are too old to be playing the race card as a story line when it comes to prison, beat downs, street life. Get it over it already! Man, so what if you’ve done the crime; you’ve done the time, and rap has given you another shot at a better life. Nobody wants to hear you whine about your tribulations; especially when some of you are still behaving badly; carrying guns; shooting each other; etc. and still going to jail. Moreover, your image etc. promotes the same among young kids who try to imitate you.
    Maybe, if you write rhymes that talk about why you made those choices that lead to prison or how your life and mindset has changed since the negative experiences or even gave some credit to the folks, Mamas, Grandmamas, teachers, preachers, etc. who tried to steer you right, then perhaps your sales would soar, I might even buy it. Stop playing…a dead celebrity is still dead…an imprisoned master of the mike is still a jailbird and a rich substance abuser is still a drug addict. Perhaps that’s why old school ain’t so COOL!

  2. Dude, you’re a jackass. Don’t worry about something you will never understand. Corny bastard.

  3. Jadakiss is better than Nas and Eminem and even Tupac.
    Big L
    Jay Z

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