May 4, 2009

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Heavily slanted towards panegyrics to Z-Ro and UGK, Shea Serrano’s Houston Press archive can be found here. With Citi Field currently serving as the home to the Mets, and Shea Hillenbrand out of baseball, Serrano aspires to be the nation’s best known Shea.

 Few rappers have had a more frustrating career than one-time wunderkind, Jadakiss. Grab any five music critics/hotshit bloggers/wearers of scarves, and ask them to name the top 10 rappers of all time, three things are bound to happen:

1. In no particular order, Biggie, Pac, Em, Nas and Jay will round out the upper half. Rakim substitutions are more than acceptable.

2. One guy in the group will think he’s super hip and include some dipshit pick like Project Pat just to be contrarian. Then he’ll make some inane claim about how “Sippin’ On Some Syrup” was the most culturally relevant song of 2000 and everyone will laugh until they realize he’s serious, and then they’ll hate him for it.

3. Somehow, Jadakiss will sneak onto all of their lists. He’ll probably sit in the 8th spot, right below Mos Def, who has silently carved out an alcove as everyone’s secret-favorite Earth-rapper, and right above Scarface. Yeah, bitch, ‘Face is a top 10 pick. But despite being universally regarded for an obvious innate talent, Jada’s failed to translate it into the mainstream success he endlessly petitions for. He’s like rap’s Tracy McGrady. He’ll move 140,000 copies, but when it comes time for the playoffs,  Jada’s got a bum knee, and his team is going to fall to the Lakers/Kanye.*

The Last Penguin

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As far as I know, Jada didn’t take his album title from a Jet Li movie, but that doesn’t stop the “You mean like that shitty Jet Li movie?” comments from being made. I guess it was cool and all, but what about The One, or War, or even Lethal Weapon 4? That was way better than The Last Kiss.  Accordingly, The Last Kiss  falls right in line with the trajectory of Jada’s underwhelming career. Mind you, it has its moments. “Cartel Gathering,” succeds thanks to Ghost and Rae putting Jada back in the three-man taxomony where he’s always shined.  The ad-lib heavy “Something Else” is unexpectedly earnest in its tough guy talk, with the buzzing Jada matching the inherent charm of Young Jeezy’s grumbly grumbling grumble.**

But collectively, TLK feels bereft of any real point. A few songs are simply repackaged versions of past efforts. The Pharrell-provided “Stress Ya” sounds exactly like every other Pharrell-provided song from 2003-2005. I’m pretty sure “Rockin’ With The Best,” an economy of sound brag-track, has been on every Jada mixtape and album ever made. While “What If,” begins each line of each bar with “what if…,” amounting to a blatant retread of “Why,” his one song of consequence. You’ve got to take points off for unoriginality, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less fun to listen to. Although the “What if I ever fulfilled my potential” and “What if I didn’t look so much like a mole?” lines must’ve been cut out during edits.

There’s just enough underdog charm on Last to save it from being completely hopeless, but it remains far from the greatness that Jada’s been hinting at for the past decade-plus. Maybe it’s time we knocked him a few pegs down the list.

* This is Jeff making this prediction. Shea probably thinks the Rockets are going to win because he’s from Houston. But the Rockets have the worst bench left in the playoffs and no amount of Michael Lewis love letters to Shane Battier will change that fact.

* Has any any rapper ever squeezed more out of less than Jeezy? He’s like a magician that keeps doing the same trick over and over, but no matter how many times you see it, you’re still impressed. That takes way more talent than actually learning a bunch of different tricks. ?uestlove knows a bunch of tricks, and look where that got him. On the Jimmy Fallon show. Who’s losing, really?

Download:
MP3: Jadakiss ft. Ghostface Killah & Raekwon-“Cartel Gathering”
MP3: Jadakiss ft. Young Jeezy-“Something Else”

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