In 1995, The King of New York, The Notorious B.I.G., told his younger labelmate, Jadakiss, that he was one of the “nicest” in the game and all of sudden the switchboard went off in the Yonkers’ upstart’s brain. There was no looking back; Kiss could only forge forward with his deadly 16s. Jada has become a certified living legend stamped by peers such as Lil Wayne and Jay-Z as one of the best to ever spit on the mic.

In 2001, Kiss released his first solo LP, Kiss Tha Game Goodbye, and not only did he inflict his bars of death, but Jada proved he can make classic records. That year, Jada had to compete with other anticipated albums like Jay-Z’s The Blueprint, Fabolous’ debut Ghetto Fabolous and Nas’ comeback effort, Stillmatic. Here, The Lox member with the raspy voice talks about the competition back then, the making of his first album as well as how the economy has changed the way MCs record now. —As told to Shaheem Reid (@shaheemreid)

Back in 2001, you had to come out swinging. If you wasn’t a warrior, you could have gotten smothered. Everybody was turning it up. People were putting projects out rapidly. Then when Hov puts out a project, it shuts down all the slots at retail and the radio. If you ain’t a heavyweight, you gotta fall back and wait for the Wrath of Khan to go by. My whole thing is if I can get across to enough of them that my project is coming, I don’t care who else is coming out. It was never about sales. I’m just trying to please you with the music. For me to always stay in the race with dudes like Nas and Hov at that time, I was good. But you definitely was on your toes though back then. You was listening to the [Funkmaster] Flexes, the [DJ] Clues, the mixtapes, or you would have gotten swept. You would have got caught in that tsunami. I call that “The Tsunami Era” in hip-hop.

It was a lot of pressure to make my first solo album, but at the same time, it wasn’t really pressure. I was blessed to have people feeling me as lyricist; being down with Bad Boy and Diddy then going to Ruff Ryders. I was blessed to be in a good position. So they always took good care of me. Interscope did a hell of job promoting that first album. I was Ruff Ryders’ little baby, so they wasn’t gonna let nothing happen to me but the best. I felt good. I felt like a King or Prince, you couldn’t tell me nothing. I was just a kid out of Yonkers rapping.

The biggest difference from making my new album Top Five Dead or Alive and my first album Kiss Tha Game Goodbye is everything is independent now. Everything is dumb downed. The budgets! My first album, we were in one of Al Capone’s old cribs on South Beach, beating the budget up, as opposed to now just working in my own studio. The luxury of moving around and renting a house for a few months ain’t there no more. The money ain’t there. The economy in the game is down, which is cool, but these new cats ain’t never gonna get a chance to experience that; a few million dollar videos and all that stuff.


The budget for my first album, it had to be a million and some change or a couple million. That’s not just studio time and production, that’s the for the house, travel for my whole crew to go to Miami, per diem while we there. Maids, chefs, rent-a-cars, shit was crazy. That was the golden era. It ain’t gonna be like that. It’s probably gonna be like for a few cats now. But even the big money cats per say, they’re still work at a moderate rate. All the studios are closed down; Sony, the Hit Factory. That shows you right there the money went down. In ’01, everybody had them big budgets, everybody was in there. Now, with the technology, pro-tools and everything, and the money cuts, those studios are down. Everybody is working out of their own houses and there own studios, portable joints.

Big budgets or small budgets, I like both of them. It’s easy for us, the Lox, myself, D-Block, to make the transition because we was always carrying on from that same aspect. They put these niggas from the hood in a mansion to record a album we could have made in the hood anyway. That mansion was just a extra perk. Dumbin’ it down or downsizing is still up my alley because I’d rather be in a sexier, smaller joint doing my own thing. They both work for me.

I wanted to record in Miami because that’s just where I liked to be. All my times going there, I never got a chance to stay there that long. I’d stay for a show, or something or a weekend. When it was time to do Kiss Tha Game Goodbye, I said “I wanna come down here and make the majority of the album, then go back home and finish it.” They were sending me beats from everybody. This is before the Internet was poppin’ So they were mailing reels, to the house. They were still using reels on my first album. They would send me music to the crib, I would write to them. I would try to write two or three songs at the crib and then go to the studio and lay them all at once instead of wasting studio money and the money I was already spending.

My favorite songs off the album are probably “Still Feel Me” and “Show Discipline” with Nas. Speaking of Nas and the whole thing, the budgets were so beautiful back then, after however long I stayed in Miami, I went to LA and recorded out there. I was in LA for a month and a half. I used Interscope studios and stayed in the La Park with my whole crew. That was more budget beat up. That’s where we did “Show Discipline.” Nas happened to be in Cali, he came to the studio and it was all love. He came, we chopped it up, we let him hear the song and he went right in.

Another record off the album of course is “We Gonna Make It.” That’s a timeless record to this day because it symbolizes power for the underdog. Anybody that that is told they can’t do something or you’ve been having a problem reaching a goal or achieving a accomplishment, you can put that song on and get back up and come out swinging. That’s like the hood inspiration, that’s the “We Are the World” for the hood, for the hustlers, for the under class. It’s always gonna be that. Regardless if it’s relating to politics in the news or the world, or U.S.A. as a whole. You can throw that song on at a basketball championship game, the Super Bowl, anytime you need to go to war and come out victorious or you need some inspiration, that’s the song right there.

Longevity is an accomplishment within itself. Sometime people overlook how long you been in the game. This is a game that deals with a lot of bullshit, you gotta be happy, take care of your family and bask in the glory of your loved ones. Sometimes the glory you see, the outside world don’t see that. You have to use that as motivation to keep going. There’s a lot of artists that’s scorching hot right now, that won’t have a five year career, or 10 years, nothing. At the end of the day I just feel blessed to be here.