For more than a decade, Jadakiss has held a recurring presence in both the mixtape circuit and the Billboard 200. His relevancy and consistency speaks volumes, especially considering the Yonkers native comes from an era very much disconnected with today's mainstream sound. Fresh off the release of a new collaboration with The-Dream and readying his fourth solo album Top 5 Dead Or Alive, a longstanding claim, Kiss sat down with XXL at Def Jam's Midtown Manhattan headquarters to discuss the approach to his new LP, his relationship with Def Jam, and the buzzing rumors he's headed to Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group.—Ralph Bristout (@RalphieBlackmon)
XXL: You're coming out of the warm-up gear now that you've unleashed this new collaboration with The-Dream.

Jadakiss: I mean you know, we just working. Trying to fulfill my contract.

So is that what it's about right now? Fulfilling your contract?

I mean it's always about that. It's about making money, fulfilling the contract, keeping the fans happy, taking care of your family. It's a list of things that it's about.

This is you're first time working with Dream on a record. How did that come about?

After I laid the verses on there I needed a good [feature]. It was either going to be Miguel or The-Dream. Really those were the only two I thought about. Miguel or The-Dream. I reached out to Miguel, but he was busy or doing whatever so I ain't wait for him. I went to Dream. Once I got Dream, he was a genius. He took off and did what he did.

Is this the official first single?

Yeah, this is from the album. This ain't like a throwout or none of that. This is leading up to an album, hopefully in September or October. It won't be no where past that. It'll either be earlier than that or September, October. I got to get it out. It's just about making sure Def Jam do a little bit of what you want. You know, I ain't one of them artists. I don't have big radio records, I ain't looking for Billboard lights and all. I just need my initial push out there to be a good one so I'm able to coast and go hit the road and do some shows, get on the tour bus. Come back and do it again. That's how we rock.

You just want the machine to do their part while you handle the rest?

Yeah, but I don't want them to short-deck me though. That push got to be good because I ain't coming for a bunch of pushes. I just need one good launch. We'll be aight though.

Yeah, I mean you turned heads with the last album, The Last Kiss. You did six figures the first week after being counted out.

Yeah, they underestimated me in the building. I was talking about that in a meeting up here. They know that. They could tell when I ain't happy. As far as the music, I'm always going to deliver. But when you put out an album, it's a collective effort from the label, your own staff, everybody that's involved with the project—it works like Voltron. Everybody down to the smallest person has to be doing their part to make the whole things take off correct. If that ain't in place, that ain't it.

How was that meeting today?

Yeah, I was in the meeting today and they basically said, 'We know that we screwed up on the last release.' I did good numbers but I could've did more if they were behind me, how they were suppose to be. So their whole thing was that they don't want me to be unhappy. They really don't have to care how I feel so that's a good thing to show that they passionate about me being passionate. So that was actually a good meeting, or at least they sold it as a good meeting and made me think they were behind me. So that's all you could really ask for, being in the game this long.

More than a decade in, how does that feel?

Sometimes it's scary to think about when I first came in and how long I've been here. But it's a good thing to still be here and be relevant and still be able to spit and still be loved. It's all about the fans at the end of the day, because when they don't want you here, you ain't going to be here. So I thank the Lord everyday that I'm blessed to still rock out.

You've been able to remain relevant and consistent since first coming in. What do you attribute that relevancy to?

That's one thing I learned from B.I.G. He was always heavy on versatility. I'm able to take an R&B record and rip it the same way I rip a regular freestyle or a hardcore beat, be able to put that same twang and seasoning on anything you do. Whether it's a song with Diggy [Simmons] or a song with Ross. You still got to spice it up no matter who's at the plate. That's one thing that I took off B.I. because he loved a lot of R&B songs. he used to rip those joints and tell you, you got to this the same way. So I really took that out of that and I try to give the same energy no matter what kind of song it is.

And albums too because you do the same with your projects as well. Correct me if I'm wrong, I feel like with Kiss of Death you actually got to do what you wanted to do with the album?

Nah, I do what I want to do with all of my albums, it just be the staff. I could give you an example for every album, even Kiss of Death, where they screwed up. Like on Kiss Tha Game Goodbye, “We Gon' Make It” was suppose to be the first single. Then on Last Kiss, “Smoking Gun.” I could keep giving you songs.

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So what's your approach with Top 5 Dead Or Alive?

I just want to give you that music with that '90s feel. That's why I put that song out with Dream, because it sounds different than any other song on the radio. Or anything that's out there in the club. I just want to balance it out. I love Chief Keef, I love Young Scooter, I love French [Montana], I love all of that, but if we [were to] balance it out it would make hip-hop that much bigger. If we bring this kind of music with that kind of music, I think it would be bigger for hip-hop as a whole. Instead of your ears getting attracted to just one kind of sound. I'm heavily into my social media so I look at my Tweet comments, Instagram comments and you constantly get the people saying, “This don't sound like a New York song,” or “Why you sounding—,” you know what I mean? I feel passionate about that because they [the fans] made me. So before I could cater to anybody else, I got to cater to the home team and that's what this Top 5 is gon' be like. It's going to be a breath of fresh air more than anything that's been out in a minute. I'd say since Kendrick's.

What did you think of K. Dot's debut, and how will it's impact compare to Top 5 ?

He came with his own lane, own sound and fucked shit up. 'Cause it didn't sound like anything else. He just did what he know how to do and what they like him for and that's where I'm at with the music. Even though, I'ma have a little ratchet on the Top 5 because that's what it is. I embrace it. But it's not gonna be [like that] when you pop the CD in.

Then what's that feeling going to be like once we press play on the album?

When you first pop in Top 5, you gon' feel like you in the Golden Era. Because the first shit I got on there is the intro called “The First 48.” It's different from the Meek Mill intro. It ain't bouncy, but it's just 48 bars of death. It's giving you that New York [feel], just spittin' over a nice beat. When I play it, niggas be like, “Yo they ain't gonna get past it.” You know what I mean? I'm just trying to give you that. I love where hip-hop's at, the only thing I disagree with is some of the fashion. They even made me make my pants smaller, lose weight and get fit just to rock shit. But the music, if we could balance it out where they appreciate me, they appreciate Nas, they appreciate this because you need this with this.

What's one of the best quotes to describe you?

Timing is everything. Another thing with music is timing. You could have one of the greatest—like Alicia Keys, she had Songs in a Minor for years, then Clive Davis, when it was time, was able to [make it happen]. Timing is important with music.

And that explains why you have these long gaps within your album catalog.

If you watch my career though, that's the whole mystique with me.  I don't put out albums like that, because that's what makes fans want more of it. That explains how I feel about my fans. I could go in and make albums how Master P was doing it every three months but I don't want to do that. I could probably do it and make a lot of money and all that but I would disappoint myself. I maybe should put albums out more frequently than I do, but I would never keep overlapping you with albums because the content wouldn't be there. I take time to make albums because I got to go through shit. I'm going through family members getting cancer and my best friend going to the feds and all kind of shit. All of that stuff, even though it's bad, and not the kind of stuff you want to happen to you, it's good for your brain and good [for the] music. I try to give [the music] some kind of pain back instead of just a bunch of partying. Everybody ain't partying, life ain't that good that you just popping bottles and pills everyday. It gotta be some other shit going on there. I'm getting older with this shit and I have a different outlook. That's what I was telling the Def Jam execs earlier today, I don't expect too much  from y'all. I'ma do my part and I just expect ya'll to do ya'll part and give me one big push and I'm good from there. The music will speak for itself.

Now before I let you go, I got to ask about this signing to MMG rumor. Recently you were featured on one of Self Made, Vol. 3's new singles, “Oil Money” with Rick Ross. There's speculation that you might be the next signee. Any truth to that rumor?

The LOX might get an offer from MMG. That's what that's about. I'm signed to Def Jam though for three or four more albums. But definitely that was one of the places that were inquirying about the new LOX album. You'll hear about a couple more. The LOX album is definitely coming.

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