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Jadakiss is top five dead or alive, as evidenced by his 2015 project of the same name. Even artists like Eminem and Kanye West have listed the New York lyricist as one of their favorite MCs, not to mention countless hip hop lovers all across the world.
Whether he’s one-third of The Lox (alongside Styles P and Sheek Louch), mobbing with Ruff Ryders, or focused on his solo artistry, Jadakiss has solidified his place as one of the most well-respected spitters in the rap game. With four essential albums throughout his career — Kiss the Game Goodbye, Kiss Of Death, The Last Kiss, and Top 5 Dead or Alive — the New York lyricist has yet to miss.
Most recently, he unleashed his fifth studio album titled Ignatius, which had an original release date that was pushed back due to fellow New York artist Pop Smoke’s passing. The 13-track project is dedicated to his late friend and A&R Ignatius “Icepick Jay” Jackson, whose life was taken in 2017.
REVOLT caught up with Kiss at the Kandypens house in Los Angeles to discuss the inspiration behind Ignatius, how his son A&Red the album, his juice bars, and more. Read below!
How does it feel to put Yonkers on the map?
It feels great putting Yonkers on the map. We were always outshined by the boroughs, the five boroughs. To finally get some recognition and make a significant mark, it’s a beautiful feeling.
What was it like growing up there?
It was alright. It has the good and the bad. Sports, hip hop music, culture. The Italians run it, though. It’s run by the Italians, it’s all good.
How has the rap game changed since you started with The Lox?
It changed dramatically. It changed several times, but it’s good. It’s good to see it evolve. Hip hop’s only 50 years old, so it’s going to change a lot more.
How do Styles and Sheek continue to push you to this day?
Man, just from being there. Working. Listening to their work makes me want to work. When we have to do songs together, their verses inspire me. They’re also both great fathers.
Meek recently tweeted “The younger artist got the older artist shook.” Thoughts on that?
I don’t know what older artists he’s talking about, but it definitely wasn’t me or Styles or Louch. That didn’t really affect me, I didn’t feel that at all.
The young artist got the older artist shook after further review ima just be the first to say it ima light y’all lil asses up when it’s my turn tho .... keep snapping youngbulls!!!— Meek Mill (@MeekMill) March 7, 2020
Congrats on Ignatius! What does it mean to name this after your late friend/A&R?
It feels great. It feels like I did my due diligence for everything he’s done for me. It felt great acknowledging him in that light of naming an album after him and dedicating it to him. Changing the whole zone of what I normally do to make that pocket of music for him, it was dope.
Right, because he wanted you to use your voice more?
Yeah, he wanted me to try different things. Just be very musical. That’s why I made this project more musical. It worked out. Everything came full circle.
You say he A&Red this album from the pearly gates. How easy or difficult was it for you to center an entire project after him?
It was very difficult. Some studio sessions were more sad, somber, down. A lot of them were happy. Try to make the overall gist of it a celebration. That’s what I set out to do and that’s what it ended up being.
The jacket on the cover art is incredible. Can you explain all the layers?
It’s a journey of his life and my life. How we met. It got Yonkers on there. It has his projects where he grew up in Harlem on there. The chain that I have on in that picture, he made that because he was a jeweler also. You see him getting off a private jet on one side, that’s almost a symbolization of when you made it in this game. When you start flying private jets, you made it. It shows the journey of… spoken without speaking. The pictures are a story.
What are your fondest memories of the Ruff Ryders days?
All-Star in Atlanta, we’re all super deep in the mall. Nah, not even. One of these festivals in Galveston, Texas one year was crazy. We took over the whole thing. Some type of festival or conference down there, we took it over. Bikes, dogs, bandanas. Swarmed the whole conference everywhere.
What’s your relationship with DMX?
That’s my brother for life. Dogs for life baby! We talk whenever we see each other.
How religious are you?
I pray. I pray often. I pray everyday.
On “Hunting Season” with Pusha T, you say, “Gotta sharpen your steel before you polish it.” Can you expand on this?
That’s a good one because that goes over people’s heads. You can’t really talk on the situation or claim to be a certain thing until your skills are at a certain level. You can’t brag about how nice you are until you’re really that nice.
And you are that nice. How does it feel to be one of the top spitters?
It feels great. This is a game similar to the NFL: Not For Long. When you’re able to make a career or have a career out of it, that’s a blessing. A lot of people come and go. There’s a lot of people this year that aren’t going to be here next year. To have a career is a beautiful thing.
How did it feel to have your son graduate college?
One of the best feelings in the world. Definitely, that was one of the best feelings I ever had.
Who is your son listening to?
My son listens to me. He helped A&R this album too a little bit. He was there. He was very influential in the making, the sequencing, the final picks. He listens to Lil Baby. He listens to Gunna, Young Thug, and G Herbo. All the fire artists. I listen to them too, no doubt.
What is your favorite song off Ignatius?
They keep switching. Right now, it’s “Catch & Release.” It sounds dope, I have a new artist Justin Jesso on there. Look out for him, he’s going to be incredible. His career is going to go through the moon.
What does it mean to have a juice bar in the heart of NYC?
Well, we have four juice bars: one in Brooklyn, two in the Bronx, one in Yonkers. It feels good promoting health awareness, getting the word out there for people to put life into their bodies. That’s what we try to do, one person at a time.
What do you want your legacy to be?
Just one of the nicest spitters and a nice guy, too, who always kicked it. If you know me, you love me. If you didn’t know me, you probably thought I was an asshole. But, if you ever met me and kicked it with me, you know I was a good dude. That’s it.