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“Hello!?!…Hello?!?”…Great, I thought, Jadakiss is giving me the brush off by pretending not to hear me, as the Yonkers born emcee continued his string of hello’s before hanging up about seven minutes into our interview. Ehh-heh, I muttered to myself, and returned to my desk thinking of the various ways I could turn an unfinished interview into a full article. I had just got back to listening to the new Finale LP (A Pipe Dream And A Promise) when my Blackberry started vibrating with another 212 number. It was KI-double, who had called back to finished the interview.
“To be honest, out of the times I’ve been disconnected during interviews, maybe 1 of 5 or so call back and finish,” I told him towards the end of our interview. “I understand the importance,” he replied. “I know that the interview wasn’t finished. That’s like half-assed business. We were in the middle and you were asking me a question, that wouldn’t have been right to not finish that.”
Doing things the right way is something Jadakiss has spent a lot of time on. His longevity as a Hip Hop artist, and mentions as a top emcee prove that’s he’s accomplished that feat musically, while the cluster f**k that was J. Hood as well as the Free The LOX campaign are also evidence of his struggles and imperfections. He puts his hat back in the Spike Lee ring in promotion of his new LP, Last Kiss, an album that was originally going to drop with the title, Kiss My Ass. The title was scrapped based on a business decision by Kiss, rather than label pressure, yet another indication of Jada’s business practices.
In this exclusive interview, Jadakiss talks about the his new album, rap in the recession, work ethic and much more. Check out the full interview below.
RubyHornet: Before getting into the new album, I want to ask you about something you brought up on the “Why” remix. You end the song by asking, ‘why’d it take me to make “Why” for ya’ll to listen?” I’m wondering if you have any theories?
Jadakiss: Nah. Hip Hop fans are very quick. The Hip Hop game is a real finicky game and the fans have real short attention spans. You gotta catch them while you can catch them, if you can catch’em.
RubyHornet: When you think from then til now, there are more people listening to you and I’m sure there are new people listening to you now. When you’re in the booth or studio thinking of song ideas does your audience pop into your mind, and if so, what would you describe as your audience?
Jadakiss: My audience…I can’t even say the age bracket cause I got all kinds of fans. I just finished doing something downstairs with MTV and it was Jr. high kids. I just got mobbed by a whole junior high school. I think about the fans even when I ain’t in the booth, but when I’m making music I’m doing what I feel and that most likely just happens to be stuff that people can relate to. I don’t go in saying, ‘OK, I’m going to make this song for the high school. I’m going to make this song for the jail. I’m going make this…’ Nah, I just give it to you how it comes out.
RubyHornet: Speaking of coming out, I’m a little confused about the release date for the new LP. Can you tell our readers what the deal is on that. It was supposed to drop March 10th, is that still the case?
Jadakiss: Nah, nah, nah. At the last minute before I was going to go with the March 10th release, Big Hov became involved and told me to do 2 more songs, which turned out to be 3 more songs. I did a Swizz joint, I got a joint from Khaled from The Inkredibles with Mary, and I got a Pharrell joint, so that turned out to be a beautiful thing. We’re looking at April 7th now, but I’m not even sure if we’re going to be able to finish mastering and all that.
RubyHornet: I know that it was originally going to be called Kiss My Ass, and I read in other interviews that you decided to change the title yourself, it didn’t come from label pressure, but from a business standpoint.
RubyHornet: Do think the ’95-’96 Jadakiss would have made that decision?
Jadakiss: Nah, I would have definitely left it back then because there were more retailers, and more money in marketing back then. But now, once Wal-Mart and K-Mart reject your CD, you might as well not even put out a CD. Virgin Megastore is closing, Circuit City is closing, everything is closing. Common’s CD is onsale at Starbucks, that’s just telling you what’s going on right now.
RubyHornet: From a business standpoint, those stores going out of business really hurts. In addition, artists have fewer places to sell their music. Do you think that record stores, and mom and pop stores going out of business also hurt Hip Hop and music as a culture?
Jadakiss: Definitely! Definitely! Definitely! In my town, Yonkers, there’s nowhere to get a CD from. You gotta go to Circuit City, and now that’s closed so you gotta go all the way to the Bronx to get a CD, or Mt. Vernon, or Central Avenue. That’s crazy!
RubyHornet: As a veteran artist, what do you think is the most positive thing to come from the blog and website explosion that’s taken place over the last year or two?
Jadakiss: We’re able to make the best out of it, and use it to our advantage. You gotta make sure your site is updated, make sure you’re talking on your blogs, seeing what you’re fans think about the music you got out. Make sure you got a website going up…and use that as your street team as well..
RubyHornet: Conversely, what do you see as a downside or the worst part of the blog explosion?
Jadakiss: Sometimes your music leaks before you want it to leak, and once it leaks it’s like an uncontrollable fire. But other than that, it’s all good.
RubyHornet: In another interview you talked about the music industry at this time and you said, ‘The game is what it is. The strong are going to survive, the weak are going to fall off.’ If you step away from Jadakiss the emcee/artist, what’s your relationship with Hip Hop like right now from a fan standpoint? Do you look at younger cats coming up right now and think, ‘this guy might survive, I think he’s got a chance.’ Do you interact with the music that way?
Jadakiss: Yeah, I see a couple of these dudes surviving. I see a lot of them drowning though. The game is easier in the sense that you could tread water now. There’s not as many big stars. When I came in the game it was Big, Jay, Nas, The Wu, Snoop, Dre, there wasn’t that much room. There’s a lot of room, there’s a helluva lot of room now.
RubyHornet: With Big taking you under his wing, do you feel any responsibility to throw a line to a young cat that you feel has promise? Is there anyone you’ve come across that reminds you of you at their age?
Jadakiss: Yeah, a lot of these dudes, but I’m just scared to jump out there with them because loyalty is hard to come by. Loyalty is hard to come by, so I don’t want to get in bed. It’ll take me a while before I can trust an artist. It’s a sad thing to say, but you invest a lot of time and money and then they don’t work out or things go sour.
RubyHornet: Since your last album in 2004, Styles P has undertaken and talked a lot publicly about his new diet, new exercise routine and lifestyle changes and I’m wondering if you’ve followed him in any of that?
Jadakiss: Of course being around Styles and Sheek they’re gonna order you a salad. But ain’t nothing wrong with being healthy and working out. I don’t work out as much as them, but I have lost weight and I’m trying to lose more. I really go hard when I’m on the road. I start this Sunday for this 35 days from hell. I’ll take it from there, and hopefully carry it out all the way through.
RubyHornet: As far as the new album, I just saw the video for “Can’t Stop Me”. I thought it was a real interesting video, can you take me into the brainstorming session for that? Was it like, ‘OK, we’re going to make a video where Jadakiss wins a drag race, then he wins a pool match, and ultimately walks away with a tiger.’?
Jadakiss: Haha…We’ll Marc Klasfield shoots documentary style videos. He shot Juvenile’s “Ha” and he shot “The Shining” by Barrington Levy, and I wanted him to shoot this joint. He wanted to touch all different kinds of cultures, so that’s why it’s in China town in the beginning, and then you see the Chinese drag race a la “The Fast And Furious”. Then we play pool with the gangsters in the pool hall, it’s the Russian Mafia, then we have the Jamaican yard fight in the dirt and you see the Jamaicans in the bar and that’s where I had the leopard at. The whole thing pretty much is that you can’t stop me no matter what’s going on, no matter what part of the world or what race or creed. We’re showing love to everybody, but you can’t stop me. I thought it came out pretty hot, it’s dope man.
RubyHornet: It’s a fresh video, and Larry Bird used to say, ‘you can’t stop me, you just better hope I miss.’ That kind of attitude seems like a must have for anyone that wants to succeed in the music business, especially an emcee or frontman in a group. Would you agree that that kind of attitude has to go hand in hand with your art?
Jadakiss: Yeah, you gotta have that attitude cause there are so many obstacles and misshaps that try to sidetrack you in the game that you gotta keep that eye of the tiger, can’t stop me attitude to make it through.
RubyHornet: Do your past experiences and making it in a field where not many people last as long as you have give you a certain perspective or leg up in getting through the current recession?
Jadakiss: Yeah, hope for the best, and expect the worst. If you don’t keep your expectations that high, you won’t be sad if nothing happens and you’ll be able to enjoy the success. You should feel blessed just to be here, and take it from here. Everybody that’s complaining, there’s somebody doing worse than them.
RubyHornet: Speaking of expectations, you said before that for emcees, Hip Hop should be used as a vehicle to do other things. You said producers can go on for a long time, but rappers should be looking at it as a way to get into something else. What does success look like for you in terms of Last of Kiss, what do you hope this sparks for you?
Jadakiss: It’s already sparked a few other opportunities. I got a little something, I’m supposed to be shooting a little movie with Clifford Powell. He’s got a part for me in a movie he’s shooting in Orlando at the end of March and April. I got a TV show coming on BET, “Finding A New DJ”. We go to five or six cities and get some male and female DJ’s, bring them back to YO and do some a la Diddy s**t, and they can become my next DJ and go on tour with me.
RubyHornet: How do you get on that show? If you’re a DJ and you’re a dope DJ?
Jadakiss: I’m gonna have a website and some locations you can go to when I come down to your city…My ultimate goal is doing some voiceovers, “Shrek”, “Kung Fu Panda”, stuff like that.
RubyHornet: With that goal in mind, do you think about the music and some of the things you’ve said in your music, and the fact that someone may not want to work with you on as something like a talking panda because the of past?
Jadakiss: Nah, nah, you gotta be you. People love you for being you. If people want you to be a stereotype, you don’t need to be dealing with them. My music is my music, that doesn’t mean I can’t play a role. S**t, I’m only reading it. They only care about your voice, and how you sound anyway. As long as you got the right business people, consultants, and management, that will all work itself out.
RubyHornet: Lastly, you said that you just did some stuff with MTV…We got disconnected here. To be honest, out of the times I’ve been disconnected during interviews, maybe 1 of 5 or so call back and finish. What is it about you that had you call back and reconnect, or even after doing something with MTV you do stuff with blogs and websites where some artists may feel like ‘I’m too big for that’?
Jadakiss: I understand the importance. I got a new album coming out, I gotta do everything. Right now I’m in the beginning stages of what I call 35 days of hell where I gotta do anything they put on the table for me, like it or not. It’ll only be beneficial. Every blog, MTV, every site, whoever wants to talk to me anywhere around the world, it’s more beneficial for me talking to them than it is for them talking to me, which they probably don’t know. That’s just the grind and hunger that I got that’s instilled in me just from being born like that before I even got into rap, from hustling, from doing school work, from playing little league football, just the grind and will to go hard. Since this is what I’m doing with my life, I gotta apply it to this. I know that the interview wasn’t finished. That’s like half-assed business. We were in the middle and you were asking me a question, that wouldn’t have been right to not finish that.
RubyHornet: I appreciate that, and respect your work ethic. I’m talking to you from Chicago and I know you’re going to be here next week for a listening session. What’s your experience like with the Windy City? Do you have any favorite spots you always hit up while you’re out here?
Jadakiss: I forgot the name, it’s a little restaurant right across from the projects, a soul food spot right across the street from some projects that I always go to. I mostly try to go around to the hoods, malls, just to show people love in the towns cause most artists just go do whatever’s on the itinerary, stop by radio or retail. I try to do some extra things that aren’t on the itinerary just to show that love when I’m in the city.
RubyHornet: For people that may come on our site and read this interview, how important is it for them, or anyone else, to have your previous albums before picking up Last Kiss? How accessible is this album?
Jadakiss: Oh, you need it. You need Kiss The Game Goodbye. You need The Kiss of Death. I recommend you get those two before you purchase The Last Kiss so you can understand what I’m all about, what this D-Block/LOX thing is all about. You can see the vision if you pick those two albums up, and you’ll understand right where we’re at with The Last Kiss and know how important it is for your iPod collection, CDs, wherever you store your music at.