J to da “Mwah” is back in the building proving that New York lyricism still pumps throughout the veins of the streets. Moving over an impressive 150,000 copies last month during the initial release week of his third solo release The Last Kiss, the Yonkers, NY vet born Jason Phillips followed his own advice as his latest single “Grind Hard” with Mary J. Blige proclaims. As his Def Jam Records debut steadily approaches gold status, the revered spitter and 1/3 of The LOX talked exclusively with HipHopWired about his latest release The Last Kiss, the state of the industry, and the return of the Ruff Ryders. With the film Notorious finally making its way to DVD after a successful run at the box office, Jada also speaks fondly of his late mentor, “The Great Frank White” and why the game will always love Big Poppa.
HipHopWired: Congratulations on the success of your latest project Jada. Was there a lot of pressure to switch the album title from Kiss My A*s to The Last Kiss?
Jadakiss: Nah, nah. It wasn’t a lot of pressure. It was just actually a good business move being that all the retail stores are closing… Virgin Megastores, Coconuts, Best Buys, they closing. So if Wal-Mart and K-Mart wasn’t going to put it in there, that would have been a bad business move for me.
HipHopWired: That’s real talk. But with all of these record stores closing, as an artist, does it scare you that the landscape for how you make your money is changing?
Jadakiss: Nah man, it doesn’t scare me because there’s always a loop hole. Once they let you in the door, you should be able to create some revenue. It’s just about how you go about doing it. Now everything has switched to digital. You have to get your websites up and be aware of the blogs and all the other sites and pay attention to what’s going on on the Internet and that’s how you get yourself out there as well as going and touching people and doing the hand-to-hand thing. You got to keep up with the Jones’ whatever it may be and that’s what it is with me. It’s a little bit more difficult but that just means that you gotta work a little harder.
HipHopWired: When you originally signed with Def Jam you were also signed to Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella imprint. But since Jay left Def Jam, are you still signed with Roc-A-Fella and what’s Jay-Z’s involvement or is your deal strictly Def Jam now?
Jadakiss: Yeah Jay’s still involved. It’s just like having Jay-Z on one end and L.A. Reid on the other along with my whole D-Block family and the Ruff Ryders staff too. It’s just more upper cuts we’re throwing.
HipHopWired: We haven’t heard you or The LOX mention Ruff Ryders in a while. They’ve been quite for a minute, what’s up with Dee and Wah and the whole Double R?
Jadakiss: They was down for a minute but they definitely back. They ain’t in the building but they got it surrounded. We family for life, nah mean.
HipHopWired: What was the process like working with Puffy again from a business perspective after you recorded “Letter To Big” for the Notorious Soundtrack?
Jadakiss: I just let my peoples talk to his peoples. I mean Puff respects me and he respects us (The LOX) as businessmen know because he knows we understand it a little bit more. So it wasn’t like me thinking anything funny was going to happen. It was just a matter of me connecting my peoples with his peoples and making it happen. If it wasn’t able to happen the correct way then it wouldn’t have happened.
HipHopWired: In many people’s opinion, The LOX should be way bigger of a group than they are. You’ve always been plagued by label hang-ups whether with Bad Boy or Interscope and now with Def Jam. When you signed, Jay-Z was in the building and then he left and then Shakir Stewart passed, so how comfortable are you now with the label?
Jadakiss: I’m still comfortable because I’m not a new artist. As long as the departments do what they do then I’m gonna do what I do and we hope for the best and take it from there. I ain’t looking for nothing extra. Once I get the product to the people, I can make millions of dollars on the road regardless to whatever happens and I’m cool with that. As long as the people like the product, the money is going to come. I ain’t worried about that.
HipHopWired: What’s the situation with The LOX album and what label is it going to be on now?
Jadakiss: The LOX album is coming out on Interscope but it’s not coming out till The Last Kiss come out and shut everything off baby. The Last Kiss is the set off.
HipHopWired: People have been waiting on Dr. Dre’s next album for nearly ten years now and it now seems like a mirage. Ya’ll have been screaming that The LOX album was coming for the past few years now so do you have a fear that the anticipation may slowly die as the Hip-Hop audience gets younger?
Jadakiss: Well you know the fans are finicky. They always changing and the young kids like what they like. But we got core fans so they ain’t going to wait that much longer but they’re there.
HipHopWired: How did you feel about The Notorious movie and what was your experience like when you first met Biggie and how did your relationship grow from that?
Jadakiss: The first time I met Big I was like, Wow! It was like I met Santa Claus. Because we used to sit around and write rhymes just to say, “How would he like these bars right here?” And then to actually become label mates with him, that made it even crazier. So we just used to be like, “Da*n.” But then we had to get it to a point where we gonna stop being in awe and start working. And once he let us know that he thought we were nice and I was nice, that just put the battery in my back even more. So that’s why “The Letter” was that much important because he was like my mentor and my homie. He gave me a lot of advice about what was going to happen in the game after I got in. Mo Money, more problems pretty much. Plus that’s still a weird situation with his death because when we lost him, that was actually my first time going to Cali and I still miss him. I miss him a lot and think about him a lot especially every time I go out there but I just try to move on though.
HipHopWired: As far as The Notorious movie, you mentioned that you didn’t think the Pac character was believable. Why was that and do you have any comments about what actor Anthony Mackie who played Tupac said about Kim’s views on the movie. Mackie stated that Lil’ Kim’s career was pretty much irrelevant right now and he applauded Naturi Naughton for making Kim (who he claimed was 1one-dimensional) be a 3-dimensional character who you cared and felt for.
Jadakiss: They did nice with the movie and I don’t have no problem with actual actor who played Tupac. I don’t even know that dude. I was just talking about the character and he just did what they told him to do in the script. If anything, I don’t like what they wrote for him. I don’t like how they had him. I don’t got no problem with his acting, I don’t even know him. I wasn’t making it a personal thing. I was speaking from the outside in looking at the movie.
HipHopWired: So what makes you feel that Pac wasn’t accurately portrayed in the flick?
Jadakiss: I didn’t even know Pac either but for one he don’t look like Pac and then he was little bit too chipper. If you listen to Pac’s music and watched him on Juice and watch him on any other movie, he wasn’t that happy like that. He wasn’t joking… but it might have been me because I wasn’t around back then so maybe that’s how he used to be. It’s just my personal opinion.
HipHopWired: With Biggie initially co-signing you and the era that you come from, as a fan of Hip-Hop and as a business person who’s actually involved in Hip-Hop, how does it feel to watch the game go from lyrics over the past few years to where they don’t matter anymore. You can be the wackest rapper in the world but have auto-tune on your song or sing and dance and now be considered hot.
Jadakiss: That’s what this album represents because I came in when the era was no ringtones and the only person on the auto-tune was Roger Troutman and Zapp. You had to be able to hold your own amongst the Wu-Tang, Dre & Snoop, Biggie, Hov, Nas… you name it. I represent that and that’s what I want you to get with this album. No gimmicks, just good beats, good lyrics, good songs. You can ride thru with no interludes and just bang out. And hopefully with New York, we gone feel good about being from New York and everybody CD just start dropping and we get this thing back to where it’s supposed to be.
HipHopWired: With the way that the game is now, was there any contemplation from you, Styles P or Sheek Louch to dumb yourselves down?
Jadakiss: Never. Never at all. That’s probably why it’s taking us so long to get where we’re supposed to be because we ain’t gone compromise what we stand for or what we do to be successful. Because we getting money doing what we do. We’re able to take care of our families, buy houses, buy cars, have a couple million in the bank and grind out like that. It gotta happen the way we want it to happen or it ain’t gonna happen.
HipHopWired: With that said, have the three of ya’ll ever contemplated in personal conversations what if ya’ll had went the Jiggy route that Puffy had mapped out and what if it had been successful and made the millions but not staying true to yourselves.
Jadakiss: Nah we never think about that because we still made the millions. It just took us longer by doing it the way we wanted to do it. As long as you’re doing whatever you want to do and you feel good about it, it gets no better than that.
HipHopWired: Let’s get into the album a bit. “Cartel Gathering” is definitely a heater and brings back the late 90s essence. What was the recording session like with Raekwon and Ghostface?
Jadakiss: You know I’m from the purple tape era. So we were trying to get that back to the young kids that don’t know about the purple tape. Working with Ghost and Rae is always incredible because of their slang and how they incorporate it into the rhymes. Their slang and whole style is just something different that if you ain’t used to it, it’s amazing to you. Even if you are used to it, it’s amazing so it’s always good to be around the older Gods and build with them and do songs. Just to talk with them and kick it, I speak with them on the phone on the regular.
HipHopWired: You also flipped the script on the “Smoking Gun” with Jazmine Sullivan. Many people wouldn’t expect you to come from that perspective?
Jadakiss: That’s just one of them joints on the album to make you say “Wow.” Da*n, I wonder why he would do this joint. But I had been talking to a few chicks over the past few months and a couple of them seemed to have some real stories inside about abuse. Whether it was a physical rape or just somebody trying to do some stuff to them and they just held it in and only told a few people with me happening to be one of them. So after hearing that, I felt like there must be a lot of ladies in the world that had stuff done to them and they holding it in and I just wanted to reach them right quick and let them know that I’m there for them. Not touchy or none of that because that’s why it’s called “Smoking Gun.” It means to let them know if they call me, I’ll come through and handle some business for them but with a different twist to it.
Jasmine was cool to work with. I had to meet with her and her mom and speak with them about the song but they were real cool. I had a show with them somewhere in Connecticut and I hollered at them backstage and they said that she would do it and it was all love.
HipHopWired: How do you feel about everyone making their renditions of “Letter To Big” with tributes to Pun, Pac and other slain MCs?
Jadakiss: That’s cool. That’s motivation. Whenever a song can inspire a bunch of people to do different versions of it, it’s all good. That means that that song hit home like that. That make them wish that they thought of it and that’s a good thing.
HipHopWired: Switching gears for a minute, do ya’ll still own those shiny suits for nostalgic purposes?
Jadakiss: We got them somewhere daddy (laughs). Our stylist who styled that tour got them somewhere in storage.
HipHopWired: Ok so as far as the music, would the LOX ever perform “If You Think I’m Jiggy” again?
Jadakiss: Yeah, why not. Actually we used to be spoofing it on tour when we did the Ruff Ryders/Cash Money tour but sometimes we used to get a mixed response. The people in some of the arenas wanted to see it but we were actually making a joke of it and they wanted us to rock that joint. So from that we knew that people still like it so it’s nothing for us to perform it. You might see us perform it at the Bad Boy reunion or something (laughs).
HipHopWired: What’s the chance that the fans will ever hear The Lox, Eve, Drag-On, and DMX over a Swizz Beatz track ever again?
Jadakiss: Oh man, that’s nothing. It’s just a matter of everybody wanting to do it. Swizz can make it happen. That could happen tomorrow it’s just that everybody doing their own thing. If somebody call with a joint and say they need everybody it could be done in an hour or two. That’s nothing right there. We don’t have no beef. We still speak and stay in touch when we see each other but it ain’t like we’re enemies. We still family; it’s just that we distant. You know how you don’t see your cousin for a minute but it’s still all love when ya’ll see each other.
HipHopWired: With that said, the game’s been missing hot female MCs. How come ya’ll weren’t in Eve’s ear about giving the fans an album?
Jadakiss: Eve’s been doing movies and all that. Eve’s in Hollywood and all. We haven’t seen her. She was gone drop her joint last year but she didn’t feel it was right. That’s a good artist right there with good instincts. She got her joint ready now though. I think she rapping up some movies and then she gone drop it. She got something for ya’ll.
HipHopWired: Where is your fellow Yonkers native Mona Lisa and have ya’ll seen her since The LOX debuted on her “Just Wanna Please U” joint?
Jadakiss: I ain’t seen Mona Lisa in a while man (laughs.) (He asks his man Juice where Mona Lisa at who says she’s still out in Yonkers doing her thing.) I would love to sign her and give her another shot.
HipHopWired: Ok man, before we wrap this up, I gotta ask… Where did the infamous “Unh Hugh” laugh come about and what made you start putting it in your verses?
Jadakiss: (Laughing historically) Ah man, that was just a tension breaker to clear my throat, ears and head before I get ready to lay my verses. I just did it one day and my engineer kept it and then it happened to get out there and people started liking it so I just do it all the time now before I’m about to come in.
HipHopWired: So for all those people who haven’t heard The Last Kiss, what aspects do you want people to walk away with?
Jadakiss: Man I want them to walk away saying Kiss is that ni**a. New York is back and I need more of it and until I get some more of it I’m just gonna play the words off of this Shyte though. The Last Kiss is a joint you can just rock out to.