Rating: 2/5 stars.
Pros: Jadakiss sticks with the same formula that made him a mixtape legend.
Cons: He hasn't grown as a rapper in almost a decade, making him sound anachronistic.
Bottom Line: If you liked his last two albums (which you probably didn't), this won't be too disappointing.
Jadakiss first made a name for himself when his rap group LOX released a moving tribute to their label mate Biggie Smalls. But in the decade since, rap has increasingly shifted away from the New York mix-tape scene and its emphasis on hardcore street rhymes. Or as Jadakiss tells it "rappers is more commercially successful now but the heart's a lot weaker."
So how can one of Biggie's contemporaries remain relevant in 2009? The first single "By My Side" features a hook from Ne-Yo and an appearance from Lil' Wayne. But their fans aren't going to remember a rapper who hasn't had an album out in five years.
Jada's last album (2004's Kiss of Death) was carried by the unexpected success of "Why", an eclectic collection of rhetorical questions. So he tries to catch lightning in a bottle twice with "What If", a duet with Nas where they ponder Mayan prophecies, Michael Vick and Hurricane Katrina.
Rather than actual songs, both singles are more like freestyles, stream-of-consciousness raps where an artist is given license to ramble as long as they produce the occasional witty line. There's a similarity to his years of work on the mix-tape scene, where his raspy baritone made him a legend. But ask him to carry an idea for four minutes and you're in trouble.
Most of The Last Kiss revolves around aimless tough talk and idle boasting without any coherent song structure. So when Jada does attempt something different ("every good woman needs a thug"), it's so out of place that it seems contrived. It's the same fundamental problem that ruined his previous two solo albums, which even he admitted were uninspired. And in this climate, The Last Kiss is probably his last chance.