The New York Times Reviews Jadakiss I Love You...
“Hold You Down,” by Jadakiss and Emmany, is a little splash of 1995, of 2001, of moments when hip-hop was really giving in to R&B, letting go of its stiff shoulders and mean mug. “Never mind them side chicks and they issues/that ain’t nothing but bad luck that they wish you,” Jadakiss raps, his tough-guy growl put in the service of fealty. Back in the day a song like “Hold You Down,” produced by J Buttah — lush but propulsive, and with attitude — would have been a national smash, but now it sounds like a regional footnote, an antiquated New York style, a historical re-enactment.
It’s a song out of time, and extremely happily so, but that’s not the mood throughout the preposterously titled “I Love You (A Dedication to My Fans): The Mixtape,” the new Jadakiss EP being passed off as something like a mixtape, though released on a major label.
Maybe it’s contractual obligation, or maybe it’s the rush to monetize “Hold You Down,” which has slowly been growing in popularity for a couple of months. Whichever the case, “I Love You” is slapdash by every measure, except Jadakiss’s rhymes. The beats may change around him, but he remains a stoic, rapping about drug dealing and women’s footwear with equal sincerity.
His rhymes land square and hard, with dry wit: “Leave Potsie alone and come home to the Fonz/Gold medal feel so much better than the bronze.”
The solo songs here are breezy and efficient — three verses in about three minutes, mostly. But the rest feels cobbled together. There’s a remix of “Inkredible,” which was released last year by the Houston rapper Trae; the earnest “Lil Bruh,” which samples N.E.R.D. heavily; and “Toast,” on which Fred the Godson takes Jadakiss’s flat affect and raises him, brilliantly. The album closes on a sharp left turn, with the sad “Gone Too Long,” about jail time driving a couple apart.
It all could pass for a mixtape if Jadakiss himself hadn’t already redefined what that could mean. In 2004 he released “The Champ Is Here,” one of the first artist-focused mixtapes to equal or better his albums, setting the stage for a generation of rappers to make complete artistic statements without waiting for major-label money. As “I Love You” shows, it’s hard to go back.
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