He was undoubtedly the star of the Lox, until they all dropped solo albums and the consensus among fans seemed to be that Jada‘s album was the worst. But as always, Jada shows up on a few tracks (most notably Gangstarr‘s Right Where You Stand and Ghost‘s Run), and people start fiending for more Kiss. The big question now is if Kiss of Death would be just that for his solo career. That is if he once again proved he couldn’t do it on his own.

While Jada may stress that this album is much different than his debut, there are certainly many similarities. Once again, Jada has tried to be all things to all people; song for the gangstas (and wannabe’s of course), song for the clubs, song for the ladies, etc. Now the big difference is, this time around he makes it work. U Make Me Wanna featuring Mariah Carey had disaster written all over it, but it is actually some really slick shit with a killer flute loop. Plus his club-ready tracks serve their purpose and then some; just see What You So Mad At and the Pharrell assisted Hot Sauce to Go. As played as the Neptunes’ track/Pharrell hook may be, it still works nicely most of the time. Even the Dre produced street anthem Times Up with Nate Dogg will get the spot jumping. It wouldn’t be an album without the man of the hour lending a hand, and Kanye shows up for a verse and a beat on the nicely understated Getting’ It In.

Jada listened to his critics and I guess he agreed that he couldn’t make 18 tracks of the same ol’ gangsta shit. So to get his name placed among the greats, he has diversified and opened himself up to his fans. Why is the best of the bunch as he asked some well-placed questions such as why do niggas push pounds of powder?/why did Bush knock down the towers? and why’d they stop letting niggas get degrees in jail? Some of the other thoughtful tracks are hit and miss, Still Feel Me and Air It Out are both good songs, but By Your Side and I’m Goin’ Back are both ruined by the production and terrible hooks. He misses his mark a few other places as well, Shine with Snoop and DJ Quik is just horribly out of place and Bring You Down is monotonous.

Of course this wouldn’t be a Jada LP without firearm pontificating, tales of crime and threats of physical violence. His D-Block fam is up for the task of helping that cause, and they do quite well with Real Hip-Hop f. Sheek and raucous Shoot Outs with Styles P. Eminem joins the Lox for Welcome To D-Block where he lends a sick verse, a nice beat, and an awful hook. I can’t help but be amused by Em painting a better picture of their block than they could though.

Which leads to me to the constant debate of Jada‘s place in the upper echelon of hip-hop; with constant show-stealing guest appearances, people are always ready to put Jada near the top of the heap. His first LP couldn’t do it, and as much as I like this one, it couldn’t either. Jada is a really nice emcee, he proved here he can be diverse without losing his strengths and create a good album. Yet, he still isn’t the calibre to command mention in the same breath as some of the game’s true heavyweights. Obviously some will dispute that, and some will not. Regardless, Kiss of Death is the album we knew Jada was capable of making the first time around and well worth your purchase.