The Evolution Of Jadakiss: From Mixtapes to Mainstream Success

The LOX rapper is highly respected among hip hop's greats. We look back at the evolution of Jadakiss.

BYWyatt Westlake
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Jadakiss has had a long and prolific career. The Yonkers rapper emerged as a member of The Lox alongside Styles P and Sheek Louch but his solo career has been just as fruitful. His lyrical prowess earned him the reputation of owning any track he's on, whether alongside fellow formidable MCs or R&B singers. It's impossible not to recognize his raspy voice on a song that became synonymous with his charismatic rapping style. As the rapper turned the age of 48 on May 27th, Jadakiss cemented his legacy in hip-hop and expanded his repertoire into different businesses. Today, we take a look into the evolution of Jadakiss.

Jadakiss's Young Age Talent And Success With The Lox

Jadakiss’s development as a rapper goes back to his adolescence. At the age of twelve, Jadakiss began rapping while participating in freestyle rap competitions. He formed The Lox with his childhood friends, Styles P and Sheek Louch, creating demos and mixtapes that would eventually get them signed. Together, they created some of New York’s toughest street rap anthems. They initially signed to Diddy’s Bad Boy label, appearing on songs alongside the label's staples including Biggie and Mase. One of their earliest career highlights as a group was their show-stealing verses on Diddy’s “It’s All About The Benjamins” remix. They released their debut album, Money, Power & Respect under Bad Boy in 1998 before moving to Ruff Ryders, reaching further success. The Lox also started their D-Block record label.

Read More: Jadakiss Is Rap’s Jason Voorhees: From The LOX To “Ignatius”

A Successful Solo Career

After The Lox released their sophomore album, We Are The Streets on Ruff Ryders in 2000, Jadakiss began focusing on his solo career. While still closely collaborating with Styles and Sheek, Jadakiss’s solo albums pushed his star power further. His debut album, 2001’s Kiss Tha Game Goodbye contained two of his biggest hits: “We Gonna Make It” and “Knock Yourself Out.” Jadakiss’s second album, 2004’s Kiss of Death was an even bigger commercial success. The album achieved number 1 spots on multiple Billboard charts and contained his two hit singles, "Why?" and "U Make Me Wanna" ft. Mariah Carey.

Jadakiss had already proved that he could make hit crossover songs with R&B artists, but “Why?” with Anthony Hamilton and “U Make Me Wanna” solidified Jadakiss’s status as a key collaborator. “By My Side,” the Ne-Yo-assisted lead single from his third album, 2009’s The Last Kiss also reinforced Jadakiss’s ability to make hit songs. Outside of The Lox, Jadakiss has also worked with notable R&B artists such as Usher, Ronald Isley, and Mario. Jadakiss has a deep history of being one of hip hop’s best guest features, appearing on songs with rappers like Big Pun, N.O.R.E., Ghostface Killah, Busta Rhymes, Lil Wayne, and others. He has also worked with some of the UK’s most famous rappers like Giggs and Young Adz, who signed with 'Kiss’s D-Block as a member of D-Block Europe.

The Verzuz Champion

The freestyle rap competitions that Jadakiss entered at a young age set him up for success, but also encouraged his competitive spirit within hip-hop. Jadakiss declared himself “top 5 dead or alive” in hip-hop -- a statement that inspired the title of his fourth studio album in 2015. He and close collaborator and fellow New York rapper Fabolous sparred with each other on their 2017 collab album, Friday on Elm Street.

However, that same competitive spirit that shaped his pen during freestyle battles also allowed him to shine in both solo and group Verzuz battles; one being Jadakiss vs. Fabolous while the other saw The Lox go head-to-head with Dipset. Jadakiss was crowned the winner of his battle with Fabolous while The Lox came out victorious against Dipset due to Jadakiss’s show-stopping charisma, specifically his "Who Shot Ya? Freestyle." His deep catalog of both solo and group records helped support Jadakiss’s debatable position as “top 5 dead or alive.”

Today, Jadakiss is viewed as a hip-hop legend, giving new artists a shine and collaborating with fellow legends on his later albums like the aforementioned Top 5 Dead Or Alive from 2015 and 2020’s Ignatius. The Lox are also more unified than ever as they came together following each member’s solo works for recent group albums like 2016’s Filthy America… It’s Beautiful and 2020’s Living Off Xperience.

Read More: Jadakiss Names His "Top 5 Voices In Hip-Hop"

Ventures Outside of Music

In addition to music, Jadakiss has stepped into business ventures that have also been successful. In 2014, Jadakiss and Styles P opened a juice bar in their hometown of Yonkers called Juices For Life before opening other locations in different parts of New York City. Keeping it in the family, Jadakiss also recently launched his own brand of coffee company called Kiss Cafe with his father and son. In a new Drink Champs interview promoting the new coffee product, Jadakiss’s father discussed working in the coffee industry long before Jadakiss started rapping at a young age. For them, working as a family was a full-circle moment.


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