There's no middle ground here. Either Jadakiss' 2001 debut album Kiss Tha Game Goodbye is a universal and undisputable classic or an underrated, integral piece of the New York hip-hop canon. It's only a matter of perspective. For those who grew up during an era where The Lox and the Ruff Ryders were gaining traction through releases like We Are The Streets and Ryde Or Die Vol 1, Jadakiss no stranger. Alongside like-minded emcees Styles P and Sheek Louch, Jada blessed the masses with some of the hardest lyricism out, beginning a run that would slide him into Top 5 Dead Or Alive contention for years to come. When he first announced his introductory solo project at the onset of the millennium, many were curious to see how the raspy-voiced rapper would fare on the major stage. 

With production from Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, The Neptunes, DJ Premier, PK, Just Blaze, The Alchemist, and more, Kiss Tha Game Goodbye served as a welcome showcase of Jada' unexpected versatility. It doesn't take long to seize attention. Off the bat, Jada's street pedigree held steadfast on the back-to-back assault "Jada's Got A Gun" and personal highlight "Show Discipline;" the latter finds Kiss going bar for bar with Nas, bodying the ominous instrumental with his signature brand of unfazed violence. "Never will it stop, handguns with double-digit shots," spits Jada, in the introductory bars. "I move work on other n***s blocks."

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Another incredible tandem occurs shortly thereafter, with "We Gon' Make It" and the chilling Lox collaboration "None Of Ya'll Better." Tonally, the pair capture some of Jada's favored aesthetic, representing his "comfort zone" for the day one fans. Plus, is the latter not DJ Premier's darkest beat ever? That in itself is worth noting. Even when Jada flips the script on the Timbland-produced "Nasty Girl" and the west-coast inspired, Snoop Dogg blessed "Cruisin," his vivid brand of storytelling and effortless flow keep the album moving at a dynamic pace. That's not to say there aren't missteps on occasion - "On My Way" and "Fuckin' Or What" feels like it could have been a "one-or-the-other" type deal - but Kiss Tha Game Goodbye moves into its conclusive stages ready to fire on all cylinders.

To say it ends with a bang feels apropos. We've got a Ruff Ryders posse cut with "It's Time I See You," followed directly by the project's hardest-hitting, Southern-homage "What You Ride For?" "Feel Me" finds Jadakiss at his most personal, while "We Gon Make It" proves that inspirational hip-hop doesn't have to be hampered by cheese. By the time Kiss Tha Game Goodbye concludes at a healthy seventy-six minutes, it somehow feels like Jadakiss is only getting started. The relic of a simpler time, Kiss' debut is one of those rare gems that has aged particularly well, gaining even more of a following with every passing year. Today, on its eighteenth birthday, why not take a moment to celebrate an integral piece of work from one of the best lyricists of our time?