The next Verzuz battle brings lots of New York energy when Fabolous and Jadakiss will go back and forth on Monday night.
They are the first Verzuz participants who actually collaborated on a joint album, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Both men established firm footing in hip-hop during a time when the mainstream musical tide was changing. New York’s dominance was lightening up, and it was artists from the South—particularly Ludacris and Nelly—who began dominating airwaves.
However, Fab and Kiss kept their Timbs fresh, durags tight, and continued to represent classic New York while also keeping themselves relevant for years.
Here’s what you need to know:
Origin story: Jadakiss
Jadakiss, born Jason Phillips, hails from Yonkers, New York. The MC stands out due to his gravelly voice, hard-hitting rhymes, and of course, his signature laugh that goes something like, “EH-HEH!”
Jadakiss started making a name for himself as a freestyle rapper during his teenage years, before eventually joining The LOX (which stands for “living off experience” and was originally known as The Warlocks Crew). The trio made its debut in 1998 with Money, Power, & Respect (Bad Boy Records), which featured production by The Hitmen, Swizz Beatz, and Dame Grease. Their chart-topping debut was critically acclaimed and spawned hit singles “If You Think I’m Jiggy” and the title track, “Money, Power, & Respect.”
By album number two, titled We Are the Streets (2000), The LOX had moved on from Bad Boy and joined Ruff Ryders, which made more sense due to the Yonkers connection (and The LOX having a dispute with Puffy). The LOX continued making well-received music, which set the groundwork for Jadakiss’s successful solo career.
Jadakiss’s first solo album, Kiss the Game Goodbye (2001), was released on Ruff Ryders, and it was led by “We Gonna Make It,” which became his first top-10 hit on Billboard‘s rap chart as a soloist. The album was the first in a trilogy. Kiss of Death followed in 2004, and The Last Kiss completed the series in 2009.
The Yonkers representative continued releasing solo albums and working with such artists as Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Swizz Beatz, Ne-Yo, Jay-Z, and more. For a period of time, he recorded for Roc-A-Fella Records (where he completed his Kiss album trilogy).
His most recent album, Ignatius, which was his fifth solo album, came out earlier this year on Def Jam. It was named in honor of his friend and former manager, Ignatius Maurice Jackson, who died of cancer in 2017. The tribute album lyrically reflected a lot of personal growth and self-reflection on Jada’s part. He also still found time—while in the midst of his solo career—to rejoin The LOX for tours and to keep recording music with them.
Origin story: Fabolous
Fabolous, born John David Jackson, grew up in Brooklyn. He made his debut with Ghetto Fabolous on 9/11. It was the same day that Jay-Z’s The Blueprint came out, and obviously also the day that went down as one of the worst acts of war committed on American soil. Both albums still did remarkably well given all that was going on.
At that time, Fab swiftly gained solid footing as the East Coast’s next great star, with a gritty, street-smart edge, but also crossover appeal. His first single, “Can’t Deny It” (featuring Nate Dogg on the hook), scored him his first Top-40 pop hit. From there, Fab’s star continued to rise, and he steadily released highly anticipated albums that have sold millions of copies and earned him Grammy nominations.
Fabolous has collaborated with the likes of Lil Wayne and Jay Z, but three of his most popular songs to date—”Superwoman, Pt. 2,” “Can’t Let You Go,” and “4Ever”—are all collaborations with Lil’ Mo. His last album, Summertime Shootout 3: Coldest Summer Ever, was released last year.
Friday on Elm Street
Kiss and Fab joined forces on Friday on Elm Street, inspired by horror icons Jason ( from Friday the 13th) and Freddy Krueger (from A Nightmare on Elm Street). It was released fall 2017 and featured Swizz Beatz, French Montana, Yo Gotti, Styles P (of the LOX), and Jeezy. Aside from a couple of movie samples, references to Freddy and Jason, and spookiness here and there, the actual album wasn’t as horrorcore or cinematic as the title made it sound. It was simply Jada and Fab doing what their fans have grown to love as usual.
However, they did release a cool movie-inspired video for the first track on the album, titled “F vs J Intro.”
Ad libs: Fabolous
Not all rappers have a signature ad lib, but when they do, it’s pretty spectacular. Fab didn’t start off with ad libs, but later in his career, he developed the habit of going, “Nice!”
Actually, not “Nice!” but “Niiiice!”
Ad libs: Jadakiss
Jadakiss has one of the greatest rap ad libs of all time.
This is not up for debate.
What’s great about it is that it’s a laugh-cough thingie that’s not easy to imitate, and he can do different variations of it. That is his superpower.
As far as spelling it, it turns out there are a lot of different perspectives on how that should go, so we’ll just keep going with “EH-HEH!” for now.
But I did an unscientific survey asking people on Twitter how they’d spell it, and this is a sampling of what people came up with:
Lol! Ok. I would not spell it I describe it as a cross between a crow’s caw and Chucky’s chuckle
— Mekeisha Madden Toby (@mekeishamadto) June 25, 2020
A-HEEEEH! Or A-HAAAAA!
— Surviving While Black (@LukeDavisSEO) June 25, 2020
— Sam (@ThatDamnYankee5) June 25, 2020
There’s no explaining these paper towel headbands, though.
— Bleenex and Blorox Bleach ???? (@Nictheegr8) June 24, 2020
They may have just been an innovative way to keep sweat in check. Thankfully, neither moment caught on with the masses.
Verzuz is about the celebration of artistry, but sometimes what artists do in real life can interfere with the perception of their art. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that not everyone was happy about Fabolous being celebrated. In 2018, Fabolous was indicted on felony domestic violence charges against his longtime girlfriend for an incident that was caught on camera. He faced up to 20 years if convicted of the charges, which included one count of domestic violence with significant bodily injury, two counts of threatening to kill, and one count of possession of a weapon, but took a plea deal last year to avoid jail time. TMZ reported that the deal was that he would enter a pretrial intervention program and that the charges would be dismissed as long as he completed that program and stayed out of trouble for a year.
Journalist Hillary Crosley Coker succinctly explained why some people might find this triggering:
Are we gonna talk about how @verzuzonline is promoting a whole abuser who chased his girl, his son and her dad around their house with a gun on a platform that’s supposed to make us feel better? This does not make me feel better. pic.twitter.com/jhjhUVqsbu
— Trillary Crosley (@HillaryCrosley) June 25, 2020
Fabolous is notoriously private about his personal life, but in a December 2019 interview with the radio show Ebro in the Morning, he stated the following:
“I apologize for coming across in a light that I wouldn’t want to be represented in. People make their opinions and it’s hard to, after the fact, change somebody’s opinion on seeing a video of something, because people still see with their own eyes and make their own judgment. So, all I can really do is apologize for being in a light that’s not showing me in my best self.”
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