I was born in California, raised in California, and didn’t really leave California (sporadic road trips to Las Vegas doesn’t count) until I moved to New York in 2009. Throughout my days there, however, I was a heavy East Coast rap fan, and many of my friends listened to about as much Raekwon and D.I.T.C. as they did Rappin’ 4-Tay (or Dru Down. Or Suga Free) and the Hieroglyphics. It’s quite fascinating, really: there’s a small sect of fans who are really, really into East Coast rap, despite rarely – if ever – setting foot in New York.
One of my closest friends is my cousin, Michael: a staunch fanatic of the Arizona Cardinals, General Hospital watcher and – at one inexplicable point in his life – Murder Inc supporter. However, he saved most of his vehemence toward his unbridled appreciation of one Dwight E. Grant, better known as Beanie Sigel. Thanks to his unwavering devotion to Roc-A-Fella Records (he’s, to this day, the only person I know who’s willingly purchased every single Memphis Bleek album), he and I got into extremely intense, near-violent debates on who was the better rapper at the time: Beans or Jadakiss.
See, during the D-Block/Roc-A-Fella battles in the early- to mid-2000s, Michael was convinced that Beanie Sigel annihilated Jadakiss lyrically, while I remained steadfast in my belief that Jada got the better of him. My opinions came in part to his 2003 mixtape with DJ Green Lantern, The Champ Is Here. I recently revisited it while writing about Jada’s latest mixtape, #T5DOA: Freestyle Edition, where I came across my favorite track from it: “40 Bars Of Terror.”
Now, if we talked about discographies, I’d have to give it to Beanie Sigel; The Truth remains one of the best rap debut albums ever, and “Bread & Butter” is my favorite song of his. However, it couldn’t be denied that Jadakiss – who was gearing up for the release of his second album, 2004’s Kiss Of Death, at the time – was a strong contender for New York’s lyrical crown. Snatching the “Yeah Yeah Yeah” instrumental from the Terror Squad, my favorite part of the song – after he vowed to move work from Denver to DC like former NFL running back Clinton Portis – was this couplet near its end:
Whoever you can think of is garbage off hand
Never forget how to make a profit off grams
I just sold my house I made a profit off land
The beamers on eBay I got that off Cam
You never woulda though Martin was knockin’ off Pam
We got riders in every market n***a they all fam
While Jada has remained a consistent lyrical force over the years, it’s arguable that his run between 2001 and 2005 can be considered his best. And while his recent mixtape brought back those memories (it definitely inspired this piece, as well as an excited conversation between Shake and I earlier), I don’t think that anything since will touch the laser-sharp focus of The Champ Is Here.