Jadakiss has something to prove; his reputation as a fierce lyricist has yet to translate into platinum record sales. On his sophomore release, Jada swings for the fences in hopes of showing that he is worthy of Jay-Z-like stats. And although he hits plenty out of the park, he whiffs on quite a few, too. (See the awful "Getting It In," with Kanye West sounding like an extra from The Stepford Wives.) The standout track, the Havoc-produced "Why," with the soulful Anthony Hamilton, shows Jada diversifying his lyrical portfolio; lines like "Why did Bush knock down the towers?" have sent Bill O'Reilly into episodic fits of seething rage. And even though the record at times seems disjointed and contrived for specific audiences, it's a welcome departure from the tired tales of gunplay that weighed down previous efforts. Lately, Ruff Ryders has lost its shine and direction, but Kiss of Death is solid enough to help it regain Money, Power, and Respect.


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