Many rap fans feel exhorted to praise notions of "lyricism" in their favourite artists, but in 2017, that feels dated.
Good or bad, lyricism is a lost art, and no amount of deferential lip service can obscure the realities of hip-hop in its current iteration. For two decades, inarticulate rappers have been gaining on their more writerly counterparts. Jadakiss chooses his words with care, which is surely a factor in the continued stonewalling of Jada by his record label. (Jada's solo albums are often very poorly promoted.)
As bromidic as it sounds, Friday on Elm Street marks a return to the "fundamentals" that Jadakiss so thoroughly mastered on 2001's Kiss tha Game Goodbye. Also in tow is Fabolous, who, like Jada, has been lurking around the New York rap scene for longer than some readers have been alive. Both men are considered world-class punchline rappers; they arrived at this distinction through frank, deadpan displays of gallows humour: "That boy 'Kiss is a bastard, you gotta see 'im / He givin' out free caskets and mausoleums," Jada sneers on "Ground Up."
Preoccupation with death was an animating force in 1990s gangsta rap; at times, as on "Principles" and "Ice Pick," Friday on Elm Street betrays a similar preoccupation. The life of a hustler is fraught with tests of one's durability and gamesmanship, but Fab and Jada make frequent light of the fact that they might not conceivably be long for this world. And with its nostalgic, broodingly primitive soul samples (think early Wu-Tang), Friday on Elm Street is cause for every roughneck in New York City to rejoice. (Def Jam/Street Family/D-Block)