On a sweaty evening in June 2005, I found myself under the orange glow of streetlights in the back lot of my homegirl’s apartment complex near Flatbush Junction. She was throwing a party, and a bunch of our classmates were eager to rub their adolescent hormones together to Elephant Man, Slim Thug and whatever else was hot during that random Summer. As the party raged on, a crew of older goons from the building slinked in, trying to steal all the girls and start shit with all the dudes. They eventually set their sights on me and two of my boys: one guy shouted “pocket check!” and quickly patted down our jeans, half-jokingly. We didn’t find it funny. They were locals, and we weren’t, so fight or flight instincts set in quickly. As we read the situation and tried to strategize without speaking, another dude walked up to me and asked “What’s up? You nervous?” and put his hand to my chest—my heart was pounding. He and his friends laughed loud, before he reassured: “Chill, fam, you good. Y’all don’t got shit we want.”
I was reminded of this night while watching 50 Cent’s latest video, “Irregular Heartbeat.” Not just for the topical connection—Nigga, you pussy, you scared, I can hear your heartbeat, 50 taunts, with just a bit more menace than my 9th grade nemesis—but also because the song marks the first Jadakiss/50 collab I can name since their 2005 beef, one of rap’s most thrilling and underrated. See, in the weeks prior to that backyard bashment, I’d probably listened to Jadakiss’ scathing 50 Cent diss “Checkmate” 638 times. If you asked me to choose between 50 and Kiss back then, I probably couldn’t (honestly, I’d most likely say Cam’ron). But the idea of them sparring was enough to get the whole hood talking, and Jada’s shots were fired squarely enough to settle all debates: Never the king of New York, you live in Connecticut; I did real songs with B.I.G, no made up shits; You had to get shot nine times to be rich. All this before the brilliant hook in which Jada recast 50 as an animal: specifically, a rat, a pig and a snake. In rich irony, “Irregular Heartbeat” lands on 50’s upcoming LP, titled Animal Ambition.
Two of New York’s juggernauts putting aside their differences nearly a decade later may only mean there’s more money in bonding than beefing: especially considering both rappers are releasing music independently after dragged-out, public tiffs with the major labels that propped them up for success years ago. Their voices sound as gruff as ever, and the new single is a testament to all the cold-steeled flows they could have churned out together if history had unfolded differently. Sure, I’d rather see them going at each other, but that may just be my own nostalgia for clueless nights spent chasing girls and facing foes with old friends during their peak eras. 50 and Jada were the soundtrack to formative life lessons: stand tall, strike smart and look fearless even when you’re scared shitless. Years pass, beefs change, but some things remain the same.