How To Stay In The Rap Game Forever, According To Jadakiss

The Yonkers legend shares his secrets.

Photographer Sam Balaban
December 02, 2015
How To Stay In The Rap Game Forever, According To Jadakiss

Two decades deep into his career, Jadakiss has still got it. This week, the Yonkers stalwart scored the fourth top five debut of his career when Top 5 Dead or Alive landed at No. 4 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. How does a 40-year-old rapper maintain success in such a fickle game? During a recent visit to The FADER office, Jadakiss shared his secrets.

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Get up early

Jadakiss credits Puff Daddy with teaching him this. "Many, many years back," Jadakiss recalled, "he told me, 'You gotta get up early, cause all the money in the world that's being shifted is already shifted by 12pm. So you gotta get the earliest start you can get on attacking the world, and going out there to get the millions and do big deals." Ever since, Jadakiss counted himself an early riser. "Even when I do late nights," he said. "Sleeping ain't going to get you nowhere."

Keep a tight inner circle

"You definitely have to have a strong inner circle, people around you who are there for your best interest and there for the best interest for the project and the brand" said Jadakiss, who still counts his The Lox homies Sheek Louch and Styles P to be his home team. Not just anybody will do: "[They have to be people] who are not just gonna tell you anything. You gotta be able to take criticism, constructive criticism. Take the good and the bad and turn it into a positive."

Keep one ear to the street

Jadakiss' style—hard-edged polysyllabic rhyme schemes delivered in a gravely voice and with bad attitude—has hardly changed changed over the years. And yet, here he is on Top 5 Dead Or Alive rapping with Future, who is not only one of the biggest names in rap right now but also pretty much Jada's sonic opposite.

"I try to embrace the new stuff and the younger cats," he explained, adding that his coed son helps keep him up to-date. "That keeps them calling you for remix and features, that keeps you out there and in the mix [so you can] have a longer career."

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Diversify your portfolio

If you don't already have a side hustle, find one. When Jadakiss isn't working on his music, he is running a trio of juice bars and a label, lending a hand to local charities, and he hopes to get into voiceover acting. "Music is a stepping stone for you to open up other doors for yourself," he said.

Work for success, not fame

"I ain't gonna sit here and say that it ain't about the money 'cause it is," said Jadakiss, who believes that fame is fun but so is feeding your family. "Go for the fame if that's what you're in this for, but at the end of the day we are here to obtain success and be able to take care of our families and buy things you want, go places you want to go, and live life."

Maintain perspective

There will be moments when things get tough and you have to do shit that you might not want to do. For example, Jadakiss explained with a laugh that he had threatened to quit rap earlier in the afternoon when he found out that he wasn't allowed to smoke in the car service his label had hired to take him around town. He had spent the morning chaperoning his daughter's school trip to an aviation museum and, as he put it, "when I need to smoke, I need to smoke." Then he got over it.

"You know," he said, "that's the beautiful thing of being able to be in the game for so long. It's only a minute that a thing like that makes me mad. It ain't no biggie." What's one smoke-free car ride in a two decade career, really?

Be blessed

Asked point blank how he stays inspired, Jadakiss admitted that there is more to it than just hard work. "It is a blessing from the Lord," he laughed, "I really don't know."

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How To Stay In The Rap Game Forever, According To Jadakiss