When Jada stole the show at this week’s Lox vs. Dipset Verzuz battle, he did it with substance over style. And that’s the story of his career.
In 2001, Allen Iverson was on the top of the world. Yes, he lost a gut-wrenching NBA Finals against the Kobe-Shaq Lakers, but ultimately, nobody was overshadowing Bubba Chuck. He was the most popular player in the league, a transcendent star with a singular aesthetic and a sneaker line reaching levels of popularity only enjoyed by Michael Jordan.
If Mike left the league in a rough spot with his retirement after the 1998 Finals, Iverson was carrying them back to relevance.
He was a reigning NBA MVP set to unveil his fifth sneaker, the Reebok Answer V, and with carte blanche for marketing and promotion, it was up to Iverson and legendary music mogul Steve Stoute to put together a plan. So, did they tap Jay-Z or Nelly or Outkast or DMX or any of the other stars sitting atop the charts to provide a soundtrack?
Stoute and A.I. called one of the most respected pens and voices in the game. An unquestioned legend with nary a blemish on his resume.
They called Jadakiss.
“Steve Stoute put [that] together,” Kiss told SLAM in 2015. “They told me about the sneaker, about the technology of the sneaker, and the rest was just my knowledge of A.I.” So, why did Iverson and Stoute lean on Kiss knowing that bigger stars were within arm’s length? Rap’s unquestioned king, Jay-Z, was just two years away from a monumental Reebok deal that would see him become the first rapper with a major signature sneaker, and his relationship with Stoute was long-running.
Just last year, Stoute told The Undefeated that the Kiss/Iverson commercials were still his favorite moments of rap-basketball intersection ever. Iverson would say in 2016 that Kiss was in his all-time pantheon of MCs alongside fellow legends 2 Pac, The Notorious BIG, Nas, Jay-Z, and André 3000.
It was respect for Jada as a lyricist and one of the best rappers of all time that won over Iverson and Stoute. And in true Jadakiss fashion, he delivered to the point that the audio from the commercial actually received radio play.
Fast forward to 2021. Tuesday night, Aug. 3. Jada and The Lox headed to Madison Square Garden to face commercial superstars Cam’ron, Jim Jones, and Juelz Santana — a.k.a. Dipset — in a Verzuz battle tailor-made for project stoops and six-inch wheat Timberlands.
The Lox were the underdogs in terms of record sales, hits, and the other things that seemingly win these battles — but Jada was the X-factor. The respect he commands, the presence he carries around with him, and his ability to steal the show were on full display.
And by the end of the night, Juelz himself called Jada the MVP of the show.
It was clear, Jadakiss won the battle, won the night, and showed yet again that respect trumps all. Record sales and popularity are flash; Kiss won with substance.
Just like he always has.