If pain really is love, then listening to Ja Rule rap is amour at its finest

Paul Wong
Malkmus paves the way for The Jicks.<br><br>Courtesy of Matador Records

Perhaps I have somewhat of a bias against the DMX”s bastard younger brother, but Ja and the good folks at Def Jam promised me an interview, and they managed to screw me out of it. Twice. When the poor assistant on the phone told me that Ja was being “uncooperative,” I didn”t want to have anything more to do with the Tupac clone No. 60,498. Fairness, however, is a rule in objective reviewing of anyone”s album, so I will stay true to my journalistic moral integrity and call his third album as it really is.

What with the massive airplay that he is getting these days, most people already know what to expect from the album. Heads will dismiss it as commercialized trash, and the rest of us will find that handful of tracks that we”ll play to death. Believe it or not, he makes a better showing this time around then he did on Rule 3:36, that gargantuan pile of lyrical and musical ass that he passed off as his last album, but he didn”t at all pull off the quality of his 1999 freshman joint, Venni Vetti Vecci. The whole problem is that Ja Rule”s style is rather played out. In “99, when he became popular as a solo artist, his grimy, murderous persona still had some steam. Since then, he has sold out to MTV, commercialism and that dark side of hip-hop that consists of bad R&B hooks. He”s a rich man now, but he”s a rich man with no more regards for quality.

His partner-in-crime, Irv Gotti, handles the entire scope of production for the entire album, and he is on point at times. “Dial “M” For Murder” is a nice, murky, heavily produced track that shows Ja”s dwindling dark side. “The Inc.,” featuring his gimmick-group Murder Inc., is also an entertaining track as far as production goes.

The most well-rounded track, however, has to be “Always On Time,” featuring Ashanti singing the hook usually this R&B/Rap trip that Ja Rule is on doesn”t work well at all (see the horrid first two singles, “I”m Ready” with J-Lo and “Livin” It Up” w/ Case), but it works on this laid back joint that “gaffles” DMX”s gramma”s well-known phrase.

The rest of the album is rather lukewarm and repetitive after 16 tracks, you get tired of listening to the same boring lyrics, even when peppered with megastars like Missy Elliott, Miss Jenny Lo, and even the late Tupac, who gives the best verse on the album, borrowed from a song he did for the “Above The Rim” soundtrack. I understand that styles will be styles, but this is why the “shelf-life” of rappers is getting so much shorter these days the public will get bored, and move on to the next big thing.

Unless something really outstanding happens with a single from this album (“I”m Real” is long played out), then we may see the steam in his career die down. In the end, Pain Is Love will probably end up being an album that only loyal fans will be anxious to purchase everyone else will probably take the Mp3 route not that I am encouraging this

Still want that interview, chump?

Grade: C

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