After his breakthrough hit “Holla Holla” the previous year, Ja Rule returned the following year with his critically acclaimed sophomore effort “Rule 3:36.” Stepping out of DMX’s shadow, Ja set his own mark with a number of radio friendly hits, while still incorporating the gangsta image that made him famous in the first place.
Nothing more then that – an intro. This features Ja singing about wanting to kill himself, to relieve his pain. Not believable in the least, considering he’s making millions of dollars.
2.) Watching Me
This is the proper way to start the album. Over a pounding guitar fueled instrumental, Ja’s aggressive lyrics and demeanor make for a good track. And although the hook is mediocre at best, Ja’s delivery saves this one. Good song.
3.) Between Me & You feat. Christina Milian
Featuring a then unknown Christina Milian, this is Ja’s first real attempt at catering to the ladies, on the album. The song managed to cross over, and help the album sell millions, but the song itself lacks. Milian’s simple and repetitive chorus, and Ja’s constant yelling make for a lackluster track.
4.) Put It On Me feat. Vita
This song (the 2nd hit from the album) was a much better choice for a single. Ja’s now famous “What would I be without you?!”, and harmonizing hook works perfectly, with Vita offering up a very worthy guest spot. This is a song for the ladies through and through, and nobody does it better then Ja.
5.) 6 Feet Underground
Clearly one of the best tracks on the album, Ja returns to the street, after the last two songs, over this pounding instrumental. Detailing how his enemies want to see him ‘6 feet underground’, this track features a clever sample, and a flawless hook. Great track in every aspect.
6.) Love Me, Hate Me
More of a mellow track, this features Ja performing his own chorus, with subject matter very similar to that of the late Tupac Shakur. Production is very simple and Ja’s lyrical skill suffers a bit here, but his hook writing ability shines once again making for a slightly above average track.
7.) Die feat. Tah Murdah, Black Child, Dave Bing
Murder Inc.’s lesser known member show up for this remake of last year’s underground hit – “It’s Murda.” While Tah and Black Child’s verses are nothing special, Ja’s hook (“Everybody gonna die, but nobody want dead…It’s your lifeeeee!!!!!”) and verse alone make for a worthy track. Great, great track in every aspect, with Ja standing out more and more as a solo artist.
8.) ***** You feat. 0-1, Vita
After the last track’s near perfection, this song is a complete dissapointment. Very bland perfection, and Ja’s unessescary singing, followed by Vita’s lackluster hook, make for an underachieving track. Skip it.
9.) I’ll ***** U Girl (Skit)
This “skit” features Bernie Mac, and Ja Rule singing over what sounds like one of Uncle Luke’s booty-and-bass beats. Complete waste of time. Skip it at all costs.
10.) Grey Box (Skit)
A skit followed by a skit. That’s a first. Skip once again.
11.) Extacy feat. Tah Murdah, Black Child, Jayo Felony
Ja’s first (of many) dedications to his favorite drug – E. West Coast artist Jayo Felony makes a surprising cameo, over this bouncing production. Ja’s hook is once again on point, getting the album back on track after the last few songs. ‘The Murderers’ are the only dissapointment, as they once again try to sound too hard over this instrumental. However, this one of the album’s better tracks.
12.) It’s Your Life feat. Shade Sheist
While this Carribean flavored production is on point, and Shade Sheist’s verse flows perfectly; Ja unfortunatley doesn’t come through the way he could have. The hook is just under Ja’s potential, making for an average track at best.
13.) I Cry feat. Lil Mo
Another one of the album’s singles aimed at the ladies, this features Lil Mo. And while most will hate extremely hard, I’m going to go out on a limb, and say this is one of the album’s best tracks. Production is on point, as Ja flows perfectly, while Lil Mo soothes the chorus. Great track, that has stood the test of time.
14.) One Of Us
Although the concept of this song is original, the constant “One of us” in the background becomes a little repetitive. Questioning if God we’re ‘one of us’, Ja flows over this pounding production, with precision. Good track, and will surprise most listeners, who haven’t previously heard this song.
15.) Chris Black (Skit)
Another skit (this time clocking in at an unbelievable 3 minutes) features an incarcerated homie freestyling from the pen. Skip it.
16.) The Rule Won’t Die
At just over 2 minutes (shorter then the skit that preceded it), Ja explains why ‘the rule won’t die’. Production is on point, but Ja takes too long to start the track off, and therefore doesn’t have enough time to properly finish it. A somewhat dissapointing way to the end the album.
In conclusion, Ja’s sophomore album succeeds where his first one didn’t, in the fact that it attained commercial success. However, unlike his “Venni Vetti Vicci”, Ja sheds the thug image most of the time to appeal to his female audience. While it worked on this album, his future albums (“Pain Is Love”, “Last Temptation”) proved it was just a little overdone. So take “Rule 3:36” for what it is, and that is an entertaining album with a few great songs.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5