Hate him or love him, Ja Rule’s contributions to the hip-pop game are undeniable. From 1999 to 2003, Ja Rule literally went from a “DMX knockoff” to the king of R&B collaborations. His track record speaks for itself; and up until the overwhelming media backlash in 2003, Rule topped the charts. While his first offering ‘Venni Vetti Vicci’ was aimed at the hardcore audience DMX so quickly took advantage of, Rule returned in 2000 with the more radio friendly “Rule 3:36”. “Pain Is Love” is his third album, and was released in late 2001.
1.) Pain Is Love (Skit)
Ja Rule sets off his third offering talking over a menacing instrumental while police sirens can be heard in the background, but can later be heard singing in the background. Not the best way to open up the album.
2.) Dial M For Murder
Over slow and thuggish production, Ja spits what one would call his life story. While the lyrics are subpar and the hook features more whining from Rule, Ja’s delivery and the production make for a listenable track.
3.) Livin It Up feat. Case
Chances are if you were a hip hop fan in 2001; you’ve probably heard this song at least 50 times. This pop fueled collaboration with Case features a classic Stevie Wonder rendition. Rule croons the hook (with the now-too-typical tale of sex, drugs, and rock n roll), and offers a suprisingly good single that had everyone vibing. Good song.
4.) The Inc. feat. Cadillac Tah, Black Child, Ashanti
Over another pounding instrumental, Ja and the Murderers (Black Child, Cadillac Tah) show a glimpse of Rule’s street side. Great, great beat; and even Ashanti finds her way on to the end of the song, giving it some extra flavor. Great song.
5.) Always On Time feat. Ashanti
This song is the perfect example of the gift (and curse) that Ja had; and that’s making sing song collabo’s for the radio. While it got him to the top; this song is nothing more then a “I love my lady” type of songs. Decent song at best; but definatley not a banger.
6.) Down Ass ***** feat. Charli Baltimore
“Every thug needs a ladyyyyy!!” just about sums this track up. After the mediocre performance Rule served up with “Always On Time”, Ja returns with this God awful mess of a song. Featuring Charli Baltimore, this features Rule singing to his women, once again. Although heralded as his calling card, he’s clearly capable of much more. Skip it.
7.) Never Again
Just when a listener of this album thought it couldn’t get any worse, it does just that. This is yet another song with Rule performing/whining the hook with an off key pitch. Rule’s apologized to enough women, and simply didn’t need to do it again on this track. Skip it.
8.) Worldwide Gangstas feat. The Murderers
This should be more of what’s expected from a good Ja Rule album. Over thorough New York production, the entire Murder Inc. roster spits flames over this street banger; with Ja rapping the final (and best verse) on the song. Great track.
9.) Leo (Skit)
After the last song, I think it’s safe to say everyone expected more. Now, while most skits are overlooked on albums, there are a few that actually contribute to the album. This is definatley not one of them. Rule’s “Miss Cleo” imitation is neither necessary, nor funny. Skip it.
10.) I’m Real (Murda Mix) feat. Jennifer Lopez
Quite possibly Rule’s biggest hit to date, this track (featuring Jennifer Lopez) samples Rick James’ classic “Mary Jane”, and actually very cleverly makes for a great hip-pop track. If you can get passed the fact that Ja’s main priority is clearly geared towards a female teenage audience, this song might actually work for you. Decent song for what it is; and that’s a sing-a-long for little girls everywhere.
11.) Smokin & Ridin feat. 0-1, Jodie Mack
Over very soothing West Coast production, Rule gives his listeners quite possibly the best track on the album. This song, while simple, works perfectly; and is clearly the way Rule should perform his hooks. Great track in every aspect, with Jodie and 0-1 playing a great supporting act.
12.) X feat. Missy Elliot, Tweet
Ja Rule loves extacy. If you’re not familiar with this accusation, just listen to any song that he has ever had on the radio, and you’ll see what I mean. While his last dedication to E (“Extacy” from “Rule 3:36”) featured great production featuring Jayo Felony, this followup is a major letdown. It’s almost like Ja doesn’t know how to properly work this slowed down instrumental. Tweet is the only upside to this track, and that’s definatley not saying much.
13.) Big Remo (Skit)
Bernie Mac shows up to talk for half a minute. Not worth the extra song slot at all. Skip it.
14.) Lost Little Girl
Looking at the title, you’d expect a Tupac inspired track, in the veins of “Baby Don’t Cry” or “Brenda’s Got A Baby”. This song, however, features Rule’s failed attempt at singing another below average chorus over a club beat; making the subject matter almost forgettable. Terrible attempt at a song with substance. Skip it it all costs.
15.) So Much Pain feat. 2Pac
This track recieved a lot of criticism. While in recent years it’s obvious Ja Rule was heavily influenced by Tupac Shakur, this was his earliest attempt at a collaboration with the deceased hip hop legend. Featuring the same beat as the original “Pain”, Ja ‘pays tribute’ to ‘Pac by twisting his first verse and re-rapping it himself. However, the remastered beat, and the addition of 2Pac at the end of the track, make for a suprisingly good track that has easily stood the test of time.
16.) Pain Is Love
Looking at the lyrics on paper, this song seems to be a deep song that Ja has put together. But as Rule has proved throughout the CD, his ability to deliver these songs are almost laughable. Over another bubblegum production, Ja’s singing and constant whining make for an underachieving track. Bad way to close out the album.
Bottom line, this album is a roller coaster ride through and through. The balance of songs is almost non existant, with the majority of the tracks catering to a very different audience Rule gained with “Venni Vetti Vicci”. And while this album did manage to go triple platinum (thanks to the countless number of pop singles), perhaps it was oversaturation like this that led to the bashing of Rule by the media not even a year later.
Overall Rating: 2.5/5