"I've been fucked over, left for dead, dissed and forgotten. Luck ran out, they hoped that I'd be gone, stiff and rotten". Nas - Ether
Those immortal words once spoken by Nasir Jones could not apply to Ja Rule's career any better. The man who everybody loved to hate a year ago when 50 Cent stormed onto the scene is now back, and according to many, better than ever. With his sixth album, "R.U.L.E.", Ja is done beefing and is back to doing what he does best, making good records. While his last four albums have failed to live up to the standards he set with "Venni Vetti Vecci", Ja's latest attempt is the best he has had to offer in almost five years.
While Ja is not completely back to his old form on "R.U.L.E.", the album does a solid job at bridging the gap between his street and pop sounds. In addition, the production is drastically improved (for the most part), making for a more cohesive sounding album. Ultimately, "R.U.L.E." is divided between Ja's radio friendly songs, and his more street orientated ones.
The street side of "R.U.L.E." is easily the better (as you would guess), and proves that Ja still has some gas left in the tank. "Last Of The Mohicans" starts the album off right, as Ja takes us back to his "VVV" days. Over a heavy bassline and light horns, Ja ferociously rips into the track with a sense of hunger we have not seen in years. "Gun Talk" featuring Black Child, is another fiery street anthem that fans have come to expect from The Inc. Ja emphatically addresses the situation between The Inc and Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff, as he states his displeasure for the media. "Who gonna hold us of, cause you don't read newspaper's nigga. Lt Ja tell it, that's murder inc boy's, that's real killers. Money laundering, tax avoid and drug dealers. Backed by chemical grit, you can't be serious. We just niggaz getting money". However, its been Ja's most important single of his career, "New York", that remains the true highlight of "R.U.L.E.". Along with Joey Crack and Jadakiss, Ja pays homage to the city that never sleeps, making for a classic New York anthem. While both Ja and Jada offer solid verses, its Fat Joe who really shines bright with his new found hunger on the mic.
While the gritty street tracks on "R.U.L.E." are proof that Ja is still capable of producing material on the level of "VVV", Ja also shows that he can make respectable commercial music without blatantly forcing the issue like in years past. A prime example is "Never Thought", a sultry love tale that finds Ja intertwined with an upper class woman from the suburbs. The track's sensuous keys and well-written hook provides the perfect atmosphere of love and lust. "Where I'm From" featuring Lloyd, is another song that is able to blend Ja's street credibility with his catchy song making ability. With a combination of magnificent piano keys and a light flute, Ja vividly paints a picture of the rough streets he was raised on. With some socially conscious lyrics thrown in as well, Ja reminds everyone he has not forgotten where he has come from.
Even though "R.U.L.E." is Ja's best album in five years, it is not without its faults. Like his previous releases, the album suffers from some cookie cutter pop songs that follow the same "blueprint" Ja has used for all his big hits. "What's My Name" is another bland collaboration with Ashanti, which fails due to horrendous keyboard production. "The Manual" also follows Ja's "blueprint", with a singsong hook and watered down lyrics. "Get It Started" is another irritating effort, due to a lame hook and typical synthesizer production. "Caught Up" is the only other blatantly weak track, as it also suffers from an uninspiring R&B hook (notice the trend).
With the entire Hip Hop industry leaving him for dead, Ja Rule has amazingly regrouped and put forth an album that has saved his career. While the album is not without its faults, for the most part, it succeeds in providing a good mix of street and radio friendly songs that Ja is known for. "R.U.L.E." is the album that nobody envisioned Ja putting out, especially after what 50 Cent pulled. But in the end, Ja is the one getting the last laugh, because even if you want to, it's hard to front on the quality of songs he has produced on "R.U.L.E.".