Album: Pain Is Love
Label: Def Jam
Rating: 3 / 10
Ja Rule used to be a mediocre hard-core rapper. The bulk of the rhymes on “Venni Vetti Vecci” were about the things like drugs, hoes and murder. He was okay at rapping about this type of stuff, but he didn’t really stand-out. Ja Rule finally realized that the TRL kids don’t want to hear about murder. His third album “Pain Is Love” is pop-rap at it’s best (or worst). He doesn’t stray from the very trite topics of sex, drugs, and thuggin’, and in fact it weren’t for Ja Rule’s distinctive signature voice he’d be just another wack pop-rapper. Ja Rule pulls a Sugar Ray on this album – going from being hard to pop so he can sell records. It’s okay with me, he never was a very good hard-core rapper.
Ja Rule is by no means original, but for some reason he seems very sincere. His voice has that emotion that is believable. On this album he plays the role of the “sensitive thug”. His scruffy voice is similar to DMX’s and is the only thing that separates him from all the other pop-rappers. His apparent passion is nice, but it’s too bad he has nothing important to say. This is like having a good actor but a horrible script.
The album is laden with filler – there are 4 skits, that are neither funny or entertaining. He makes fun of that psychic Lady Cleo – boy, that’s original. There are also about 5 filler tracks. On these songs Ja Rule seems like he’s on autopilot. All this filler will leave you reaching for that skip button on your CD player. This leaves only a few listenable songs, and these aren’t very good.
The production is not nearly as good as I would expect from a major label high profile hip-hop release. The album seems very thrown together. They should have taken a little more time and given Ja some good beats to rap over. The good beats would distract listeners from Ja’s unoriginal lyrics. Usually, good production is what saves a pop-rap album. If I can at least nod my head to the beat I’m happy. The beats all have a similar sound to them, they sound fairly somber which makes sense has many of Ja’s songs are sad. This is neither ass-shakin’ music or head noddin music.
There are a few good songs on this album. ‘So Much Pain’ is pretty good. It features 2pac. I’ve never been very fond of 2pac, but this song’s good. It’s interesting that Ja Rule would collaborate with 2pac because 2pac is the rapper that Ja is trying to be. ‘Livin’ it Up’ has a catchy hook that I can’t help singing along with. Missy Elliot’s bars on the song ‘X’, a song about drugs, are pretty good. Finding good things about this album is tough.
Success has smoothed out Ja’s rough edges and turned him into a really weak 2pac imitation. This album is mostly filler and not worth the $12. The production is weak, the lyrics are weak, the whole album is weak. Ja Rule no longer makes hip-hop, he makes pop. He no longer raps for the heads, he raps for the ladies and the TRL kids.