Artist: Ja Rule
Album: The Last Temptation
Label: Def Jam
Rating: 1 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Jeffrey Atkins has a lot to answer for. Since his Ja Rule alter ego appeared on the scene its been obvious to onlookers that he has quickly and quietly worked to find his niche in the Hiphop world, moving from all out “thug” to “hustler” to his established role now as part gangsta leader of the Murder Inc franchise, part ladies’ favourite gravel-throated crooner. Its also obvious to these onlookers that Mr Rule, having established a style and formula that shifts units, is now intent on milking the shit for all its worth while he can.
As an emcee Ja Rule has never really appealed to me. If looked on as a supplier of catchy hooks over Irv Gotti’s equally simple-but-sometimes-catchy beats however, then all of a sudden the Rule package becomes a little more listenable. The combination of his faux 2pac-cum-DMX rugged persona meshed with Gotti’s 80’s beat-jackin’ “skills” is undeniably commercial, undeniably pop, and yet at times, still almost listenable.
But like I said, its all part of the formula. Plonk Ja Rule down in front on the microphone, let him rant and rave, screaming “mur-da”, all over the track, as Gotti and co’s simple beats play in the background… and then bring in an R’n’B singer to supply a syrupy hook – BINGO – you have another Murder Inc number one being snatched up by Ja Rule mini-me’s and 10 year old Ashanti clones worldwide. Having stumbled upon this successful formula during his work on “Rule 3:36”, it became apparent that the process of cashing in was underway when follow up “Pain Is Love” carried the same mindless pap in almost identical form.
Now we’re on album number 4 for Jeffry and the shit don’t stop. The first two singles are little more than fluffy pop, simultaneously dragging you to the depths of despair as you vision the road this man is dragging Hiphop down, and yet somehow still being annoyingly catchy, digging into your brain, as you find yourself whistling the hook during quiet moments in your day. First single ‘Thug Lovin’ features the equally questionable talents of Bobby Brown, with the damage to his voice due to ALLEDGED substance and alcohol abuse obvious, as he and Rule chant the mantra of commercial Hiphop – “love…. thug… love… thug… sex… niggas… bitches…” Tiresome, stale, and still fucking catchy as hell. Ditto with single two – ‘Mesmerize’ has more Ja Rule barking with Ashanti this time spreading her sugary vocals over the addictive beat. Another one to be loved and hated at the same time.
Elsewhere Ja Rule’s one-dimensionalness shines through like a beacon on the weak ‘Pop Niggas’… shiny rent-a-thug bollocks, that suffers from a poor chorus, a wack set of verses and an uninteresting, unchanging beat; the horrific ‘The Warning’ where the “everyone has one so why can’t I” trend of throwing one of those double time beats on and spitting quickfire rhymes over the top again rears its head. This shit is crazy played… there’s not many who can pull this off, so let’s bury this ASAP. Please.
Its a similar story throughout the rest of the album. ‘Emerica’ – rambling glossy bullshit with another rambling chorus featuring Ja Rule and his “talented” homies Young Life and Chink Santana; ‘Rock Star’ – where Lenny Kravitz’s ‘I Belong To You’ is used as a base for more bullshit rantings; ‘Last Temptation’ – with its simplistic bassline and plodding beat where Ja Rule trades verses with the equally booty Charli Baltimore… seriously – the whole album is basically a dozen or so different versions of ‘Always On Time’. And it shows – the lack of ambition, the lack of a cutting edge – it sticks out like a sore thumb. The desperation to be seen as “dangerous” sees Rule taking the safest option available throughout the album.
A couple of tracks do raise eyebrows – ‘The Pledge Remix’ sees Ja Rule linking up with Nas and Ashanti over an old 2pac beat. Gotti digs into the Shakur archives to jack ‘So Many Tears’ – bad enough you think, but then he lifts 2pac’s voice and casually tacks his vocals onto the end of the track. Its all humoursly ironic – one big pop thug characature paying homage to the last big pop thug characature. Please – I’ve just eaten. The other track you need to check out if you need a laugh is ‘Murder Reigns’, where Toto’s ‘Africa’ is unashamedly ruined by the combined wackness of Ja’s shitty vocals and some talentless bint on the hook, warbling about the rain “calling murder”. Inspirational. No – really.
Its hard not to be cynical. This is just bollocks. Its formulaic. Its the safe option. Shit, its not even any good. It has NO saving graces. Avoid this like the plague, and start saying prayers that this one-trick-pony finds his way to the knacker’s yard sooner rather than later.