Ok, this will be short and sweet. Ja Rule came into the rap game after years of underground work. During his early stages he did tracks with Mic Geronimo & Irv Gotti (DJ Irv) doing most of the production/beats. Yes, Irv Gotti can make beats and one of his notable ones was “Can I Live” for Jay-Z off Reasonable Doubt. Anyway, Ja Rule came from the underground and ended up being one of the most successful MC’s of the early 2000’s. To provide some perspective, Ja Rule sold over 14 million records during the same era that showcased DMX, Jay-Z, Eminem and Nelly. For several years he recorded tracks with Jay-Z and DMX because they were trying to establish a super group called Murder INC. I guess egos wouldn’t allow this collaboration to turn into a full project because DMX and Jay-Z always had a little tension. They even battled in Harlem during the early 90’s. The rumor is Big L was the only one who had the recording of this legendary night. Ja Rule was like the “little” brother to these giants. I remember seeing Ja Rule open up for Jay-z/DMX Hardknock Life tour back in 1998 at the Greensboro Coliseum. At the time he only had “Holla Holla” on the radio. Dude was very energetic and engaging.
After seeing Ja Rule live and hearing him on a few mixtapes I was sold. Of course you could see the Tupac and DMX influence but who wasn’t influenced by Tupac from 1997-2000? At any rate, when his debut album Venni Vetti Vecci dropped I copped it. I liked the album and still play many of the tracks. Over the next few years Ja Rule would have as many hits as DMX and Jay-Z. Ja Rule had the radio and club scene on lock with collaborations with Ashanti, Jennifer Lopez and Lil Mo. He also wrote for some of these artist as well as Mary J. Blige. How many times did you dance to “Between Me And You”, “Always On Time”, and “Put It On Me?” I think people forget the impact that Ja Rule had. Take a look at 50 of Ja Rule tracks below. The dude had work ethic, energy and still maintained some street bangers. For anyone who thought Ja Rule was going to be a one hit wonder was sadly mistaken.
I think the legacy of Ja Rule is often overlooked because of the beef with 50 Cent. That was pretty much a fight that he couldn’t win. When you have been on top for a long time the fans hunger for something fresh. 50 Cent was new, fresh and exciting. He had the background from the streets, been shot 9 times, and a lot of mixtapes appearances. After signing with Eminem and Dr. Dre, 50 Cent was everywhere. After Get Rich Or Die Tryin was released he took over the rap game. At the height of his "hype" he continued to attack and battle Ja Rule. Ja Rules true loss in this situation was he moved away from diverse music and hits that made him a rap star. He got caught up giving 50 Cent too much of his creative energy. It would take years for Ja Rule to make good music again. He has some good work that is not as popular, released after he came home from Prison. Of course anytime you're out of the public eye, you lose steam. Hip Hop can have a short attention span.
At the end of the day, I like Ja Rule. I believe he planted his name in the history of hip hop and you can’t deny what he did from 1999-2003. You can still hear some of these hits in the club in 2017. Ja Rule came during the post Biggie and Tupac era and still found a way to be successful. I mean, you have to have talent to make as many hits during a 4 year span as Jay-Z. Ja Rule was legit competition to every commercial artist. As I jot these few thoughts down, I’m listening to my favorite Ja Rule song “Race Against Time.” I don’t know if Ja Rule is a Hip Hop legend but he will always be remembered as a legit Hip Hop Star.