Ja Rule: Pain is Love 2

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J. Lo in terry cloth Juicy Couture reminding us, again, that she’s real. Ja Rule in a wife beater. Ashanti with red lips, hoops and a lace-up leather onesie? Ja Rule still in a wife beater. We have had some great times with Ja, tracks with wind instrumentals and women who are on time. But Pain is Love 2, Ja Rule’s new album, is no Pain is Love. There are no flutes, and there is no Ashanti.

Ja Rule was the guy who rapped like he had a mouth full of gravel and was unparalleled in rap duets with female hip-hop singers. Now, the back cover of the CD promises it is a “concept album” about taking a pill (Pain is Love = PIL), where Ja Rule “wakes up on the flip side of fame with no love and no adoring fans as if it all never happened.” That is basically, in a sentence, the last thing I want to hear from Ja Rule. Ja Rule with no love is like Joanna Newsom with no harp.

Unfortunately, it has become difficult to separate conceptual Ja Rule from actual Ja Rule, who is currently in prison. I would have guessed he’d own prison (think Lil Wayne, Lil’ Kim, Martha Stewart). Instead, he is being outshined in prison by fellow white-collar criminal Dennis Kozlowski, who allegedly used laundered money to pay for an ice sculpture of Michelangelo’s “David” that peed Stoli vodka. Ja Rule should be taking tips from that guy.

Oh yeah, Pain is Love 2. Ja Rule says it best on “Spun a Web:” “no bright lights, no bitches, no big stage.” The production is passable, the lyrics low-key. There are no verses from guest rappers you’ve heard of. Ja Rule says all the rappers he invited turned him down, as did Coldplay when he asked to sample a song. Worst of all, there is the glaring omission of wind instruments.