RC: Hi, I’m the Rap Critic. Let’s talk about Ja Rule. Yeah… remember him?
Clip of "Livin it up"
RC (V.O): Well if you do, you’ll remember that he was one of the more successful 2Pac Knock-offs that tried to capatilize off of his likeness in the aftermath of his death, as made obvious by [pics of...] the bald head, red bandana, and perpetual shirtlessness, but whereas Tupac’s musical material, no matter how controversial or disagreeable, at least came across as genuine, intricate, insights of a man trying to sort out his world, Ja Rule’s music came across as very..
RC:....watered down, to say the least.
RC (V.O): First of all, he sang WAY too much for a hardcore thug, as he kept claiming to be. Secondly...
RC: ....he sang WAY too much for someone who CAN’T SING.
Montage of Ja Rule singing. Clips include...
..."Down Ass Bitch"...
Ja Rule: Lady...
.."Down 4 U" ...
Ja: Rule baby..
..."Between Me & You"...
Ja: Every time that I'm alone with you..
..."Down 4 U" again...
Ja: Do you trust me?
Ja: Your hips...
Back to "Livin it Up"
RC (V.O) : And Third, he had all of the mannerisms of 2Pac with absolutely none of the substance. And fourth, we already had a late 90’s, east coast version of 2Pac.
RC: His name was DMX!
Clip of "Get at Me Dog"
DMX: Let's take it back to the streets, motherf**ker
RC (V.O): And this is a comparison that must be noted, because not only did DMX arrive on the scene about a year before Ja Rule, but he also had an energy, griminess, and passion in his rhymes that made Ja Rule look like a corny knock off. X had diversity in his topics, ranging from hardcore anthems to tracks about multiple personalities to songs detailing his life like [clip of....] “Slippin’”. His material was not only more clever and diverse, but also grittier, making you believe every word he viciously growled.
DMX: If I'm strong enough I'll live long enough to see my kids
Doing something more constructive with they time
RC (V.O): That, coupled with the fact that, in 1998, both his first and second albums went number one in the same year, and you can bet your ass people were trying to imitate the formula.
RC: Not by trying to achieve the same intensity or ability as DMX, but by taking his exact aesthetic, and watering it down to hell
Clip of "Put It on Me"
RC (V.O) Now, Ja and DMX were actually cool with each other at first, that is until right around the release of his second album, Rule 3:36, which is about the time Ja started going from run-of-the-mill gangsta rapper to employing one of the worst trends in Hip Hop.
RC: The [with air quotes] “thugs need love too” songs.
Clip of "Between Me and You"
Christina Milian: Cause every little thing that we do...
RC (V.O): These were Ja Rule’s Bread and FREAKING butter: songs with females on the chorus singing soulfully about how much they need Ja Rule and declaring their loving loyalty to him.
Clips of "Down 4 U"...
Ashanti: I wanna be your chick.
.."Put It on Me (Radio Remix)"...
Lil' Mo: Whenever you need me.
Ashanti: When I'm with you baby.
..and "I'm Real (Remix)"
Jennifer Lopez and Ja: I can't go on without you
Back to "Between Me And You"
RC (V.O): While he, in return, spits rhymes about hardcore sex and how much of a gangsta and playa he still is, despite his relationship with her.
Clips of "I'm Real (Remix)" ...
Ja: To bring pain to pussy niggaz and pussy hoes, it's one in the same.
Ja: Cause in the bed a nigga go hard like Jordan.
...and "Between Me And You".
Ja: I pop the roof and the champagne.
Back to "Mesmerize"
RC (V.O): By the end of 2002, there was a never-ending torrent of “I wanna be gangsta for the fellas and lovey-dovey for the ladies” songs that dominated the airwaves for a while, the biggest single of which was [clip of...] “Always On Time”, which is pretty much the first and last song from him that you really needed to hear when it comes to this topic.
RC: So let’s check it out.
Ashanti: Always there when you call
Ja: Buckshots, hah
RC: RIGHT THERE! That’s exactly what I’m talking about.
RC (V.O): Smooth, R&B singer crooning about love for the girls, but we’ve still gotta be hardcore, so I gotta talk about shooting guns for the fellas! Despite the fact that that has nothing to do with the mood she’s trying to set.
RC: Like, in reality, this wouldn’t work
RC (singing): Ooh boy, I really love you! Tell me what you got to say about that!
pause then gun sounds go off
RC (Falls off his chair): Ah! Oh shit! What the fuck!
Ashanti: Gave you my...
cut back to RC being perplexed by the pause
Ashanti:...baby be mine
RC: What… what did you give him?
Ashanti: I gave you my all, now baby be mine
RC: Oh… why was that edited out the first time? Did the first take have a… different word there?
Ashanti: Always on time...
(I) Gave you my...
RC: You know.
Ashanti:...baby be mine”
RC (V.O): Okay, the word she actually says there is “all”. And, seeing that the context is, “Yeah, I don’t always answer my phone, but when you need me, I’m there, giving you my “all” and since, after giving him her “all”, she still doesn’t know whether or not he wants to be with her, I’m going to forgo any thought that she’s talking about spending quality time together as a loving couple and just assume that she’s talking about her…
RC (V.O): But, it’s just innocuously worded enough that someone could interpret it in a more innocent context, and that’s a great way that R&B writing works. You can easily deduce a sexual or emotional context from what they’re saying.
RC: However, when the verses are coming from a rapper who’s still trying to be hardcore…
Ja: C'mon and get a piece of this late-night lover,
you know, the one that swing dick like no other!
RC: Goodbye, subtlety…
Ja: I know, I got a lot of things I need to explain,
But baby you know the name and love is about pain
RC: Yeah, I know I’ve done very disrespectful things to you in the past. But hey, you know that's who I am! I’m a rich rapper! And besides, love is SUPPOSED to be about pain. That’s why I’m doing things that hurt you! I’m ONLY trying to verify the enduring power of our love!
Ja: So, stop the complaints and drop the order restraints
RC: Yeah, so just sign these papers that will nullify your restraining order and a..WHAT?!
Ja: Hold down on the bed while I'm yankin your braids
RC: I’m sorry, did you mention something about a restraining order a little while ago?
Ja: Thug style, you never thought I'd make you smile
RC: I guess not! She had a freaking restraining order on you!
RC (V.O): Look, I understand that people get into relationship problems, but if it comes to the point of trying to legally restrict a person from being near you..
RC:...,we’ve tread into some dangerous territory
Ja: While I'm smackin you fast and hittin you all wild
RC: That line about restraining orders is really ruining the rest of this song *and the edited version doesn't help*
Ja and Ashanti: We share somethin so rare
RC: Yeah, most couples DON’T have what we have between each other, namely a document stating that I can't come within a 100 feet of you.
Ja: But who cares?
RC: The court that drafted the restraining order.
Ashanti: I’m not always there when you call.
RC: Are you still singing this chorus? Why do you like this guy?! He’s obviously not worth your time!
Ja: Girl, get a grip, c'mon, pull it together
RC: See, even he wants you to get over him! He’s done nothing to illustrate that he's a good person! Even he's telling you to get a grip!
Ja: It's only a sunshower,
we been through worse weather”
RC: Oh, I'm sorry. Is he telling her to “pull it together” and “get a grip”, because he wants her to overlook his shortcomings, because they’ve “been through worse" together? My bad, I guess.
RC (V.O): I thought he was having a moment of clarity, realizing he was a horrible person and telling her to move on from him. But what a foolish presumption, because most of these songs are about how “girl, you know that I’m a bad boy, and you like the fact that I’m a bad boy, and we’re terrible for each other, but we just can’t stay away from each other,...
RC:...because we love the fact that we’re not supposed to be together and..." [points finger in mouth] blegh!
Clip of Wale ft. Tiara Thomas - "Bad"
RC (V.O): You know, where Wale handled this topic with nuance and gave the proper weight to the subject, [back to "Always on Time"] Ja Rule’s song exploits that angle, and that’s what annoys me. The way the chorus is sung, it treats the topic with no gravity whatsoever, and tries to make the whole thing cute, while Ja Rule's lyrics in the verse outline just how stupid it really is
Ja: Like the stormy nights you wrote a "Dear Ja" letter
And took my Benz and keyed and cut the leather
RC: Okay, here’s an instance where she did something pretty crappy to him, but I’m fairly sure it was in response to something HE did.
Ja: Bitch, you know better, we live M-O-B:
Money Over Bitches
RC: You know, like casually referring to her as a bitch.
RC (V.O): Or living by the phrase “M.O.B.”, which means that he values money and material items over bitches, a derogatory term that he just called her, as in...
RC: “Argh! Why did you cut up my car? Don’t you remember? I value material items more than I value you! See, this is why things aren’t working out! You don’t understand me!"
Ja: I got two or three hoes for every V
RC: Or, you could look at the fact that he sees no shame in telling her that he has other girls
Ja: And I keep 'em drugged up off that ecstasy
RC: And he keeps them high off of drugs to incapacitate them, like a pimp or...[it suddenly dawns on him] Wait a minute, is this song about a relationship between a pimp and his prostitute? Yeah, dude, I think it is! Look at that chorus again!
Ashanti: I’m not always there when you call,
but I’m always on time
RC: That’s something a prostitute would say to her pimp.
RC (V.O): “Yeah daddy, I..I may not always answer my phone, but I’m always on time with my money!”
RC: Dear God, why didn’t I see this before!
Ja: Believe me, this pimp game is very religious
RC: Seriously, why didn’t I notice this?
RC (V.O): This is basically a song about how a pimp makes a girl feel special so that she’ll sell her body for him, and Ashanti is the chick who’s going for it! I mean, if that ISN’T what this song is about, and Ja Rule writing a love song can be this easily misconstrued as a pimp-ho relationship,..
RC:...well, I guess that just shows how terrible he is at it.
Ja: I play hard, there's so many women I fathered
RC: Wait, “fathering” means that you’ve fathered someone, like you've been their dad. So, are you bragging about having a lot of daughters?
RC (V.O): I mean, contextually, this should be another line about how many women you’ve had sex with, but if you’re saying you “fathered” them, that verb specifically means to be a father to someone.
RC: So… unless raising a lot of daughters was something rappers bragged about in the early 2000’s, I..I think this phrase is very wrongly worded.
Ja: Oh I'm, feelin like ya livin a, double life
Cause you don't be comin home, sometimes
RC: Hold on, so now, Ja Rule is the one who's concerned about her faithfulness? You just told us that you have two hoes for every car you own. As far as we know, you’re the only one who’s had sex with anyone else, so excuse me if I don’t show sympathy to your speculations that your girlfriend might have the exact same morality code as you!
RC (V.O): And you could say that this is a lust song, that’s it’s not meant to be taken as a song about intimate relationships as much as sexual attraction..
RC: ..but then what’s the excuse for cutesy sing-a-long lines like this?
Ja and Ashanti: But we share something so rare
Ja: But who cares?
Ja and Ashanti: you care
RC: Dude, I know what this really is.
RC (V.O): This isn’t a morally elusive song for the purpose of telling us a real story about two people struggling between lust and genuine attraction, this is a morally elusive song for the purpose of fooling girls into thinking he has a softer side to make them believe he’ll treat them special, all the while flagging the “but I’m a complicated thug” card that’s supposed to make it okay for him to have sex with other women because he..
RC: “just doesn’t want to be committed yet”!
RC (V.O): It’s obvious, it’s manipulative, and it’s a perfect example of why I don’t like these songs when they’re done this way. And that’s not to say that I don’t like Rap love songs in general, or that hardcore rappers shouldn’t make love songs. It can be done right. Look at the quintessential “thugs need love too” song, [clip of..] “All I Need” by Method Man.
Method Man: Back when I was nothing
You made a brother feel like he was somethin
That's why I'm with you to this day, boo, no frontin
RC: This is a great example of a rap love song that doesn’t come across as either corny or pandering
Method Man: I'm realizing that you didn't have to fuck wit me
But you did, now I'm going all out, kid
And I got mad love to give
RC (V.O): Sure, to some people, this may not sound super romantic and sweet, but this brand of Hip Hop isn’t about that: it’s raw, it’s reality, and it sounds authentic, and it doesn’t need to be sugar-coated, which is what they did for [back to..] “Always On Time”, to cover up the fact that it’s not about love, it’s about manipulating women into thinking that Ja Rule gives a crap about you, and it barely bothers to hide it. Sorry, but I..I just hate the mood of this song. Ashanti here is desperately trying to get her to love him, begging him to be hers, and the only thing he does is talk about how awesome he is and it's annoyingly lop-sided in regards to who’s giving them self to the other.
RC: I’d give this song a 1 out of 5, because, well at least Ashanti sang decently. I’m the Rap Critic. You don’t have to like my opinion, but I don’t have to like your song!