Ja Rule is an rapper who has been around longer than most. As a one of biggest “pop hip hop” artists, he made melodic rapping about girls acceptable to even the hardest thugs. But, after a notorious beef with 50 Cent and a 2 year stint in jail, it’s hard to place this veteran within the modern musical landscape. The show at NYC’s B.B. King Blues Club was a step back toward relevance, and a nice holiday gift to his fan base.
The crowd was a mix of 20 and 30-something couples, New York hip hop fans, and a lot of white girls hoping to sing along to “Mesmerize”. Walking in the door, some people were already singing his trademark hooks. If you were in college from 2000-2005, you already knew every word.
After a few local rappers and DJs opened, Ja Rule took the stage with about 30 dudes standing around him, nodding a long and diffusing their street cred onto Ja. After saying what a honor it was to be here and be out of jail- he opened with “Between Me and You” — the biggest hit for the Murder Inc power couple Ashanti and Ja.
Ja knew his fans wanted the throwbacks, and he didn’t disappoint. A personal favorite was when he broke out his verse from Jay-Z‘s “Can I Get A What What”
After almost every song, Ja offered life wisdom and words of gratitude. It was refreshing to see him humble and honest, especially after being embroiled in one of the biggest hip hop beefs ever. When we performed “I’m Real” the crowd was 100% with him, reaching up to touch his hands and singing along with every word.
It’s true that people may hate on Ja Rule for his past musical sins. He was a progenitor of crossover “sensitive thug” rap, for better or worse. But when a guy says “This is my first Christmas home after 2 years in jail”, you listen. You can’t hate on that. All you can do is join in the singalong.