- Ja Rule is one of the most successful rappers of all time.
- An insider recently sat down with the rapper to discuss his career and new VIBES concert series.
- Jay said fans should “be prepared” for their first studio album in over a decade.
In the early 2000s, Ja Rule was a central figure in rap music.
Best known for his frequent collaborations with some of R&B’s biggest divas of the time, including Christina Milian, Jennifer Lopez and Ashanti, the “Always On Time” rapper topped the Billboard Hot 100 from 2000 to 2004. Recorded 3 No.1 hits.
Six more songs made it into the top 10.
But in 2005, at the height of her success, Ja made a move that many in the music industry would not have chosen. Since then, he has released only one studio album, his 2012 Pain Is Love II, choosing instead to dedicate his time to other activities.
He has acted in movies, launched his own whiskey brand, and even completed an entrepreneurship course at Harvard Business School.
Ja recently founded ICONN Media, a live streaming entertainment marketplace and accompanying app, ICONN Live, a social media platform for creators. The app also broadcasts exclusive live content such as the Ja’s VIBES concert series. In this series, the iconic artist tells the story behind the music as he plays his classic album with a live band.
So far, Big Daddy Kane, Ghostface Killer, and Rule himself are among those to appear in the series.
An insider sat down with Ja to talk all about VIBES, his career, and his long-awaited return to music.
What made you decide to start the VIBES concert series?
First and foremost, be a fan of hip-hop. I grew up watching all these artists that I’m doing VIBES with. they were my heroes. They’re the reason I do what I do, the reason I make music in the first place. So having Rakim and Big Daddy Kane and Ghost do the series, I’m like a kid in a candy store.
You already have some wonderful guests. who else is in line?
Within weeks, I had a KRS-One. He’s doing “Criminal Minds” and it’s going to be out of this world. i can’t wait. He spoke to KRS several times during the process of getting everything ready and he was very excited. He really, really wants to put on a great show.
What makes the concert series so unique?
It’s about introducing that classic album, a series of works that many of these artists don’t usually perform in succession. As rappers, we’re used to playing hit records whenever we perform, and instead of focusing on one particular piece or one particular classic album, we create a catalog of hits. These concerts are hymns to classic albums.
It’s a really intimate atmosphere for the audience, so I want to keep that. When Big Daddy Kane did a show, he would go out in the crowd and sit and talk to people. I walked through the crowd during admission to the show. A moment that cannot be captured on a big stage.
You were the star of your first concert, where you performed your third studio album, Pain Is Love. Please tell me about it.
Well, it was a great trip for me because I had to rehearse. Some of those records hadn’t been played in 20 years or had never been played. I needed to go in there and touch up a bit and refresh my memory. But the show was so atmospheric that it got the title. I really enjoyed playing “Pain Is Love” from front to back. It was probably my first time. It felt good.
Speaking of “Pain Is Love,” that album was your most successful album to date, and it took you to the top of the rap world. How fondly do you look back on that period of your life?
It was a moment. It’s a great moment, but I look at life quarterly. That was my second quarter. My first quarter was a little shaky, growing up under the hood and trying to make sense of it all. My second quarter was great, I had a lot of success, I was able to experience what success looks like, and experience the trials and tribulations of it. I’ve had failures with it too, which is amazing. You have to go through it all. To know what success looks like, you have to experience a certain amount of failure.
Now we’re in Q3 and we’re enjoying it all. During his first two quarters, I experienced a lot, grew and learned a lot. I am truly blessed. Couldn’t ask for anything more.
Collaborating with female singers became your trademark in the early 2000s. Was that always your intention?
I mean, yes. I was in a moment where I felt like I had lost track of what was going on in hip hop and wanted to create my own lane. I wanted to take classes by myself. So that’s where the whole style and everything you see and hear since the second album came from. On the first album, I felt like I was dabbled in it a little bit, but on the second, I made it my own and started to control the sound.
You had four big hits with Ashanti: “Always On Time,” “Wonderful,” “What’s Luv?” and “Mesmerize.” What was it that made it so special for you two to be together?
Ashanti and I obviously have a great chemistry. We make great songs in the studio. But it’s really crazy because I doubled with all my female collaborators. Me and J.Lo had two big records and me and Lil Mo had two big records. And of course, me and Ashanti, it’s very strange.
I am lucky woman. I think it’s the yin and yang. My voice is very raspy, rough and dark, whereas women’s voices are usually bright, friendly and affectionate. Combining the two creates something special.
Rap and R&B collaborations are rare these days. Where did the Ja Rule and Ashanti of the world go?
Hip-hop is always changing and evolving. Every three or four years we do some kind of reinvention through fashion and sound. There is currently a takeover of women going on. All women have made their mark in the hip-hop world, and male artists are getting less and less of the spotlight. I think it will stay that way for a while, it will be a female dominated game for a while. Guys, you have to deal with it.
Do you have a favorite female rapper right now?
I like artists who go outside the box and do things differently. i like riso Her music is different. Of course, I like Cardi, Nicky, Meg, and the usual suspects, as well as newer artists like Ice Spice. But I really like artists who set themselves a little out of what others are doing. Koi Leray is doing it. She stands apart from what other girls are doing and I love that.
What about your own music? It’s been over ten years since the album was released. Any plans for new ones?
I’m a very timing person. And I have a deadline coming up right now, so get ready.
Can you expand?
Please be prepared.
Many of your old songs are still very popular. Why do you think so?
I think a lot of those records keep people up to date. They remember what they were doing when those records mattered in their lives. A lot of people were partying in high school and college and those records were the soundtrack of the moment. It’s a blessing to have it because it lives with people longer than just saying “I like this song”. This was a jam for our picnics, BBQs, or late night car travel. Those moments are very important to how people see you later in life as a hip-hop artist.
What’s your favorite Ja Rule song and why?
Probably “Daddy’s Little Baby” and “Put It On Me”. I made it for my daughter first. “Put It On Me” was made for her wife. These records are personal, so they mean a little more to me.
Are there any songs that you regret?
It wasn’t because I didn’t like the record or thought it was a good record, it was because of what the record was about. I don’t always get good records. I go back and listen to some of the records I’ve made in the past, and I don’t regret making them. Because it was necessary at the time. But some of the lyrics still make me feel ashamed.
As we get older, we begin to realize that words have great power. And sometimes we don’t even realize that our words are hurting people. I had to learn that words are very powerful and that we need to be careful with how we use them.
Do you have any advice for young artists in that regard?
It’s like the age-old battle between heroes and villains. If you feel you have power, you should use it for good. If hip-hop has power, it has the power to speak to millions and lift them up, then it should go for it. You can’t always achieve it, but it should be your purpose and goal instead of using your powers for evil.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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