Although my fingers have been conspicuously absent from anything which could be identified as the pulse for a long time, I have the impression of Ja Rule remembered as some third string also ran who shuffled off into obscurity following lyrical beatdowns from Eminem, 50 Cent, and others. My understanding is that it began with 50 Cent making a record upon which it was suggested that he'd seen Ja Rule do a poo in his pants in the queue at dinnertime and that he then saw Ja Rule put his hand into his pants to touch the poo and then Ja Rule sniffed his fingers and looked pleased; and 50 Cent made the record because that's the sort of record by which he customarily elevated his public profile and accordingly hit sales targets. Ja Rule retaliated, and then everyone else got sucked in. Eminem got to take a few lyrical potshots at someone harder than Morris Minor & the Majors, so that made for a nice change; and The Source magazine suddenly and coincidentally decided that Ja Rule was the true legit 4 lyfe face of da realness 'n' shit; and Death Row's Suge Knight weighed in, because obviously we'd all been wondering what his take on the situation would be - and his take was something about Dr. Dre being a homosexual and how Tupac would have loved Ja Rule had he not snuffed it, what with Suge having been established as the official organ of Tupac's legacy 4 real + tru 2 da streetz IDT.
It's all bollocks really. Ja Rule was never the next Tupac, if such a thing were ever required; and even if he was just one of many frowning tattooed baldies with shirt allergies who came to the fore in the late nineties, it's not like he didn't have enough of his own thing going on. Expecting generic rap landfill, I remember being shocked at how good this album was when Rodney Dell lent it to me; and I've finally picked up a copy for myself, and it still sounds way above the average.
Rule always reminded me of DMX more than Tupac, although admittedly there's not much in it, and the latter posthumously guests on So Much Pain, should anyone need to make the comparison. I must admit, on first hearing the track, I thought fuck, they were right, he really does sound like a Tupac impersonator, which I suppose means that he actually really doesn't, so that's good to know. Lyrically, Rule falls short of amazing, but he's decent - at least as much as 50 Cent ever was and without having to talk about what happened in the queue at dinnertime; and he can work up a mood as powerful as anyone with that bluesy growl.
What really makes Pain is Love is the contrast of the aforementioned bluesy growl with Irv Gotti's razor sharp and criminally underrated production - an elegant update of certain Motown era beats using a sampler without any of its usual angularity, resulting in songs which throb with life and sounded fucking great on the radio with no hint of compromise. Therefore fuck da haterz 'n' shit.