I remember falling in love with hip-hop in elementary school. If you want me to be more precise, I’d say that I was in the third grade and the year was 2000. This was during the time that Ja Rule and Murder Inc pretty much had the rap game on lock.
Ja Rule dropped an album every year from 1999 to 2004. That’s 5 years of straight consistency. No break after his debut album, no sophomore jinx, just a very solid five-year run. Quite naturally, he had become my first favorite rapper. He was always on the radio, always holding down the #1 spot on 106 & Park. You either hated or loved him—no in-between.
Before we accepted Drake in hip-hop as a soft-hearted thug wearing his heart on his sleeve on tracks, we accepted Ja Rule. I look back and realize that he had music that gave connotation to the term “love and hip-hop.” Way before the words love and hip-hop was joined together for the title of a VH1 reality tv show, Ja Rule combined them to bring us timeless music that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Some of the best hip-hop and r&b collaborations of the early 2000s. Some of those being with Ashanti, J. Lo, Lil Mo, and even Bobby Brown.
Ja Rule’s run at the top came right after we were transitioning from the bling bling era cultivated by Cash Money. So he had a style and subject matter that was fresh. The style of a laidback and cheerful thug with a subject that mainly focused on love. At least that was the subject of his singles. So he was definitely a standout.
Ja Rule was my first favorite rapper. If you were born in the early 90s, Ja Rlue was probably your first favorite rapper.