If you were into Hip-Hop and Rap music in the early 2000s, chances are you’ve come across the name Ja Rule.
Born Jeffrey Bruce Atkins, Ja Rule had humble but tough beginnings. Jeffrey was mainly raised by his Jehovah’s Witness grandparents. That’s because his single mother was working all the time as a healthcare worker to provide for a son whose father had abandoned them.
Unfortunately, he was selling drugs by the age of 12. But, he would luckily soon find healthier aspirations in the form of music. So, before we take a look at Best Ja Rule Songs Of All Time, let’s find out a little more about the man himself, starting with his…
Ja Rule adopted his stage moniker after a friend had gotten into the habit of calling him Ja Rule. He started as a member of the 90s group Cash Money Click, with whom he recorded various songs.
The group was eventually signed to TVT Records and was slated to release an album. However, this was halted when one of their members was sentenced to five years in prison. The disbandment so close to an album release did little to stop the eager Atkins from pursuing a career in music.
Luckily, he maintained a relationship with future collaborator and friend, DJ Irv, better known as Irv Gotti. Gotti was working at DefJam at the time and managed to secure Ja Rule a contract.
Time for murder?
He made his debut for the label alongside Jay-Z and DMX on “Time To Build” by Mic Geronimo. After that, Ja Rule was chosen as the flagship artist for the then newly-formed imprint of DefJam, Murder Inc Recordings.
Ja Rule continued to appear on recordings for Method Man, LL Cool J, DMX, and more. He even helped write the hook for one of Jay-Zs first singles, “Can I Get A…”.
Shortly thereafter, Ja released his 1999 single “Holla Holla.” It performed well enough on the charts to instigate the recording and release of his debut album and seminal work, Venni Vetti Vecci (1999).
Atkins has not looked back with a string of hit albums, all producing chart-topping singles and featuring collaborations with some of the biggest names in the industry.
Known for not only rapping hard but having lived hard too, Ja Rule has made a tremendous success of himself both professionally and personally.
Despite being imprisoned for two years, Atkins used his time to better himself, earning his GED and completing a course at Harvard Business school. He has dabbled in acting and starred in “The Fast & The Furious,” “Back in the Day,” and “I’m In Love With A Church Girl.”
Still ruling the roost…
Ja Rule has sold more than 14 million copies in the US and over 30 million worldwide. He has had multiple platinum albums, some of which have been certified double and triple platinum. He’s been nominated for two MTV Music Awards and four Grammys.
Paying homage to Ja Rule would take far more than one simple article. But, I put together this list of what I think are the best songs by Ja Rule.
- Livin’ It Up (feat. Case)
- Thug Lovin’ (feat. Bobby Brown)
- I Cry (feat. Lil’ Mo)
- I’m Real Murder Remix
- Put It On Me (feat. Lil’ Mo & Vita)
- New York (feat. Fat Joe and Jadakiss)
- Between Me and You (feat. Christina Milan)
- Mesmerize (feat. Ashanti)
- Wonderful (feat. R Kelly and Ashanti)
- Always on Time (feat. Ashanti)
- Holla Holla
- Want to Find Fantastic Songs?
- Best Ja Rule Songs Of All Time – Conclusion
Album: Pain Is Love
Easily one of the best-known melodic rap numbers of the first half of the 21st century. “Livin’ It Up” contains so many recipes for something special that it’s almost an overdose.
A gorgeous brass section intro gives way to a weighted bass synth hook with some stabs on top for decoration. The foundation of his vocals is so varied in its structure. As a result, Ja can approach his verses with a multitude of tones and grooves to make “Livin’ It Up” the colorful piece it is.
Layered vocals make for a very distinctive Rule performance on this track. Combined with the voice of singer-songwriter Case, it simply charges towards hit territory.
The first single to be released for 2001’s Pain Is Love, this song was a top ten hit in both the US and UK, as well as a top 20 hit in many other countries.
Album: The Last Temptation
Initially, this album was not a hit amongst some hardcore fans. But, its appeal and edge cannot be denied. The album’s opener is one of Ja Rule’s best songs, if not his very best. And also features some of his best rhymes.
You don’t even have to listen to the words…
It’s the flow that hypnotizes you. And, the doubling of the vocal on certain phrases acts like a highlighter would on a page. The song even features a sample from Stevie Wonder’s “Knocks Me Off My Feet” and has a fantastic music video featuring a helicopter and a Bentley.
The song peaked at #42 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album, The Last Temptation, is one of Ja’s best sellers. It hit #4 on the album chart and is certified platinum.
Album: Rule 3:36
This easily ranks as one of Ja Rule’s most personal songs (not that I mean to imply he doesn’t always write from the heart). This track has been picked because it illustrates two things of note about Ja’s approach.
Musically, it’s a melding of his hardcore gangsta rap roots and more refined, almost romantic R&B elements. Vocally and lyrically, it showcases his range and ability as a lyricist.
Album: Pain Is Love
This track generated quite a bit of hype and, luckily, more than lived up to it. Easily one of the biggest tracks for that year and one of Ja Rule’s biggest songs for sure.
The “I’m Real Murder Remix” is a fantastic melding of sweet and sour. J Lo’s rich, sugary voice sits in juxtaposition with Rule’s raspy vocal delivery. Ultimately, the two form a mix like no other before or since.
Add to this powerhouse a fantastic production job and catchy synth hooks, and you’ve got something that just blows the roof off when it gets played, even today. The track topped the US chart and was a top twenty hit internationally.
Album: Rule 3:36
This was a song that broke through in two ways for me. Within the context of the album, it comes as a nice reprieve from the otherwise mostly hardcore and gangsta-influenced sound of Rule 3:36.
That being said, Ja was capable of singing an unapologetic love ballad, and it crossed over. The second breakthrough is a historic one as this was Ja’s first top ten track. The song was featured on the official soundtrack for “The Fast and the Furious” as well as in the film “Double Take.”
Many interpret this as one of the moves in a game of dissing chess played between Ja Rule and 50 Cent. Perhaps there is truth in that. However, this must not be seen as the reason for this tune’s appeal and merit as one of Ja Rule’s greatest hits.
Ultimately, this can be viewed as a feel-good love song written for one of the greatest cities in the world. The song features some great New Yorkers, including J Lo and Styles P. Ja even changed his tone a bit for this one.
The default low-pitched purr we were used to was swapped for a bit of dynamism. Rule’s voice moved around a bit more on this one, and it turned out great. The song peaked at #27 on the Billboard 100 and #10 on the Hot Rap Songs chart.
Album: Pain Is Love
Yet another track where Ja decided to go the romantic route. “Between You and Me” is one of the most popular Ja Rule songs. The soft chorus is easy to get lost in, thanks to the soothing melody carried by Christina’s voice.
On the other hand, Ja’s lyricism makes this the kind of tune for a late-night party or packed club that can’t close its doors. The drum track on this song is one of the production highlights of the entire album for me.
Album: The Last Temptation
No doubt “Mesmerize” will go down as one of the biggest hits of the early 2000s and one of the best Ja Rule songs of all time. Teaming up with Ashanti is something Ja did on more than one occasion. And this song is a very good illustration of why they make a powerhouse on a track.
Featuring a sample from the classic 70s ballad “Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)” by Diana Ross and Marvin Gay. Likewise, there’s a harpsichord and two synths in the mix. Producer Irv Gotti pulled out all the right stops, and it paid off with this monster hit.
The video was also a unique one featuring Ja and Ashanti in a reworked version of Grease Lightning. The song peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
It is well known that Ja had been in a long, drawn-out feud with fellow rapper 50 Cent. This feud involved many other artists and even resulted in an entire album of ‘dis’ tracks being produced.
For 2004’s R.U.L.E., Ja made a very wise decision to refocus his mind on making the best music he could make. And, there was no better medicine than teaming up with Ashanti and R. Kelly for a classic feel-good number.
The track represents a comeback to a self-realized Ja Rule and a bright future. “Wonderful” peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the UK singles chart.
Album: Pain Is Love
Some would argue this song created a template that would be followed by many successful rappers and hip-hop singers. Once more, we have the skills of legendary New York producer Irv Gotti at work.
The seamless blend between brown sugar and spice that makes for such an enticing combination would solidify Ja Rule’s rise to the top of his game in the 2000s. The track yielded Ja his second #1 hit and earned him a Grammy nomination for best melodic rap performance in 2003.
Album: Venni Vetti Vecci
You were beginning to wonder, right? Of course, I wouldn’t forget this massive number. It’s probably the most historic number in his catalog, as it solidified his reputation as a serious rapper and artist.
This was a mission statement from one of rap’s biggest emerging acts. And the fact that the artist became exactly what he’d promised merely adds to the weight this song has come to carry more than two decades later.
Released as the single from Ja’s debut album, “Holla Holla,” peaked at #35 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #11 on the Hot Hip-Hop and R&B chart.
Want to Find Fantastic Songs?
We can help. Take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Alanis Morissette Songs of All Time, the Best Sia Songs of All Time, the Best Drake Songs of All Time, the Best Songs About Change, the Best Songs About Magic, and the Best Songs about Fighting for more great song selections.
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Best Ja Rule Songs Of All Time – Conclusion
“Holla Holla” will be remembered as one of the greatest opening tracks for one of the greatest rappers of his time. But also as a defining moment for 90s Hip-Hop and rap music in general.
It heralded the beginning of a new era and was produced in the city where this new movement would find its first foothold. A legendary track from a legend still among the living.
Until next time, happy listening.