‘Icon’ is a word that should not be used lightly. Michael Jackson is an icon. Jay-Z is an icon. Jimi Hendrix is an icon. Paul McCartney is an icon. Ja Rule’s latest Greatest Hits/mixtape project is entitled, Icon. The New York-bred artist was once at the forefront of the Hip-Hop genre, but his fall from grace has been one of the most dramatic and well-documented we’ve ever seen. This latest release, however, brings former listeners right back into Ja Rule’s golden years.
Just three seconds into the lively horns from “Livin’ It Up,” and the listener is instantly thrown back into the ‘Jiggy Era’ of rap. To be honest, it’s hard not to smile while listening to this summer anthem. “Put It On Me” is the same way, as the high-chimed instrumental rings in a place inside your eardrum that had been picking up dust for awhile.
Speaking of not doing anything for a while, Ashanti is featured on three of these tracks (“Mesmerize”, “Wonderful”, and “Always On Time”), which really gets you to thinking where the time has gone. Ja’s chemistry with Ashanti was amazing, and the ease with which he made crossover hits was astounding. Listening to them now, it’s difficult to not think them as corny; people complain about Drake singing, but Ja Rule carrying notes is chuckle-inducing. The fast tinged “Between Me & You” (which features Christina Millian, another ‘I remember!’ moment) is a great example of this.
For a good while, however, Ja Rule was able to walk the fine line between soft duets and street-anthems. “Holla Holla” was his first big hit, establishing his signature “MURRRRDDDAAAA” mantra, and “New York,” which featured Jadakiss and Fat Joe, was a huge hit for everyone on the East Coast.
It’s the beginning of “Thug Lovin” that features Bobby Brown (That takes the cake!) that brings back memories of his downfall and this review to an end. As he clamors about not having to worry about certain “clowns” throwing shots at him, Ja Rule had every reason to be concerned. He’s far from an “icon,” but the Murder Inc. representative certainly had his run. If anything, this release is just a reminder of his glory days – something no amount of jokes can take away from him. And if it means anything, 50 Cent continues to have his own musical issues with his label, so maybe that’s just karma. Regardless, this may be the last hurrah for Ja.