Nineteen years ago, Ja Rule was more or less on top of the rap game. Though history has not been kind to his legacy, in reality, a case could have easily been made that the Murder Inc lyricist was one of hip-hop's reigning rulers. Singles like the J-Lo assisted "I'm Real," "Livin' It Up," and "Always On Time" highlighted his pop sensibilities, which admittedly looked to be transforming into his dominant style. Yet on his third studio album Pain Is Love, Ja also offered a few gems to the hip-hop heads, including the emotional homage to 2Pac Shakur "So Much Pain."
Though his Pac tributes were eventually used against him in a savage beef with 50 Cent and Eminem, in hindsight, "So Much Pain" was a solid cut from a simpler time. "I spits razors, never been a stranger to homicide, my city's full of tote-slingers and chalk lines," he laments, over a repurposed flip on Pac's "Pain" instrumental. "Why do we die at an early age? N**ga so young, but still a victim of a twelve-gauge."
Adding credibility to the tribute is a posthumous verse from Pac, though some might argue against the song's efficacy in the first place. Still, nineteen years removed from its initial release, it feels appropriate to revisit this one free of baggage -- even if you didn't side with Ja in the great rap war of the early millennium. Does anybody remember Pain Is Love, released on this very day in 2001?
I spits razors, never been a stranger to homicide
My city's full of tote-slangers and chalk lines
Why do we die at an early age?
Ni**a so young, but still a victim of a twelve-gauge