While lip-synching on a four-wheel Honda motor bike during his "Livin' It Up" video shoot late last month, Ja Rule took a little time to count his blessings. No, not because he narrowly escaped being shot by voluptuous, water-gun-toting models who served as eye candy for the clip's barbecue/party setting, rather, because Ja has finally shaken a beleaguering hex.
"It's been a jinx with me and Case," he said, referring to his collaborations with his crooner labelmate and the song's guest star. "Everything we've done hasn't got cleared. We made a record in like '95, '96. We did a song called 'Thug Life,' which sampled Prince's ['Pop Life.'] Prince never clears anything."
Ja, who was filming in California's North Hollywood Park, was also initially turned down by Stevie Wonder for the "Do I Do" sample he used on "Livin' It Up." He and Case, who sings the chorus Wonder made famous in 1982, originally recorded the song for Ja's last album, Rule 3:36. So how did the jagged-voiced rapper get the music legend to change his mind? Simple, he said.
"I sold some records," Ja said with a laugh. "Nah, I think maybe [my first album] didn't reach as many people. [Rule 3:36] reached a lot more people and maybe Stevie got a chance to hear my music and say 'This guy is all right.' "
"Livin' It Up" is the first official single from Rule's third LP, Pain Is Love, due October 9. His current heavily played duet with Jennifer Lopez, the remix of her song "I'm Real," will also be on his album. Ja, who penned the cut after being asked to collaborate with J. Lo by Sony Music CEO Tommy Mottola, said he doesn't see why Lopez has received flack for using the "n-word" on the track.
"I think it's silly," Ja said. "I think the whole thing, like everything else, is being blown out of proportion. She's not the first Latino to use that word on a record, and it's never been an issue before. I think it's just that she's a very high-profile star and it's something to let people get a chance to poke at her."
Ja said he enjoyed working with J. Lo, especially because he actually worked with her on the song.
"Sometimes when you do a collaboration with an artist it's not real collaborations," he explained. " 'Send me a reel here. I'll fly it back here.' Me and J. Lo's record was a real collaboration."
"I'm Real" isn't the only song on his record that's tapped from other places. His collaboration with Missy Elliott, "Ex," which is on the Violator Vol. 2 album, is featured, as is Tupac's "So Much Pain," which was on the Above the Rim soundtrack (only the cassette version, not the CD). On the track, Ja incorporates Pac's lyrics into his own for the first two verses, then uses a whole Pac verse to close the song out.
Although Ja gets introspective on "Never Again," where he relives mistakes he's made with street life, women and circulating in the music industry, you can tell he has clearly discovered his niche with the party anthems about his relationships with women. To this end, the probable second and third singles are "Always on Time" and "Down Ass Bitch."
On "Always on Time," which features newcomer Ashanti, and which Irv Gotti, head of Ja's label, Murder Inc., described as " 'Between Me and U' to the next level," Ja talks about not always being able to spend time with his girl because of his busy schedule. However, the "late night lover" says he can make the best of their time together with passionate sex.
"Down Ass Bitch" features Charli Baltimore and is about giving props to the girls that go all out for their man in any situation.
Ja said that as on his last album, he came up with most of the material by composing the songs in his head and reciting them from memory in the studio a technique he learned from his friend Jay-Z.
"That's pretty much how I do my music now," Ja said. "It's pretty much a vibe or a flow."
Ja is just about at the finish line with his album. He's selected 10 tracks, and Gotti said that they want to do about four more songs.
The MC, born in Hollis, Queens, said that since his appearance in the film "The Fast and the Furious," he's been thrown an abundance of scripts, and is mulling offers. Meanwhile, he said he'll try to go on a Pain Is Love tour later this year.
For more with Ja Rule check out "Ja Rule: Rules Of The Game."