NEW YORK — It's no secret that the past few years haven't exactly been easy for Ja Rule and the Inc., with federal indictments; feuds with 50 Cent, among other artists; not to mention the crew's luster waning a tad bit.
But rather than rushing out material in the wake of those media storms, after six albums in six years, the Queens rapper decided to take a much needed moment to get his thoughts together. He figured he'd have a lot to say on The Mirror, his upcoming album, due in stores September 25. It's his first album since 2004's R.U.L.E.
"You're kind of on the clock," Ja told MTV News on Wednesday night from the Harlem set of "Uh Oh," his first single from Mirror. "The label wants an album every year. So your creative process gets — I'm not going to say lost, but it gets watered down a bit. So with this album I had a chance to really sit back and relax, record records like I want to record them. I could take two, three days if I wanted to record a record, it didn't matter. Because I wanted to just take my time with this album and say the right things to the people, the public. Because there was a lot of things I wanted to say, and I didn't want there to be any bitter records on the album. Because I'm not bitter about anything that happened [in the past few years]. I'm moving forward. We push forward here. We don't look in the past. So we gonna push forward with this album. And when you hear the tracks and records on the album, you'll understand exactly where I'm going with it."
Ja may sound like he's getting into heavier fare on Mirror, but "Uh Oh" is more of a pulsating, midtempo track, which features Lil Wayne and finds the two trading lines back and forth.
On the set, both Ja and Wayne were popping up and down just as much as the beat as they took turns egging each other on when their verses cued up.
"I was sitting around the house wondering how Ja was gonna come back [out], and then I got a call," Wayne said. "With me? I was honored. I had to prepare, I was nervous, but I got it."
The clip is being directed by Rage and Irv Gotti (see "Irv Gotti Maps Out Inc. Comeback With Vanessa Carlton, Lloyd, Ja Rule") and was shot guerilla-style across New York, despite rain downpours and traffic jams, moving from borough to borough.
"The look I really wanted to capture with the video was basically the essence of the track," Ja explained. "You hear the track is real crazy, I wanted video to capture that. So when you see it, it feels like what you're hearing. You're catching that. And with me and Weezy's energy, I think it's going to come out real hot."
Along with Wayne, who Ja said he's known for years but is just now getting the chance to work with, Rule also pegged some other old friends for Mirror. Erick Sermon and Ty Fyffe, who both produced tracks on Ja's debut, Venni Vetti Vecci, are on board, as well as producers 7 Aurelius and Chink Santana.
Though Ja's currently bent on pushing "Uh Oh," after he returns from a short promotional tour he'll start prepping a video soon for his first official single, "Body," which is a smoother track more in line with the tone of some of his bigger hits.
But Ja's not worried about any cracks about his style, which has earned him equal parts accolades and the ire of many, including 50 Cent, his onetime nemesis who's facing his own backlash at the moment (see "Ja Rule Done Lashing Out At 50, Will Be Himself Again On New LP").
"It happens," Ja said. "I seen it happen to a lot of artists. They go through it. One of my friends, one of my producers, 7, he said something real crazy [to me]. He said, 'Greatness is not sometimes what you achieve, it's what you overcome.' And I've overcome a lot, from Gotti and them going through the federal investigation, almost doing 20 years, through all of the beef and all of that. I came through it and I'm walking in another direction right now. And it's in a step that's going straight to the top, baby."