NEW YORK — When Ja Rule was putting together the pieces of his new album, he did something he'd never done before when prepping a project, something that, incidentally, inspired its title.

He looked at himself in The Mirror ... and began talking to himself.

"I have conversations with myself," he told MTV News late last week about The Mirror, which is set to arrive in stores November 13. "I talk to the guy in the mirror. He never answers back; it's always the same guy that asks the questions and answers the questions. [He laughs.] But the funny thing about that is, it's your moment of truth. You can't lie to yourself. And I'm sitting there and I'm looking in the mirror and I'm saying to myself ... 'This person you see in the mirror ... you know who this person is, you know him very well. But is this the same person that your public sees when you walk outside? No. They don't have a clue who the f--- that person is in that mirror.' "

So Ja took to making songs that addressed what was actually going on in his life. Tracks like the brooding "Hearsay" tackle the uncertainty that loomed over Murder Inc. the past few years, given the Gotti federal investigation and the waning hits coming from the label. Then there's "Love Is Pain," which was originally slated to be the album's title track, and "Father Forgive Me"; both touch on the trial and are as far away from Ja's past hits like "Between Me and U" as possible.

"I think the public has their own perceptions of Ja Rule," the Queens, New York, rapper said. "It's a lot of different [things]. They see me from the music that I make, but it's weird. It depends on what you know about me, but when you think about the public and the artist, really all what they see and know is what you portray on that screen. Perception is reality, so I think that people think that I'm a guy that just ... it's hard to tell what they perceive me as, but I know it's not what I am. ... And that's why I wanted to make this album. I wanted to give them insight into who I am.

While it sounds like Rule is tapping into his more sensitive side, make no mistake about it, his words still pack plenty of punch. And definitely toward 50 Cent — even if he doesn't address the G-Unit leader directly on any tracks.

Ja said he thinks Fif wanted to be him and that was the basis of the pair's rift. But, according to Rule, 50 didn't know how to carry out his plans correctly.

"I'm a very competitive person myself," Ja explained. "When I was on the Hard Knock Life Tour, believe me, every night I wanted to take Jay-Z, DMX, Redman, Method Man, I wanted to take their heads off. Every night. I want to be where they at. Of course I do. I wanted their fanbase. I wanted that 30, 40,000 screaming my name! But at the same time, I still respected Jay and X and Meth and Red. Because as bad as I wanted to be in their position, it was just that, I wanted to be where they were at.

"[50] was no different," he continued. "He wanted to be where I was at. He wanted to be me. He just didn't know how to go about it. He didn't know how to go about and say, 'Yo, Ja, I want to do a record with you.' So his thing to get in the game was to insult everyone in the business.

"I think he really, really admires me," Ja added later. "He admires my work, he admires my music, my talent level. He admires all of that. But I don't see him as a talent. Because for me he's more of a spectacle. And that's why he's not meeting the bar [right now]. When you come in this business as a spectacle, you're gonna have a short-lived career. Because now every time you drop, you have to meet that spectacle. People aren't looking for the music anymore [from him]. It's [a matter of,] can you match the intensity of the spectacle you created on your last project? His projects aren't even about the music. Every record he puts out is about the other artist he's [been] aligned with [to battle]."