“KNOW THY SELF…” is one of the oldest, philosophical statements that can be traced back to Ancient Egyptian times that still resonates people who are lovers of knowledge and are in pursuit of spiritual oneness. It is a creed that knows no boundaries and people from all walks of life gravitate to its simplistic truth. When it comes to music, nowhere does this belief have more meaning than in hip-hop, where the drive to stay true one’s artistry is the ultimate goal. And, there is only one rap artist within the 21st century that this declaration of faith could not have spoken to more than The Inc./Empire/Motown Universal recording artist Jeffrey Atkins a.k.a. Ja Rule. Backed by a new label and a fresh perspective on his career and personal life, Ja Rule is ready to reclaim his longtime reign in hip-hop with his latest album, The Mirror.
“I called it the Mirror because originally I was going call it Love is Pain,” recalls Ja Rule. “My 3rd album was called Pain is Love (Island Def Jam, 2001), and I named it that because where I was at the time and what I’d been through––going through a lot struggles and sacrifice to get this point in my career and to receive the love from the people––to me, that was the first album where I got love from the people. So, I originally felt I needed to call this album, Love is Pain, because after going through struggles of gaining the love of the people, they took it right back. They say after you achieve that love, people love to see you fall. But, as I started to record some songs (for this album) it began to get deeper than that. I wanted the people to realize how I felt and what I went through, during this whole transition. I mean you will never really know what I was going through, because what people think and what it really was, is two different things. So by calling this album The Mirror, I want people to really get a glimpse on what it is to be Ja Rule and the album is a reflection of that.”
The Mirror is such an apropos title for Rule’s eighth album. The multi-platinum veteran rapper out of Hollis, Queens, has gone through a personal transformation that sees him closing the door on a tumultuous time in his life––from the long, drawn out public feud with Interscope Recording Artist 50 Cent, to the investigation and vindication The Inc. label heads Irv and Chris Gotti by the United Sates Federal Government––to opening up a new chapter both artistically and business-wise where Ja Rule and The Inc. are poised to make run atop the Billboard charts for the remainder of 2007 and beyond. And, reclaiming his superstar status in higher rap’s echelon should not be a problem for Ja, whose stellar recording history of undeniably street anthems and monumental crossover hits, captured a generation nearly a decade ago. Even during the height of the public and legal scrutiny, Ja Rule and The Inc. brand still managed bang out hits for the radio and clubs, with 2004’s R.U.L.E album (Island Def Jam). Now with all the drama behind him, hip-hop should come to expect that same formula of success, but with a more mature twist. I guess the public will label it as a comeback album, Ja responds. “In my eyes, I never really went anywhere. I had some beef and had some thorough investigations to get past, but as far as leaving the industry, I mean my last album was in 2004”. The album spawned two monster records with “Wonderful” featuring R. Kelly and “New York” featuring Fat Joe and Jadakiss. The record sold Platinum.
In addition to the grown man memoirs that featured are on The Mirror, what’s different about this album in comparison to projects years past is its’ sonic palette that Ja Rule took an active role in overseeing. Known for usually collaborating with The Inc. in-house producers, Irv Gotti and 7 Aurelius, Ja took it a step further by getting melodic assistance from the likes of heavyweights such as, Erick Sermon, Ty Fyffe, Rick Steel, DJ Kurupt, Mel-Man, among others. Such musical diversity is refreshing in hip-hop where the genre is currently criticized for being creatively stale, and Ja has the content and the passion, not only to reenergize his worth in the game, but also to inject some new life into rap and pull in some newer fans in the process. Standout cuts include the introspective testimonial on “Abandoned (A message to mankind), an aggressive club banger, “Uh Oh” and “Body” that is sure to further cement Ja Rule’s legacy in hip-hop. “I don’t think I gave the fans me before,” says Ja. “I gave them music by me, but they didn’t get a chance to meet me. People only got to know me through the singles I made. That’s why I took time with this album, I just wanted to sit back and create. On some songs, it took me 3 to 4 days to finish, whereas before I was known to knock out 2 songs in a night. To talk to the people the way I needed to talk them, I just couldn’t go in there and make another album. Sonically, half of The Mirror is dark and the other half is real bright. If I had to describe it, it’s like night and day.”
Though Ja is hum on The Mirror’s guest appearances (“I got some surprises and I want to keep some mystique around it for now”), he isn’t shy about his future plans and ventures. The Mirror is my last album as a player,” Ja says. “I’m about to go into player-coach mode now with the (re-vamped), my new company Rule Global Media which includes, my Stars On Poker website, my internet radio station www.187fm.com, my film company (Tunnel Vision), and my new record label, Empire Music Group, and Erving Geoffrey Clothing Company. It’s real challenging being an artist and an executive at the same time, so I plan to fall back a bit and do the mogul thing.”
The soon-to-be mogul is not throwing in the towel on his recording career just yet, so fans should not be alarmed. However, Ja rule is being more calculating about his future and where hip-hop fits into it. That starts by thoroughly examining yourself and making the proper changes that are needed. By looking into The Mirror––you will not only find Ja Rule at his best, but also a place for hip-hop to begin charting a different course for it to continue survive and thrive. “I want everyone who purchases my album to look at themselves in the mirror and to think that this is the only place that you can’t lie. Look for The Mirror coming in 2008.