Back in the early 2000s, rap stars didn’t get much bigger than Ja Rule. After breaking through with his platinum-selling debut album, Venni Vetti Vecci, he ruled the charts with top 20 hits like Between You and Me, I’m Real (Murder Remix), and Ain’t It Funny. His run of success was bought to a halt when his legal troubles landed him a hefty jail term, but even that hasn’t dented his legacy… nor his 30 million record sales. Here’s our pick of the 10 best Ja Rule songs of all time.
10. Livin’ It Up (feat. Case)
As udiscovermusic.com notes, Ja Rule turns in one of his best performances on Livin’ It Up, layering vocals and stacking melodies effortlessly over blasts of horns and stabs of synth. Released in October 2001 as the first single from the album Pain is Love, it became an international hit, charting in the top 10 in the UK and US and in the top 20 across numerous other countries.
9. Thug Lovin’ (feat. Bobby Brown)
Ja Rule’s 2002 album, The Last Temptation, sold well, hitting number four on the Billboard 200 and certifying platinum. Despite its success, not everyone got behind it, with a lot of fans criticizing it for being too commercial and claiming Ja Rule had sold out. Either way, it’s hard to resist the opening track, Thug Lovin’. Described by All Music as having one of Ja Rule’s best raps yet, it comes with the added value of a cameo from Bobby Brown, whose excellent performance elevates the pop-heavy tune to one of the album’s highlights.
8. I Cry (feat. Lil Mo’)
A highlight from the 2000 album Rule 3:36, I Cry finds Ja Rule digging deep into his personal life and getting soulful about lost friends and broken relationships. It was the last of Ja Rule’s songs to feature Lil’ Mo: after its release, producer Irv Gotti decided that Ashanti would be a better match for his protege, at least from a chart perspective. After gaining traction on the urban scene, the song became a hit, reaching number 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 11 on the Billboard Hot R&B charts.
7. I’m Real (Murder Remix feat. Jennifer Lopez)
Back in the early 2000s, Jennifer Lopez and Ja Rule were two of the biggest names in music, so when they decided to team up for I’m Real (Murder Remix), the result was always going to have ‘hit’ written all over it. Lopez’s sugary tones contrast perfectly with Ja Rule’s rough voice, while the 1980s vibes and shots of synth give the song a hugely appealing retro vibe. Released in June 2001, it topped the Billboard charts in the US and became a huge top 20 hit internationally.
6. Put It On Me (feat. Lil’ Mo and Vita)
According to hip-hopvibe.com, Ja Rule was inspired to write Put It On Me to show his wife his feelings for her after an argument. “What would I be without my baby?/The thought alone might break me,” he sings. An unapologetically sentimental love song, it provides a welcome reprieve from the grittiness of the rest of Rule 3:36. Released in December 2000, it hit number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Ja Rule his first top ten hit on the chart.
5. New York (feat. Fat Joe & Jadakiss)
Most people think New York is a diss track aimed at 50 Cent and his group G-Unit. 50 Cent took exception to lines like “Apprentice you’re fired, you’re no longer desired/So take off them silly chains, put back on your wire/I’m on fire,” and fired back at Fat Joe and Jadakiss for featuring in the song in his 2005 response, Piggy Bank. But ultimately, it’s more a love song to New York than anything else, with even the video featuring a steady stream of cameos from New York natives like Jennifer Lopez and Styles P. Released in October 2004, it hit number 27 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 10 on the Hot Rap Songs chart.
4. Mesmerize (feat. Ashanti)
In the early 2000s, a song featuring both Ja Rule and Ashanti meant only one thing – chart gold. Mesmerize proved no exception. Released on December 16, 2002, as the second single from Ja Rule’s fourth studio album The Last Temptation, the Irv Gotti produced showstopper climbed to number two on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the pair’s fourth top-10 hit together. The Greece-inspired video, which finds Ja Rule and Ashanti discovering their inner Sandy and Danny, is just as worth checking out as the song.
3. Between Me & You (feat. Christina Milian)
On the late-night jam, Between Me & You, Ja Rule lets his raunchy side out to play, getting hot and heavy with sparring partner Christina Milian over a backdrop of pounding bass hits. Released in June 2000, the song became Ja Rule’s first big crossover success, reaching number 5 on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was also a hit on the other side of the pond, reaching number 26 on the UK Singles Chart.
2. Always on Time (feat. Ashanti)
Ashanti and Ja Rule made some awesome songs together, but even so, Always on Time stands out as particularly special. The combination of Ashanti’s silky smooth vocals and the rough, street-orientated style of Ja Rule’s lyrics is delicious, and as enticing today as it was when it hit the top of the charts back in 2001.
1. Holla Holla
Rounding off our list of the 10 best Ja Rule songs of all time is Holla Holla, Ja Rule’s debut single and one of the defining moments in ’90s hip hop. With its edgy rhymes, stunning instrumentation, and Ja Rule’s trademark stutter flow, it was a major declaration of intent from a young artist who’d soon become one of the brightest stars in rap. Released in March 1999 as the lead single from Venni Vetti Vecci, the song soared to number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 11 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.