Like many of his fellow gangsta rappers, there’s a giddy pop star bubbling just beneath Ja Rule’s coarse exterior. But it’s not simply the built-in hit “I’m Real (Murder Remix),” Rule’s duet with Jennifer Lopez, that lifts Pain Is Love into mainstream territory (the track, in fact, not only acquainted J Lo with a whole new audience but bridged another gap between hip-hop artists like Rule and the TRL crowd). The guitar-imbued “Down Ass Bitch” and “Livin’ It Up,” featuring Case, are decidedly radio-ready, as is “So Much Pain,” which includes excerpts from “Pain,” yet another resurrected 2Pac relic. But the album’s creative heights are found in the grittier tracks; “Dial M for Murder,” which features a refreshing amount of live instrumentation including bass and percussion, contains an interpolation of Styx’s “Castle Walls,” creating a menacing score straight out of a vintage Dario Argento horror flick. The jagged rhymes and bloody content of tracks like “The Inc.” and “Worldwide Gangsta” are juxtaposed by slick, synth-heavy production courtesy of Irv Gotti. The latter takes a cue from hip-hop heavyweight Timbaland, as Gotti injects his beats with percolating electronic flourishes. Elsewhere, Timbo cohorts Missy Elliott and Tweet stir things up on “X,” familiar subject matter for Ms. Elliott—the track could very well be a Miss E outtake. Ah, when gangsta rap rolls club-style.
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