Valentine’s Day is coming up this week. Call me a sap, but I love this holiday. Even when I don’t have a significant other, I find myself swept up in the romantic sentiments, gloriously bad romantic comedies, and boxes of chocolate (To: Me, From: Me). But what do I love more than anything on Valentine’s Day? Love songs, of course! And when I was asked to put together a list of songs for Valentine’s Day, only one name came to mind: rapper Ja Rule.
What other artist so delicately crafts his words of affection? What other artist has such a unique and hauntingly beautiful perspective on romance? What other artist matches Ja’s passionate imagery? Simply none. Ja Rule’s songs capture the gritty reality of “Thug Lovin'”. It’s not always forever, it’s not always innocent, but with Ja Rule, it’s always real. Remember his philosophy, “Pain Is Love”. He knows that through the good times and the bad, what matters most is that special moment between two loving souls (normally naked, heavily intoxicated, and cheating on someone). So if you’re looking to write a love letter to that special someone this year, put down your book of Shakespeare Sonnets and try out some Ja Rule instead.
“Mesmerize” (feat. Ashanti)
Lyric: “I got a fetish for fuckin’ you wit’cha skirt on / On the backstreet in the back seat of the Yukon”
This is how Ja Rule starts his first verse of “Mesmerize”, because he’s not a guy that likes to beat around the bush. What’s so beautiful (and hilarious) about the line is its specificity. Certainly fetishes can be very specific, but are traditionally general enough: trees or feet or certain types clothing material. But Rule really takes it to a new level here. His fetish involves not just an object or situation but a specific location and a specific person. And who is that person? You! Aww, isn’t that sweet? Pair that sentiment with the rapper’s over-enthusiastic performance and the Grease-esque music video and… swoon!
“I’m Real” (feat. Jennifer Lopez)
Lyric: “Cause we’ve been through the worst times and the best times / But it was our time, even if it was part-time”
Ja Rule cherishes the fleeting moments he has with you. He’d love to be with you all the time, of course, but if you can only afford a few hours here or there, he’s gonna make them count. Good or bad, what matters is the time you shared. He’s got so much love to give, and lucky for us, he’s very generous with it.
“Always on Time” (feat. Ashanti)
Lyric: “You never thought I’d make you smile while I’m smackin’ your ass and fuckin’ you all wild / But we share somethin’ so rare, but who cares? / You care”
Sure, Ja Rule raps a lot about explicit sexual activity. But hidden in the braggodocio is some real heart. Here he’s “smackin’ your ass” and he’s “fuckin’ you all wild”, but it’s clear that there’s love involved. And that surprises you enough to put a smile on your face. And just look at the fearlessness of that second line! He knows his friends won’t get it. They won’t care about this special relationship the two of you have. But you care, and that’s all he cares about.
“Thug Lovin'” (feat. Bobby Brown)
Lyric: “Sweet thing livin’ it / Won’t you let me let you live it a little bit”
Now this is poetry. Or, at least alliteration. In “Thug Lovin'”, Ja Rule is joined by fellow noted romantic Bobby Brown for a song addressed to a girl who is growing bored with her relationship because she misses that “Thug Lovin'”. On the surface, what Ja and Bobby are offering her is simply a more exciting and dangerous lifestyle, but this little gem of a lyric points to something much more important: freedom. Ja Rule is a feminist, and he wants to use his male privilege to liberate you, you “sweet thing”.
“Murder Me” (feat. Cadillac Tah and Alexi)
Lyric: “That look in your eyes is like the sunrise when you’re fuckin’ me”
Don’t think it’s all about the singles, either. This deep-cut from The Last Temptation takes Ja’s “Pain Is Love” aphorism to an unsettling extreme. But, as we saw with “Always on Time”, violent sex for Ja Rule is often just a cover for pure romance. And that point is made clear with this lyric. It comes at the end of his first verse, in which he details his sexual prowess and desires. But then, snuck right in before the chorus, he blurts out this lovely sunrise imagery. He quickly tries to cover it up with the rest of the lyric, but it’s clear in this line — as in all Ja Rule — where his heart really is. And that’s with you.