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Ja Rule: The Last Temptation

Album: The Last Temptation
Label: Murder Inc.

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Tupac Shakur always had a martyr complex, so perhaps it's fitting that he died so that countless other rappers could have careers. Of course, Ja Rule has never been shy about ripping off 2Pac–or DMX, for that matter–and on The Last Temptation's "The Pledge Remix," Rule goes so far as to theorize that if 2Pac were alive today, "we'd probably ride together." Rule stops short of asserting that if Notorious B.I.G. were alive, they'd hang out at the mall and go to pie-eating contests together, but Rule's chutzpah would be jaw-dropping even if the aforementioned remix didn't engage in further grave-robbery by jacking the beat from 2Pac's "So Many Tears." Subtlety isn't Rule's forte, and on The Last Temptation, his fourth solo album, the multi-platinum thug-who-needs-a-hug refuses to mess with a commercially successful formula. On "Thug Lovin'," the album's first single, Rule once again shares the spotlight with an R&B star, but where Rule usually favors honey-voiced vixens when parceling out hook duty, the track features a distinctly ragged turn from Bobby Brown. "Thug Lovin'" is strangely infectious, in a derivative way, but what's striking about it is how closely Brown and Rule's personas mirror each other: Brown started out as a teenybopper icon before devolving into a raspy-voiced thug, while Rule started out as a raspy-voiced thug before becoming an unlikely teenybopper icon. Rule is up to his old tricks on Temptation, wrapping thuggish sentiments in candy-coated R&B-flavored tracks, shamelessly dispensing 2Pacisms, and yelling his catchphrase "Murder!" at regular intervals. In single-sized doses, Rule's over-the-top shtick has yielded some terrific guilty pleasures, but the rapper's facile charm wears thin over the course of an entire album.