It was once impossible to escape the rugged and raspy sound of Ja Rule. In the early “aughts,” the rapper from Queens was churning out hits with everyone from Ashanti and Jennifer Lopez to Fat Joe. That was until a very public spat with 50 Cent wounded his career. Now that he’s endured a prison stint, released his 2014 memoir, Unruly: The Highs and Lows of Becoming a Man and made a surprising pundit appearance on Fox Business in May (he’s Team Hillary), Rule is busy working on an album to be released early next year. Before his day and night performances at Foxtail at SLS on August 23, we talked to the 39-year-old about his upcoming projects, the comedians who love to impersonate him and why his family won’t be joining him in Las Vegas.
After a few years off from music, you dropped six new songs earlier this month. How would you describe the new sound?
It’s a little different than what’s out there right now. What’s popular is trap music. I’m more on my own vibe. Doing my own thing. It’s Ja Rule being Ja Rule.
Which of your songs gets the biggest response when you perform?
That’s a funny question, because it varies from state to state. There are the ones that are always big, then there are ones that ring off that you didn’t know were big in that state. And there are the usual suspects such as “Always on Time,” “I’m Real” and “Livin’ It Up.” Those joints ring off everywhere, baby.
And which are your favorites?
I like performing dark stuff sometimes. Doing records that were buried gems on the album. Those are like a pleasant surprise. They know you’re going to perform the hits, so I like pulling those gems out of the bag every now and then.
You’re performing twice in the same day at Foxtail. How are you going to prepare for that?
Pace myself! [Laughs]
What did you think when Aziz Ansari incorporated you into his latest stand-up special, Live at Madison Square Garden? [The elaborate bit involves Ja Rule becoming an animal rights advocate and incorporates his old ad-lib, “It’s Murda!”]
Aziz is a good guy. He’s funny. Comedians like to do their little bits about me from time to time. Dave Chappelle’s [bit] is iconic now. Hopefully Aziz’s gets to that status, too. [Laughs]
Aziz called it a “flawless” impersonation. Do you agree?
I think he did a good job. He was a little off, but if he keeps doing it, he’ll get it down pat.
You have a rare vocal quality that’s just difficult to match.
[Laughs] Well, thank you! I’m glad God has blessed me with that originality.
Recently, you spoke out on the Drake versus Meek Mill debate and referenced your past discrepancy with 50 Cent. What significance do you think rap beef still has in the industry?
It’s hip-hop. That’s what it is. There’s always going to be confrontation. It’s really not that important, but these days the media makes everything overblown.
You’ve been having fun posting about it on social media, though.
Yeah! Isn’t that what it’s for? [Laughs] To have fun with people?
True. And with your social media presence, the comedians’ bits about you and your TV appearances, it seems like you’re transcending rap to become more of a pop cultural figure. How does that feel?
It’s cool. We’re just getting started. All the people who thought I was sitting around, twiddling my thumbs, Ja Rule was working, Ja Rule was plotting on the second coming. I got a lot of things I’m working on movie-wise, TV-wise, music-wise, business-wise. People will start to see everything boom in the next few months. It’s gonna come together, and people will say, “Oh, OK! So this is what he was doing!” In about six months, we can have this conversation again, and you’ll be like, “Oh, OK!”
So you’re going to make us wait for the details?
Listen, man, we’ve all been waiting this long! It’s better if it’s a surprise, right? [Laughs.]
That’s fair. So what else is in the works?
I’m working on a shoe line with Steve Madden. That was incredible. I got to do something that I always wanted to do and be creative in that way—stay in touch with my fashion side! That’ll be coming y’all’s way real soon. Business-wise, I’m working with the guys over at Magnises [a “credit card for millennials.”] They have a great company and business model. It’s a great time for me and my family with the TV show, Follow the Rules, coming up on MTV. It’s really such a good time for Ja Rule, and the Rules, the family. They’re enjoying some of the success now, too. It’s cool that we can share it.
Will your family join you in Vegas?
No, they will not! [Laughs] That’s Daddy’s other job.