Ja Rule and Ashanti brought early 2000s nostalgia to Vegas, performing to a sold-out crowd at Brooklyn Bowl. The hip-hop/R&B duo worked their way through a packed set list that included hits such as Ja Rule’s “Put It On Me” and “Livin’ It Up,” as well as Ashanti’s “Baby” and “Rain On Me.” Alternating between solo tracks before taking the stage together, Ashanti’s vocals were as strong as they were back in the day, and Ja Rule’s rhythm as distinctive as ever.
While the music was as gratifying as it had been over a decade ago, the show itself wasn’t a huge production. Outside of the requisite “What’s up, Vegas?” the artists didn’t interact much with the crowd. Choreography was kept minimal, and pre-recorded skits that played on a projector provided entertainment between songs. The duo seemed more focused on moving through the set list, maintaining their energy and hitting their marks. At times it almost felt like a rehearsal.
The lack of details didn’t bother the crowd, though, and the audience’s energy throughout the night never wavered. Even in a packed Brooklyn Bowl, where wiggle room was nonexistent and a lot of drinks ended up on the floor, people happily danced, laughed and sung to the lyrics together.
Production aside, Ashanti and Ja Rule gave the audience exactly what was expected from a throwback show. The crowd came to hear their favorite songs and to be reminded why they fell in love with Murder Inc. all those years ago. In that aspect, the show delivered. The success of the night didn’t come from the dancing, or even the vocals, but rather a packed set list compiled of all the songs the crowd was hoping to hear.
There were fewer bells and whistles than you’d now expect from a hip-hop/R&B performance. But for a woman who holds the Guinness World Record for fastest selling female debut album, and a man with four Grammy nominations, sometimes bells and whistles aren’t necessary. ★★★✩✩
Photos by Erik Kabik Photography / MediaPunch