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Record Rack

Ja Rule's New 'Rule 3:36' Comes Up a Little Short

** JA RULE, "Rule 3:36" Murder Inc./Def Jam

October 13, 2000|SOREN BAKER

Although the second album from the New York rapper boasts 16 selections, five of them are under 2 1/2 minutes. Another cut is essentially a phoned-in rap from an incarcerated friend of the artist. This brevity leaves the focus on the 10 full-length songs on the collection, which aren't strong enough to make a satisfying package.

The popular single "Between Me and You" sounds hokey, as the gruff-voiced Ja raps about his fulfilling relationship with a lady who, like Ja, is also involved in another relationship. But the delicate beat and Ja's harsh delivery make for a sonic mismatch. Ja rebounds with help from Jayo Felony and others on the funky "Extasy," which describes the effects of the designer drug. Most of the other selections lack the punch of Ja's earlier work, which was fashioned by stronger production and featured better lyrics.

Ja sounds best on "The Rule Won't Die," using a calmer delivery for most of the song and focusing his lyrics on his search for a way to understand the struggles people endure. This song, which closes the album and clocks in at just more than two minutes, sums up the collection: not enough of the good stuff.

** 1/2 Too $hort, "The Nasty Album," Jive.

On his 12th album, Too $hort, one of the genre's most consistent and prolific artists, sounds as though he's starting to run out of steam. It's not that the stories of his supposed sexual escapades are tired; he's been entertainingly recounting them for more than 15 years. It's that the Oakland rapper is backed by the worst production of his career.

Where previous producers kept their funky grooves lean and bass-driven, many of the beats here stray from $hort's tried and true sonic formula by incorporating elements of today's popular trends, from friendly aural backdrops to cheesily chanted choruses. Even $hort seems to have lost some of his luster. Although his rapping style has always been relaxed and largely monotone, he seems almost indifferent here.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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