Ja Rule : London Astoria

It's hip-hop from the heart...

The first thing you notice is how many girls are here. There are hundreds of them and they’re all dressed to the nines.

Some are dressed like [a]Alicia Keys[/a] in black leather berets, a couple of them are rocking the Princess Superstar hooker chic and some are wearing wide brimmed hats with feathers on the top in the style of [a]Eve[/a]. No matter what the look, they’ve all made an effort.

While downstairs is mostly made up of black and white adolescent boys nodding their heads and dancing to pre-show warm up DJs, the girls have got upstairs at the Astoria locked down. It’s now 9.45pm and most of them have been queuing outside since 4.30pm.

They’re drinking Moet out of plastic cups, smoking weed and checking their looks in the venue’s mirrored walls in between standing on their toes straining to get a glimpse of the stage. It’s more like ‘Top Of The Pops’ than a rap show, especially when Ja Rule turns up (only 30 minutes late).

Resplendent in a Burberry hoody (the only label that bling bling hip-hop kids will be wearing in 2002), Ja Rule takes a toke from a blunt, lifts it high above his head and basks in the rosy glow that only the sound of hundreds screaming young girls can give you. So loud is the female screeching that their male counterparts are completely drowned out – no matter how vociferously they shout ‘Boo! Boo!’ and wave their imaginary guns in the air.

“Let’s get this shit rollin’” he barks. And we do. From the front to the back, from upstairs to downstairs everybody waves their arms in the air and sings every line from every song that’s performed tonight. It’s amazing.

Although he’s not exactly made a massive dent in the UK Top 40 charts and his only mainstream radio hit has been the recent Jennifer Lopez collaboration ‘I’m Real’, Ja Rule is a bona fide hip-hop superstar.

After making his dent in ’95 by guesting on [a]Jay-Z[/a]’s massive street anthem ‘Can I Get A…’ the New York rapper, aka Jeffrey Atkins, aka The Murderer, has gone on to sell millions and millions of albums, starred in high fashion jeans ads and dabbled in Hollywood. He’s done this by having one of the most distinctive rap voices in the business (he sounds like [a]DMX[/a] with a pitbull stuck down his throat) and by carving out a niche for himself as the ‘sensitive thug’. It’s why the ladies love him so, (especially the two teenagers who are bundled off stage by security when they try to steal his towels).

Tonight, the ladies love Ja even more when, after ten minutes, he’s stripped to the waste, displaying the torso of a Greek god gone ghetto. When this happens, the screaming is so loud and piercing, only dogs can hear it.

Like Tupac (who he’s often compared to), Ja Rule raps of the pain of life, the struggle to be a man, the constant pitfalls associated with being a successful rap star and how much he respects his bitches. He’s also really cute, grabs his dick a lot, has similar tattoos and raps with the same passion and enthusiasm as Shakur.

At the end of tonight’s 30 minute set (that’s quite long for hip-hop superstars these days), Ja gets everyone “who’s ever lost anybody they love” to wave their lighters in the air so we can remember Tupac.

Ja Rule then starts his Tupac duet ‘So Much Pain’ and as Shakur’s voice comes out of the PA he lifts up his bottle of Cristal and pours out a little drink for his dead homey. The air is filled with a religious reverence and the ‘Top Of The Pops’ vibes are briefly extinguished.

It’s hip-hop from the heart.

Andy Capper