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Monday, June 22, 2015

Book Review- Ja Rule - Unruly




Ja Rule was underrated as an artist by myself and others. It is only in hindsight that I find myself wishing Rule was still in the public eye and making music again. This book is really based off of letters written during his time in prison where he finally had the time to reflect upon his life and put the story together much like another bio i recently read from Rick James.

The story is the general one from the hood most of the time but Ja tries to make it more meaningful through his letters that are interspersed throughout the book. There he tries to give an overview of his feelings at that moment and the broader societal implications before the book goes into a detailed chapter that follows the theme. Early on the book moves quickly, too quickly in fact. I mean the first couple of chapters lay a good groundwork but then the formative early teenage years are really glossed over, especially as it relates to Ja starting to get into rap. He mentions that he is trying to get into music, but never really gets into the trials of that, was he going to dingy studios? making mix tapes of songs and handing them out? There is some written about writing his lyrics but it isn't in depth at all.

In fact the one thing he does do is sort of over estimate and have an inflated sense of importance of trying to speak on social issues but the insights are little and follow the normal line of thinking from urban communities. The book also fails to fill in a lot of details on teh actual process once he gets signed to Def Jam and the album creation with the exception of a couple of songs. Now I feel like this is because he wants to be this example of growth and self reflection but those moments seem so superficial save a moment in the last third of the book where he talks about reconnecting with his estranged father. In fact the vast majority of the emotional connection and evidence of growth comes from anything involving his pops.

Another thing I didn't like was how the story was organized at points chronologically. I think it takes a lot of weight from his entire set of struggles with the way its set up. He condenses certain parts into the thematic sections when the true weight of what Ja went through isn't as evident. For instance the beef with 50 Cent ends up kind of being the majority of a chapter and doesn't feel natural or like it was the reality. It is sort of like Prodigy's (Mobb Deep) bio where it feels like his role is overly exaggerated. Then the portion that deals with Karrine Steffans is severely minimized and condensed yet in the few paragraphs given, it seems as if it was a major issue for Ja.

Overall it was a strong start but the book lost a lot of steam and I feel like it fell victim to unrealistic expectations on the social impact and a desire to try and keep a lot of useful and interesting information close to the vest. To that end, the chapters about his father and grandparents are really good as are the letters from prison. I just think the storytelling wasn't in depth enough about the things I wanted to know and the editing could have been tighter in regards to sequence.

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