Photos By Katrina Tarzian
In 1999, Queens native Jeffrey Atkins, better known in the music world as Ja Rule, made his debut with the Billboard 100 charting single "Holla Holla." From that moment forward Ja has delivered countless hits, acted in over a dozen movies, and managed to beef with some of the largest names in hip hop. It has been nearly three years since Ja Rule has released an album, and even then the performance and acclaim for Pain Is Love 2 was less than noteworthy, barely breaking Billboard's Top 200.
Leading up to the release of his new album Genius Loves Company, Ja Rule was invited to Chicago by Red Bull and Fake Shore Drive to be the most recent Sound Select headliner on Wednesday night at The Bottom Lounge on Chicago's near west side. If you've attended a past Sound Select event, you know that Andrew Barber of Fake Shore Drive has done a great job helping 90's kids relive the hip hop glory of their youth with performances from Juvenile, Mystikal, Cam'ron, and many others alongside some up and coming Chicago acts. This time around, Ja Rule was supported by Harvey, IL native Ty Money, The Outfit TX from... you guessed it, Texas, and DJ and hype man duty from Elz and DJ Oreo respectively.
Following some solid opening acts and a proper lead in by Elz and Oreo getting the crowd amped up with some Kanye West classics, Ja Rule took the stage right on time opening the show up with the 2000 Vita assisted "Put It On Me," and the hits didn't stop until he wrapped the performance with "New York." Seems like a weird choice to end with while in Chicago, but you can't knock the guy for having showing some pride for his city. During his performance, Ja ran through "Holla Holla," "Between Me and You," "Livin It Up," and more; sometimes just teasing the crowd with a few seconds of each track during a medley of every one of the most relevant hits in his catalog.
Regardless of Ja Rule's lack of musical prominence in most recent years, his presence on the stage Wednesday night confirmed he maintains an important role and has the ability to fill a room in Chicago quite nicely. To sum up the evening in the words of my colleague Westley Parker, "It was lit!"