Sound And Vision: No Doubt Rides Again–But Can Gwen Stefani & Co. Rise Again?

The ’90s are about to face a crucial test, one that might determine if the Clintonian era even has a shot at matching the staying power of the Reagan ’80s, a decade that continues to resonate more than 20 years after it ended. Welcome back, ’90s stars Soundgarden, SWV, Garbage, Brandy, Matchbox Twenty, Green Day, the Wallflowers, Blur, Aaliyah (via creepy interloper Drake) and No Doubt.

A decade is a long time in life, and an eternity in pop music, especially when you’ve spent one in a state of virtual inactivity, as did No Doubt, the band that will release its comeback album, Push and Shove, on September 25 (the same day Green Day returns with Uno!, the first of a trilogy of albums that the rock trio will release in the coming months). When No Doubt put out its last studio album, Rock Steady, in December of 2001, George W. Bush was less than one year into his first term as President of the United States, Friends was the No. 1 show on TV, and dated acts like Shaggy, Crazy Town and Ja Rule were scoring No. 1 singles on Billboard’s Hot 100.

The world, still reeling from September 11 exactly three months earlier, had yet to hear of Barack Obama, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, iPads, iPhones and American Idol. Britney Spears was the biggest female pop star on the planet, and she was in love with Justin Timberlake, best known as heartthrob No. 1 in ‘N Sync, the world’s biggest boy band. In this post-millennial world, Rock Steady went double-platinum in the U.S. and produced three hit singles, including the Top 5 hits Hey Baby and Underneath It All. (more…)

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Soundcheck: Ja Rule Delivers Double Release Before Heading To The Big House

Ten years ago, Ja Rule was one of the biggest names in hip hop.  He ruled the charts with hits like Always On Time and What Would I Be Without You, launching Ashanti into super-stardom and creating a new genre of radio-friendly, hip-hop pop that focused more on love than guns.  Now, the Queens-bred rapper has all but disappeared, plagued by legal problems that will send him on an eighteen-month prison stint this week.  Oddly enough, fans have a hard time recalling what he’s even being locked up for.

Unbeknownst to many fans, Ja was arrested alongside Lil Wayne in 2007, and charged with gun and drug possession with Weezy, who served eight months in 2010 for the offense.

Instead of prepping for the big house, Ja Rule has been prepping for two album releases.  Pain Is Love 2, the follow up to his 2001 hit, and TheRenaissance Project, out today, have been his primary focus in recent months, despite the hard road ahead. “I just want to put it out to the world before I go in,” he says in a new video interview below. “It’s funny because, I’m about to go to jail, and my main concern is to make sure that I get this album done and out there for the fans.”

Ja Rule seems to be by-passing his jail-time altogether in his mind, now focusing on his cross-country tour, 40 Days/40 Nights, which he plans to embark on upon his release.

He told, I want the bus to come straight to the prison and take me to my first show. Put my family on the bus, have them come to the first few cities, send them back home and let me keep going. It’ll be international; 40 cities in 40 nights. I’ll be so fresh and ready to go.

The jury is still out on how fans will receive his latest projects.  Fights with 50 Cent have done damage to his reputation.  Ja Rule admits he regrets the exchange, saying “We can coincide inside of a world. He’s doing him, and he’s not thinking about me, and I’m doing me and I’m not thinking about him,” he says. “”I was a little ashamed of myself to be even involved with that. Because I’m like, yo, I’m 35 years old and I’m on Twitter beef? That’s not something I want to entertain.

Say what you will about him, but the former Murder Inc. poster boy had quite the career in his hey day.  He reunited with his former protégé, Ashanti, who has also been laying low in recent years.  They collaborated for the first time in seven years on the new track, LOL. The song samples Stevie Wonder’s Master Blaster and is remniscent of the lovey-dovey, hood love ditties that made Ja Rule and Ashanti so successful in the first place. Ja Rule displays his signature sing-songy rapping style, spitting lyrics like “LOL. LMAO/But it ain’t funny how I don’t see you no more.”

I must admit that while I loved Ja Rule in my high school days, I was a little reluctant to press play on the early cuts in my inbox.  But, if LOL is any indication of what’s to come, the nostalgic nerd in me will probably pick up both of the albums.