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Playing Around: Ja Rule 

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Every day for the past few weeks I have been awakened by the guttural growl of Ja Rule lamenting, "I know you're tired of being lonely ... so baby girl put it on me... ." My television does double duty as an alarm clock, and "Put It On Me" has been on MTV's Direct Effect chart for weeks. Just recently it was booted by new artists such as Sunshine Anderson and Nelly, but for some reason I still have the song stuck in my head.

It's that voice -- not so very deep but rough and gravelly, like Ja has perpetual bronchitis. He doesn't talk or sing, but instead emits these animalistic, almost canine scratching sounds that translate into forceful, drawn-out speech with a Queens accent. It's kind of threatening, but that fits perfectly with his street anthems and "murderous" hip-hop. He's a thug through and through.

But even the hardest thug has a soft side too, as evidenced by the aforementioned "Put It On Me." A dialogue between an imprisoned man and the woman waiting for him on the outside, the lyrics are poignant and emotionally charged beyond anything you'd expect from your run-of-the-mill gangsta. Ja is what you'd call "well-rounded."

Trick Daddy, on the other hand, is perfectly satisfied being a hard-edged thug, and thug only. A quote from his bio sheet: "He's the epitome of a thug. When Trick raps about bustin' rounds, sexual escapades, serving time, welfare, auto theft, jugglin' weight, project living, baby momma drama, kickin' with the homies, contract hits, smokin' out, trafficking dope, probation, etc., he's lived it!"

Perhaps not the best concert to take your little sister to, but still, a tasty, eloquent dose of reality right here in the shadow of America's mountain. Tickets are $26 to $32 and are available at all Independent Records locations, or call 578-6652. Ja Rule was originally scheduled to perform with Ludacris, who was not able to appear, but all tickets previously sold for that show will be honored.

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