The Queens, N.Y.-bred rapper's new album "The Mirror," due November 13, is the follow-up to 2004's "R.U.L.E.," which has sold 658,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. At his peak, Ja Rule sold 3.6 million copies of 2001's "Pain Is Love," his third album.
He describes "The Mirror" as a reflection of a professionally and personally turbulent period that included a public feud with rapper 50 Cent and an FBI money-laundering case against the two principals of his label The Inc. (Irv and Chris Gotti were both exonerated in 2005.)
"When you've been in this business a long time, things sometimes spiral into something bigger than you expected," he says. "Coming through that has made me wiser and more open-minded. Such situations not only build character, but show other people's character."
The album is "very grown-up ... expressing a lot of true feelings. But it's a fun album as well -- a dramedy."
Tracks include the self-explanatory "Judas," which samples the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" ("We got the clearance -- that's a win in itself") and "Damn," a song Rule says he wrote with Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Lopez and Christina Milian in mind. "I did it in a way that's real subjective but clever," he says.
Playing now on the video circuit is a clip for "Body," the album's formal first single featuring R&B newcomer Ashley Joi. The sex-sizzled track ("There are a lot of women in the video so I'll probably take some more heat," Rule says with a laugh) follows on the heels of "Uh-Ohhh!!" featuring Lil Wayne, which stalled at No. 69 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
"I leaked it to get people used to hearing my voice again and hearing good music," Ja Rule explains. "People loved 'Uh-Ohhh!!,' but because of budgets you can't push records the way you want to sometimes. So you choose your fights."
Frank yet jovial, Ja Rule waxed philosophical on other subjects:
- The feud with 50 Cent (addressed on Rule's 2003 album, "Blood in My Eye"): "It wasn't really a beef, just something he was doing on record. It didn't phase me except when the public reacted. Then it was like, 'I've got to talk back.' But I never felt threatened; it was just words. People didn't understand that."
- On still using the b- and h-words: "We have freedom of speech and expression. I don't think those words are hurting people as much as the media makes them out to be. There are bigger issues -- the war, Jena 6, the election -- than rap lyrics."