The few rap-R&B hybrids on Rule 3:36 (2000) paid off large dividends by the time of Ja Rule's next album, Pain Is Love. A day didn't pass between the release of the two albums when Ja Rule's voice couldn't be heard on urban radio, and at the time of Pain Is Love's release in October 2001, he had not one but two singles getting nonstop airplay: "Livin' It Up" and "I'm Real," the latter a Jennifer Lopez song featuring him as a guest rapper. It should be no surprise then to discover that Pain Is Love follows the same formula that had made Rule 3:36 such a commercial success: craft some radio-friendly crossover singles, often featuring pretty young female R&B singers as romantic counterpoints, and then fill out the album with hardcore rap, often featuring Murder Inc.'s roster of secondary rappers, to sustain Ja Rule's thug reputation. Actually, this formula is fine-tuned on Pain Is Love to account for some exceptions -- for instance, the lead single, "Livin' It Up," interpolates Stevie Wonder's "Do I Do" for its crossover-R&B aspect, while the title track recycles an old, generally unheard 2Pac verse to great effect -- and a significantly more balanced album is the result. Plus, there's enough strong material here to encourage full-album listening, as the crossover singles no longer stand out apart from the hardcore rap filler to the degree that they did on Rule 3:36.
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier