Hip hop’s clocks were turned back in time when Ja Rule and Ashanti reunited for a special Valentine’s Day show at the Novo by Microsoft here in “L.A.”
The dynamic duo took over the Novo for what I would consider one of the most romantic concerts I’ve ever attended.
Together, the two created some of their biggest hits; and they made sure to perform each one, with extra love, on the night annually observed to put special emphasis on romance.
Opening the show with “Mesmerize,” Ja Rule moved smoothly through their hits closing with the much-anticipated duets “Down 4 You” and “Always On Time.”
The back-and-forth concert format allowed the co-headliners to take turns throwing down solo snippets of crowd favorites for almost an hour and a half.
Nearly 20 years have passed since the songs were originally released and there was no rust; the crowd knew all the words, lip syncing along, hitting every note.
And while it was a co-headliner show, Ashanti was a stage force all on her own.
She’s clearly retained the things that made her successful more than two decades ago. Her dancing was on point, her vocals shined and she looked fantastic.
Ashanti dusted off “Foolish” and “Rock Wit U” to unanimous appreciation.
In a seductive, blush-red fitted sequin jumpsuit and backed by two dancers flawlessly mimicking her every step, the diva reminded the crowd that her first single was released 17 years prior.
Her voice rising and falling with fine-tuned control, Ashanti put her whole heart into performances of “Only U,” “Happy” and “Rain On Me,” which then transitioned into Ja Rule’s “Rainy Dayz.”
Ja Rule bolted out a few of his solo hits, serving up rap-R&B hybrids such as “Between Me and You,” “Put It on Me,” “I’m Real,” “Livin’ It Up” and “Thug Lovin.”
Ashanti joined him for “Down Chick” and “What’s Luv” and added a sensual vitality to the intimate show.
At one point, she randomly picked three guys from the audience, and invited them on stage to sing along with her background dancers. Blindfolded, the gentlemen danced seductively while singing “Girlfriend.”
It was definitely a show for the lovers.
The epiphany of the night was that I’d forgotten the number of hits these two created in such a short period of time; together and solo.
Nostalgia is worth a lot these days, especially as those who were in their youth during these two performers’ prime climb deeper into adulthood. Count me in that number.
For me, the show, reaffirmed what makes the Ja Rule/Ashanti pairing so right – her sensual-sweet but strong-willed voice intertwining with his smart-alecky gruffness to create timeless rhythm and blues/hip hop musical memories.