Maybe we shouldn't trust that olive branch rapper Ja Rule just extended to arch enemy 50 Cent.
The MC talked about a truce with his fellow Queens-born nemesis in an interview with Louis Farrakhan, broadcast on BET Monday.
But on Rule's just-released new album, "Blood in My Eye," he hauls out the big artillery. "Every n-- who ever said any jealous stuff about me is dead," he declares in the album's opening salvo.
Rule - and members of his posse - go on to rap sweet nothings like "I'll go to jail for sending 50 to hell," "50 pull your skirt down" and "50 cent?/Is that what this is all about?/Two punk f-- quarters."
As put-downs go, these aren't exactly the stuff of Don Rickles - or, more to the point, of Eminem, 50's benefactor, who could wipe the floor with Rule in terms of wit, invention and splatter.
But if Rule's words overshoot the bloody mark, his new music has a hardness and cool he hasn't mined since his first album, 1999's "Venni Vetti Vecci."
Rule started by reinventing the mid-'90s signature gangsta style of Death Row Records - ironically, the home of 50's sometime producer Dr. Dre. But his next three albums had more pop and R&B, increasing his popularity, but costing him street cred.
50 Cent exploited that by repeatedly putting down Rule as a faux gangsta on his debut CD, "Get Rich or Die Trying."
Now, Rule and his posse are answering back, not only with lines to 50 like "you ain't no gangsta/sweet as duck sauce," but by matching those words to far less radio-friendly music.
Rule's fifth album obsesses on honed riffs and steely beats. You'll find none of the candied choruses or tender melodies of his hits, which paired his trademark bark with the golden tones of Ashanti.
Luckily, the new riffs roil with exciting menace. Everything sounds coiled and ripped. In the single "Clap Back," Rule offers a stoked club anthem, while in "The Crown" the beats hammer the raps home. The album benefits from its tight length. At just 45 minutes, it's practically an EP by hip-hop standards. But there's no fat.
The CD's brevity may have to do with a desire to get an "answer" out to 50 before the year comes to a close.
In fact, Rule plans to release another, more commercial CD in March. When he does, 50 may well call it a sellout. But in the meantime, Ja's riffs rule.