Much has been said about Ja Rule over the last week in regards to his involvement in the now-infamous Fyre Festival. He’s been called a scammer, an alleged accessory to fraud, and a wanton “idiot.” But how quickly we forget the man who gave us classics like “Always On Time,” “Between Me and You,” “Holla Holla” and, apparently, a song with Metallica. Thanks to the graces of Twitter, a video has resurfaced showing Ja, Metallica, and Swizz Beatz at the peaks of their career making bad musical decisions.
It is a gift from the year 2002, where the future of music was surely going to be crass rap-rock genre hybrids and Swizz and Metallica were sure they were on the edge of something great. This also was the era when Metallica, in a desperate Bob Rock-led attempt to appeal to the kids, tuned their guitars extremely low and eschewed solos while they were in the troubled process of creating the still-divisive St. Anger. Somehow Swizz got involved in this, culling two different riffs from two different Metallica outtakes to create what he thought would be “the biggest song” of Ja’s career. And you thought this decade was a clusterfuck for pop music. What would manifest, as documented by this roughly 10-minute video, would be a single off of Swizz’ 2002 album Swizz Beatz Presents: G.H.E.T.T.O. Stories called “We Did It Again.” (In hindsight, it sounds like an admission of guilt).
According to Swizz, in full And 1 garb, the song would be a universal anthem where “I can hear it at a game like a football team, somebody’s that winning and yeah!” One unidentified man passionately agrees with this sentiment adding, “Yeah like when the Lakers play. Like yeah we did it again!” Bob Rock silently nods in agreement, but something is missing against the loud riffs. They need a rapper to fully officiate the union of rap and rock and who better to do that than DMX. “DMX has more of a presence in the rock world,” says Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, but in a fateful moment, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett interjects that he enjoys the sound of Ja’s voice. It could’ve gone either way. Swizz even offers to try both. But alas, destiny made its decision, a decision that—at its core—informs the making of all great art: “But Ja is hot right now, man.”
Admittedly you can see where Swizz’ head was at when he was making this. The main riff kind of sounds like “California Love” and he says this could be “played at a party” in the studio footage. But it’s the execution where this fails. The finished product hilariously exemplifies Metallica’s worst tendencies during this period: Lars Ulrich’s paperweight-handed drumming, James Hetfield’s tough-guy bellow delivering ludicrous lines (“NEVAH MOAH YOUR WHIPPING BOY” like… dude), and Kirk Hammett’s overuse of wah pedals. Every single guitar on this, including the rhythm parts, sounds like Donald Duck thanks to that dang wah-wah effect. Even poor Bob Rock looks like he’s wondering what he’s gotten himself into, that all the money Metallica’s raking in cannot possibly be worth hearing Ja sickeningly, tunelessly scream “YEEEAAAAHHHHHH WE DIIIIID IT” for hours on end.
Look at how many people are in that studio. No one at any point has the presence of mind to suggest that maybe this isn’t as good as everyone thinks it is, that perhaps the structure is too jarring, that it’s not groove-oriented enough for rap audiences or cutting and catchy enough for rock listeners. Or maybe Ja’s entourage playing dice and cards, which reaches such obnoxious levels of volume that he complains about it, was possibly a silent protest. Nevertheless, the closest anyone comes to saying ‘stahp please,’ bizarrely, is the studio itself, unleashing a torrent of noise at one point during the recording thanks to an equipment malfunction. It was probably trying to save us, but it was too late as Ja Rule screams boldly, “Ja Rule, Swizz, Metallica! It’s history in the making.” A decade plus later he’d make a similar sentiment during a very recent festival debacle where numerous Bahamian workers were exploited for unpaid labour.
Metallica, likewise, did not learn their lesson and continued to collaborate with ill-fitting artists, backing up Lou Reed on what ended up being his final album Lulu in 2011, giving us a good laugh but leaving behind a curious final statement for the legendary songwriter. We only keep making these mistakes because we do not know our past. Perhaps the “We Did It Again” story, this small tale of the dangers inherent in sycophantism, hubris, and (maybe?) abusing substances, can inform future generations so they may make up for our sins. Or like, not.
Jabbari hasn’t forgotten that some of y’all went swimming with your du-rags on. He's not on Twitter.
Phil must always answer the call of terrible rap-rock. He’s on Twitter.