He is the first of his kind. Originally, Ja Rule seemed to be just another MC. Some knew the potential, but few believed. Two platinum albums later, hip-hop anxiously anticipates any song Ja Rule pours his vocals on top of. He has carved his own niche in hip-hop, and can't be duplicated. Ja Rule is so much more than a rapper. He is an all-around hip-hop artist. A talented songwriter, potential movie superstar, and musical sensation, Ja Rule has quickly become hip-hop's top contender. His third album Pain Is Love revisits the formula that transformed Ja from a skilled lyricist into a Songwriting genius. Sometimes when you get into your music, you wanna harmonize, because it goes better with the track. I do with the song calls for. My voice is another instrument over the track," Ja Rule offers. On "Livin' It Up," Ja Rule dedicates three verses to having a good time. With Case crooning on the chorus a la Stevie Wonder's "Do I Do," Ja rides up and down the Irv Gotti-produced track in true Murder Inc. fashion. "Livin' it up is a good night out on the town, having some fun, that's what it's about." Keeping in line with the album's feel, "Always On Time" (feat. Ashanti) is a mid-tempo gem where Ja impresses the ladies. Ja Rule explains, "The music is just coming from my heart. This album is a lot more passionate. I dealt with life issues, straight up. It's much more personal." The song flows perfectly into the track that follows, "Down A** B**ch," a classic rap love song, featuring Charli Baltimore, that defends the idea that every thug needs a lady.
Mastering the collaboration, Ja duets alongside Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott for "X," only one of the album's highlights. Ja was "ecstatic" about recording the song, "Missy is a lot of fun to work with. She's a really sweet person." Pain Is Love also features the smash hit single with J-Lo "I'm Real (Murder Remix)."
Though Ja's signature rap-meets-rhythm sound is constant throughout, he hasn't abandoned the hardcore rhyme style that paved the way for his success. He sets off the musical murder with "Dial M for Murder," a track that shows Ja in his rawest form.
Lyrically, Ja Rule's hardcore realism breathes life into each track. His emotions run rampant, and his passion is evident. "I got it tattooed over my heart. Pain Is Love is about sacrifice. It's about all the pains and heartaches you'll go through," Ja says of his album title.
With pain as the overall theme, it's fitting that the album features 2Pac on "So Much Pain." Ja Rule remembers, "The song is a dedication to both Pac and Stretch. A lot of people make the comparison between Pac and I because they feel the passion of my music like they felt the passion in his."
Setting himself apart from other hip-hop artists, Ja's originality in the game has elevated rap music to new heights. "I stepped into my own lane, and I'm setting standards in how things are done. I think artists that are going to have to fall into it, that's just the way it goes."
With a promising film career ahead of him, Ja Rule realizes his contribution to hip-hop. As the father of two young children, a son and a daughter, Ja Rule is wasting no time. Though he has plans to do more than just rap, he will never fully abandon the creative process of making music.
"I think I'm gonna retire after two more albums. I think I'm gonna be the first Rapper to really retire. I don't want to stop making music because I love to make music. But I want to retire from the actual job of being an artist. I want to be able to star in movies and do soundtracks just because I love to do it!
Rapper Ja Rule Pleads Guilty in Toronto, Fined
U.S. rapper Ja Rule pleaded guilty to assault and was fined C$1,500 ($1,219) by a Canadian court for delivering "one punch to the eye" of a nightclub patron last year, his lawyer said on Monday.
The rapper, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins, had been facing a more serious charge of assault causing bodily harm. He pleaded not guilty to that charge.
The rapper, who has had a string of hits in recent years including duets with Jennifer Lopez and Ashanti, was making a film in Toronto when the incident occurred last June.
"He felt sorry for what he had done," his lawyer Steven Skurka said. "The judge found the conduct of the patrons at the club unacceptable and called it disgraceful.
"They had been taunting him earlier before the assault took place.... It was one punch to the eye of the victim who he believed was insulting him."
Famous for his gruff voice, Ja Rule, 29, was nominated for two Grammy Awards in 2002 and has made a handful of film appearances including "Scary Movie 3" and "The Fast and the Furious" in 2001.
Ja Rules Out Old Age
With mini popsters like S Club Juniors, L'il Bow Wow and Amy Studt about, it's not surprising that the age of pop retirement seems to be getting younger and younger. Take veteran rapster Ja Rule, for example. At the ripe old age of 28 he says he's ready to throw in the towel.
The multi-millionaire hip hopper told the Star: "I don't want to crawl out on my last legs. I don't want to be a 40-year-old rapper."
It seems that duetting with some of the biggest names in music - J-Lo, Mariah Carey, Christina Millian and Ashanti to name just a few - ain't enough to keep him interested. Shame, we wouldn't have minded seeing his middle-age spread develop!
Irv Gotti And Brother Surrender, Face 20 Years In Prison
'They don't call it gangsta rap for nothing,' says New York police commissioner.
Rap moguls Irv and Chris Gotti surrendered to federal authorities in New York Wednesday morning after being indicted on charges of laundering more than $1 million in drug proceeds through their record label, the Inc. (formerly Murder Inc.).
The brothers face up to 20 years in prison on the charges. The convicted drug lord they are alleged to be in partnership with, Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff, and several of his associates face the death penalty for homicide.
"They don't call it gangsta rap for nothing — the thug image isn't accidental," New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon (January 26), before adding "this is not an indictment of rap music. If you're involved with money laundering or drug dealing or committing murder, we're coming after you, irrespective of [the music]. That's our business."
At the press conference, U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf noted that none of the artists on the Inc., whose roster includes Ja Rule and Ashanti, were "implicated or affiliated" in the alleged crimes.
After a lengthy federal investigation that involved agents from the FBI; the IRS; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. postal inspectors; and city police in New York and Baltimore, authorities believe that the Gotti brothers, whose real names are Irving and Christopher Lorenzo, were involved in criminal enterprises led by McGriff, a convicted drug lord (see "Irv Gotti May Be Arrested As Early As This Week For Money Laundering, Racketeering").
"As today's arrests show, that proved to be a bad investment," Mauskopf said, calling the brothers "willing allies," and thus partners in the enterprise.
The assets of McGriff's companies, Picture Perfect Films and Picture Perfect Enterprises, reportedly have been seized; their combined worth is approximately $425,000. Authorities are reportedly seeking to seize the assets of the Inc. and the affiliated IG Records as well.
The indictments come two years after the government first raided the label's New York offices and recording studio in an attempt to determine whether drug money had been funneled through the label (see "Drugs, Friends & Allegations: Inside The Murder Inc. Raid"). The brothers have not been indicted for racketeering, as had been previously reported.
McGriff, along with eight associates, has been indicted for racketeering, illegal use of firearms, drug distribution and homicide. The associates include Inc. bookkeeper Cynthia Brent, who was arrested on money-laundering charges in November and released on a $200,000 bond (see "Inc. Bookkeeper Charged With Money Laundering"); Ja Rule's manager, Ron "Gutta" Robinson; Vash-Ti Paylor; Nicole Brown; Dennis "Divine" Crosby; and Victor Wright.
Authorities allege McGriff is responsible for multiple homicides, including the killings of drug dealer Karon Clarrett and his friend Dwayne Thomas in 2001, rapper Eric "E-Moneybags" Smith in 2001 and rapper Gerard "D.O. Cannon" Fields in 2003.
They claim Wright, who is also charged with drug distribution, killed Clarrett and Thomas on McGriff's orders; Clarrett was reportedly believed to be collaborating with federal authorities. Brown and Crosby have already been charged with Smith's slaying as well as drug trafficking and are eligible for the death penalty for allegedly carrying out the hit.
"Irv and Chris are good people," Gotti's lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, told MTV News in April. "They come from a good, intact family where nearly everyone went to college. They're not criminals. They're hardworking people in the record business. And the money used to start up Murder Inc. came from [parent companies] Universal and Def Jam, not drugs."
"Irv has as much contact with criminal activities as you or I do," McGriff's lawyer, Robert Simels, said Tuesday. "And that goes for [his brother and the Inc. President] Chris as well."
The former leader of a New York drug cartel known as the Supreme Team, McGriff was released in 1997 after serving 10 years on conspiracy drug charges. He is currently serving two sentences concurrently in a federal prison: three years for possessing a gun as a convicted felon after taking target practice in Maryland in June 2003, and five years for gun possession in New York on a 2001 charge. His lawyer has speculated that he would have been released on parole next year.
Ja Rule's co-stars mum watches in on movie sex scene!
Ja Rule has admitted he was petrified performing his first movie sex scene - because his co-star's mum was watching his every move.
The rapper has revealed acting out the steamy scene with sexy actress-turned-singer Tatyana Ali in new movie 'Back In The Day' was far from fun.
The usually cool and calm star says his shaky nerves weren't help by the crowd of onlookers standing just yards from him during filming.
He revealed: "It's a little awkward during filming. They try to keep it so you're as comfortable as possible, but even with closed sets it's still 10 people there.
"And Tatyana's mom and her aunt were there. It made my job a little harder."
Ja Rule, real name Jeffrey Atkins, has recently been put under added pressure to perform well after being voted one of the worst singer-turned-actors of all time.
According to American music magazine Blender, the heartthrob's performance in the 2002 flop 'Half Past Dead' put him in fan's Top 25 least favourite pop star actors.
Ja Rule in "Assault on Precinct 13"
In his new movie "Assault on Precinct 13," Ja Rule had no time to catch the jailhouse blues in his role as a prisoner named Smiley. He was too busy trying to escape and defend himself against some homicidal police officers operating on the other side of the law.
"I play a n---a that's about to go to jail for 15 to 20 years," he described. "We're on our way up to the maximum-security prison from a mini [prison]. We get caught in a snowstorm. We have to pull over to a rinky-dink old precinct. It so happens I was on the same bus with this n---a who's doing some sh-- with crooked cops. The cops think he's going to tell on them and [screw] up their operation. It's a lot of cars blowing up, it's ill!"
Since the good police are operating with a skeleton crew, they're forced to team up with the inmates they're escorting against their ambushing brethren-in-blue who have turned bad.
"A criminal is going to be a criminal," Ja said about whether his character's valor will give the audience a chance to see him change his ways in the movie. "I try to escape."
"Assault" also stars Ethan Hawke, John Leguizamo, Gabriel Byrne and Laurence Fishburne.
"Fish was cooler than a mutha----er," Rule said. "He taught me a lot. He was schooling me on the industry and movie sh--."
Ja's next role will be in the movie "Animal," where he acts alongside Ving Rhames. "I try to pull from these dudes 'cause these dudes been in the game for a long time," Rule said. "It's different acting tips they give me."
Rule described the movie as being based on the life of Crips gang member Monster Kody. Rule and Rhames also shot "Back in the Day" last year, but that film still hasn't been released.
"I got a sex scene in that one, my first sex scene," he smirked about playing Tatyana Ali's lover in "Back in the Day." "My wife didn't like that one. She wasn't there for the sex scene. It's a little awkward [during filming]. They try to keep it so you're as comfortable as possible, but even with closed sets it's still 10 people there. And Tatyana's mom and her aunt were there. It made my job a little harder."
In the next few months, Rule's most grueling task will be keeping up with his own schedule. His label is negotiating with opening acts for his tour with Ashanti. The Inc. says it's too early to tell when the plans will be finalized, but the label is thinking the trek may be ramping up in April. Ja is a little more optimistic and says he may be going out on the road as early as next month.
Rule is also looking forward to hitting the studio in February to begin recording his next album. "I think I might make it a double [album]," he said on New Year's Eve
Feud Behind Ja Rule Club Shooting?
Ja Rule's holiday party was anything but--and police suspect the rapper's troubled label might be the reason.
The NYPD is trying to determine whether a rap feud involving The Inc. may have led to a fatal shooting early Monday outside the Rule-related party at Manhattan's LQ nightclub
According to police, an unidentified man wearing a yellow jacket left the club and waited outside for William Clark and Troy Moore to exit. When they came out at about 3:30 a.m., the assailant opened fire, hitting both men. Despite taking bullets to the chest and buttocks, the 39-year-old Clark managed to drive himself to a police station. Police got him to a hospital, but he died later Monday.
Moore, 37, remained hospitalized in serious condition Wednesday, but he's expected to survive.
Both victims had a criminal past, according to the New York Daily News, each serving stints in prison. Police have not officially commented on a motive, however, the Associated Press quotes unidentified law enforcement sources as saying the shooting may be linked to The Inc. The label home to Ja Rule and Ashanti, which changed its name this year from Murder Inc. as part of an image makeover, is embroiled in several criminal investigations.
Moore is the brother of Tyran "Tah Tah" Moore, who is jailed in New York while awaiting sentencing on a federal weapons charge. Tah Tah Moore is an associate of The Inc. boss Irv "Gotti" Lorenzo and crack lord Kenneth McGriff, who is accused of using the label to launder drug money and is in prison on an unrelated conviction.
Tah Tah Moore and McGriff were also fingered by 50 Cent as possible trigger men behind the infamous 1999 shooting that left the rap star with nine bullet holes in his body. Both Fiddy and his mentor, Eminem, have openly feuded with Ja Rule and his crew.
It's not known if Rule was actually at the event at the time of the shooting; the rapper's reps could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
According to reports, more than 300 guests were at the event at the time of the shooting, including Fat Albert star Kenan Thompson.
The shooter, still at large, is said to be an African-American male in his twenties.
Police have recovered a gun from the crime scene and are looking over footage from security cameras outside the Latin club.
This is the second shooting at an event for the rapper this month.
At an after-party for Rule's gig at the Peoria Civic Center in Illinois, a man allegedly tossed a drink at the hip-hopper, triggering a massive melee in which a man was shot.
Although not implicated in any of the shootings or alleged Inc. shenanigans, Rule has not proved impervious to trouble. He is set to stand trial in Toronto early next year or an alleged assault at a nightclub last summer. He has pleaded innocent to the charge. In July, he spent some quality time behind bars in New York after getting busted for driving without a license and marijuana possession. The pot count against the Queens-born emcee was eventually dropped after he shelled out $550 in fines and court fees.
His latest release, R.U.L.E., dropped in November and moved 165,000 copies to debut at seven on the Billboard 200, a career low for the rapper.
Fatal shooting at Manhattan nightclub party hosted by Ja Rule
Police are probing whether a rap world feud involving platinum-selling label The Inc. led to a fatal shooting outside a nightclub party hosted by rapper Ja Rule, law enforcement sources said Tuesday.
The label is the subject of a federal investigation linking its founder, producer Irv "Gotti" Lorenzo, to notorious Queens crack kingpin Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff. Neither Gotti nor McGriff has been charged in the case, but court filings allege the label, formerly known as Murder Inc., laundered more than $1 million in drug money.
The label's top-selling artist, Ja Rule, hosted a Sunday night party at LQ, a Latin-themed club in midtown Manhattan that had been rented for the night by a team of party promoters, club manager Ruben Rodriguez said.
The party featured a crowd of about 300 including minor celebrities and a bevy of rap video models, Rodriguez said. Around 3:30 a.m., a man in a yellow jacket left the club and waited outside for Troy Moore, 37, and William Clark, 39, according to a police report.
The man opened fire, hitting Moore and Clark, police said. Clark died of his injuries, and Moore was hospitalized in stable condition.
Moore is the brother of Tyran "Tah Tah" Moore, an associate of Lorenzo and McGriff.
Rapper 50 Cent named Tyran Moore and McGriff as possible suspects in a shooting that left him with nine bullet wounds and helped build his credibility as a gangster rapper.
"Get back to questions like, `50, who shot ya?" 50 Cent raps in one lyric. "You think it was 'Preme, Freeze or Tah Tah?"'
Tyran Moore also was briefly arrested and later cleared in the shooting of a police captain in Harlem. He is awaiting sentencing on a weapons charge.
Three law enforcement sources said that investigators are examining whether the nightclub shooting, The Inc. and McGriff are linked. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
Troy Moore and Clark had criminal records including drug and weapons convictions, court records show.
An attorney for McGriff, who is in prison on a gun possession charge, said his client knew nothing about the early Monday shooting.
"There's no connection between this shooting and McGriff," attorney Robert Simels said.
Lorenzo's lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Lefcourt has said The Inc. is a legitimate target being unfairly targeted by authorities.
A spokesman for The Inc. did not return a message seeking comment. The label has declined to comment on criminal investigations.
Fight Breaks Out At Ja Rule Afterparty; One Man Shot
Police in Peoria, Illinois, are investigating a nightclub shooting that occurred during an afterparty for Ja Rule, who had just finished performing at the Peoria Civic Center.
According to a police report, Ja Rule was standing near the dance floor at Club Ignition around 1 a.m. on Monday, speaking to a crowd of people when someone approached him and threw a drink at him. A scuffle broke out between several males on the dance floor, but it was broken up by the time police reached the area.
The club began to close after the fracas — its closing time is 1 a.m. — and as the crowds exited, a gunshot rang out in the vicinity of Club Ignition's stairwell entrance. Hundreds of partygoers began to panic, pushing and shoving their way out onto the street or back into the club. Though there were police officers inside and outside of the club, it was not immediately known if the single gunshot had struck anyone inside the club.
However, a short while later officers did locate a victim outside the club, Peoria resident Marshall Payton, who had suffered a small-caliber bullet wound to his left hip. Payton told police he was walking down the staircase inside the club, heading toward the front door, when he heard a "pop" and felt a slight pain. It wasn't until he got outside the club that he realized he'd been shot.
Payton was taken to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, where doctors told police that the bullet did not cause any major damage or strike any bones and didn't need to be removed from Payton's leg. Police determined Payton had been shot at close range, because of burn marks on his clothing. A shell casing was later recovered from the stairwell of the club.
The incident is still under investigation. A spokesperson for Ja Rule could not be reached for comment.
Ja Rule pulls a fast one on Q-C crowd
A New York minute is said to be similar to any other minute, just quicker.
One of the Empire State’s native thugs, Ja Rule, gave the Quad-Cities a first-hand demonstration of just how snappy one of those brackets of time can be with his uneventful, 25-minute performance Saturday night at The Mark of the Quad-Cities.
The veteran of street ballads and tales of rough living must run on that kind of clock, thinking that his less-than-half-hour appearance is equal to a standard, acceptably long one from anyone else. He apparently felt that he earned every cent of his take on the $40 tickets. But with opening acts JoJo, Lloyd and Ciara chipping in just 15 minutes a set, more of a show should have been expected from a man trying to win back fans that have drifted to embrace Usher, Lil’ Jon and Ludacris in his two-year absence.
What he delivered instead was a half-effort that seemed to be more of an elaborate promotion for an after-show party at Del’s in The District, where the 2,500 show-goers were continually reminded Rule would be when the lights came back on.
Rule, known for a husky voice that gives him more commonalities with the Crash Test Dummies than anyone in hip-hop, got through eight songs before picking up his barely sipped bottle of Kristal champagne and calling it an evening. Most of the set was a crowd-participation-heavy take on his past hit collaborations. “I’m Real,” his smash single with Jennifer Lopez, came halfway through the night with the audience expected to sing all of J-Lo’s parts and Ja appearing every 30 seconds for a chorus.
“Livin’ It Up” started the night as part of a two-song medley and was one highlight, however slight it was. The other was a performance of “Wonderful,” which should be Rule’s second single from new record “R.U.L.E.” and deals with the grievances that come when relationships are based on money and materialism. Even without R Kelly there to provide his excellent cameo vocals, Rule gave indications that he has what it takes to retain his clout.
But it won’t be a return accelerated with more nights like the one he dropped on us this weekend.
Among openers, JoJo, the 14-year-old with a voice defying her age, showed an impressive stage presence to start the night. But it’s her pipes that were and will be her strong suit. Lloyd was forced to rely on barely his chest and abs to get any reaction, and Ciara’s strong, crunk ’tude went no where.
Ja Rule's wonderful life
Ja Rule's own 'hood is looking at him sideways.
"He needs to retire."
"He sings too much."
"50 Cent is killing him right now."
You could hear these candid declarations echoed in Any 'Hood U.S.A., but unfortunately, on a sunny spring day in 2003, they were coming from the mouths of people who live just minutes away from where Ja Rule grew up. You could walk up and down Jamaica Avenue, the shopping epicenter of Queens, New York, and ask any of the youngsters — whose hungry ears devour hot hip-hop joints faster than Audrey II can eat a human being — about the once-celebrated flagship of the Inc. Records, and most would tell you, point-blank: They're not feeling him.
They ridiculed him on BET's "106 & Park" when the "Mesmerize" video debuted. When his image appeared on the big video screen during a set by his nemesis, 50 Cent, at the Super Bowl of urban music, Hot 97's Summer Jam X (which, coincidentally, was held just days after the Z100 concert, at the same venue), he was booed, then mocked by 50 Cent, then laughed at by the crowd. If you popped in any mixtape, you'd hear Rule practically being beheaded in verse by foes like Eminem, 50, Busta Rhymes and even his onetime close friend DMX.
Even though he remained a darling to the mainstream — headlining a sold-out concert at Giants Stadium for New York's pop station Z100, and watching "Mesmerize" reach #2 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart while the video battled for the top spot on MTV's "TRL" — Ja's street credibility was shot.
"I don't think we ever stopped putting out good music, it's just that we had a swell-up of hate," Rule said recently, sitting in a back room at the Inc.'s Crack House recording studio in New York, as he reflected on his and the label's downward spiral. "I seen a lot of artists go through it. When you're crushing it, doing well, I can see people getting a little tired of Murder Inc. Then, with the extra addition of beefing and [50 Cent being] the hot new thing, it came down like snowball effect. A big snowball! It was like an avalanche. But I'm a fighter. I'm a strong dude. I ain't gonna let nothing keep me down or take my focus off the goals I set for myself. I knew that we was gonna come through. It was just a matter of when."
And as the summer of 2003 progressed and the dirt was being kicked on Ja's grave, the tide began to turn. Just a little over a month after the Summer Jam slaughter — which ended with Em, 50 and Busta performing their Ja Rule dis track, "Hail Mary" — Ja was back in New York to make a surprise appearance at an Ashanti concert.
Backstage, the rapper was a little anxious. He didn't know what the reaction would be when he stepped onstage. Would the fans remember that they used to turn up the radio when one of his records like "I'm Real" or "Between Me and You" came on? Or would they impolitely let him know that he needed to make his appearance as brief as possible and let the boo birds fly?
When Ja came out for "Always on Time," dude was greeted with cheers like 50 Cent never existed and it was 2001 all over again. Rule was able to leave the stage — his trademark wide grin intact — and hold his head high. But still, that show was just a few hundred people at a free concert. Heck, they might have just been happy that they didn't have to pay.
The real test would come late in August 2003, when, once again, he was jumping onstage as Ashanti's guest. This time, however, he was at the arena that every rapper or singer dreams of performing in — New York's Madison Square Garden — appearing in front of more than 18,000 people, who paid a fraction of a king's ransom to see headliner R. Kelly.
The heat was on. But sure enough, when Rule got on the mic, the house went crazy. If anybody was booing, you couldn't hear them over the screams of approval.
You know, it flashed through my mind, maybe the first time," Rule recalled, more than a year later, about the possibility of getting booed. "Then, the first time I went onstage, they went crazy for me — and it kinda confused me, like 'What the f---?' This was like an abnormal going crazy, too. It wasn't just the normal 'Yeah!' It was like, 'Oh sh--!'
"But then I started to understand it," he continued. "And you gotta understand, you're in the business, and there are a lot of closet haters that don't really have no reason to hate you. But if they're in a group of people that feel that's the sh-- to do or say — 'Yeah, f--- him!' — then that's the route to go. I started to realize there's a lot of people that got love for me, too."
Ashanti, for one, didn't harbor any doubts. "Even through all of the mayhem of last year, Ja came and did his thing and reception was bananas," she said, recalling the 2003 concerts. "The reception was off the chain. I've never seen Ja get booed at any show."
For Rule, it's been a 360-degree ride back to glory, with two monster singles — the celebratory street anthem "New York," and "Wonderful," which features R. Kelly and Ashanti — acting as major catalysts.
The 'hood — especially the one Rule grew up in — has come around too. "New York" has become Rule's most popular hard-edged record to date. In October, he was back in Queens (and the Bronx and Harlem) filming scenes for the song's video with Fat Joe and Jadakiss. The fans were out in force, showering the trio with love.
Meanwhile, although the numbers for Rule's recently released R.U.L.E. pale in comparison with previous releases like Rule 3:36 and Pain Is Love, the album has been hailed by critics as one of his best yet. It has gutter-entrenched riot-causers like "Gun Talk," introspective narratives such as "Life Goes On" and "Where I'm From," and records for the ladies like "Never Thought" and, of course, "Wonderful," which pairs Ja's gruff but melodic hip-hop crooning with Kelly's harmonious soul-baring — and finds both men taking aim at people who left them when the chips were down.
"I think R.U.L.E. is incredible, actually," opines Jermaine Hall, executive editor of King and Rides and a veteran hip-hop journalist. "He finally realized that he should go back to his original formula for making hit records. I think 50 Cent baited him into abandoning his formula, just because of the history of their situation. If you talk to people on the streets now, some of the people that were really hating Ja, they're starting to give him a second chance. You can't front on a good album."
I'm in LL [Cool J] mode when I think about that," Ja, smiling, said before quoting LL's 14-year-old anthem: " 'Don't call it a comeback/ I've been here for years.' In the music business, you've got to give the people what they want, and that's the nature of human beings — to vote for the underdogs. And because I had so much hate in the last year, I'm now the underdog.
"I like being the underdog — it gives that extra 'Rrrr!'" he added. "You go harder. When you're [successful], you sit easy a little bit." Rule has been doing anything but sitting easy over the 18 months: In fact, when his cred was at its lowest, he was out there, feeling the heat.
"I'd go out, previous to my [new album] coming out, and I'd hear, 'G-Unit, yeah!' " he said. "Then I'd keep going out, 'cause I like that type of stuff. I was having fun confronting the fans that had turned on me. It started to create a friction — a very-needed friction. "I look at a lot of that stuff as a blessing in disguise," he elaborated. "When you go through experiences like that, you see the picture for what it's worth."
I'm in LL [Cool J] mode when I think about that," Ja, smiling, said before quoting LL's 14-year-old anthem: " 'Don't call it a comeback/ I've been here for years.' In the music business, you've got to give the people what they want, and that's the nature of human beings — to vote for the underdogs. And because I had so much hate in the last year, I'm now the underdog. I like being the underdog — it gives that extra 'Rrrr!'" he added. "You go harder. When you're [successful], you sit easy a little bit."
Rule has been doing anything but sitting easy over the 18 months: In fact, when his cred was at its lowest, he was out there, feeling the heat. "I'd go out, previous to my [new album] coming out, and I'd hear, 'G-Unit, yeah!' " he said. "Then I'd keep going out, 'cause I like that type of stuff. I was having fun confronting the fans that had turned on me. It started to create a friction — a very-needed friction.
"I look at a lot of that stuff as a blessing in disguise," he elaborated. "When you go through experiences like that, you see the picture for what it's worth."
Through it all, Rule said he's learned to appreciate family, both musical and blood, more than ever. "I really learned a lot about people's values," he said. "You had to be a leader to be on Ja Rule's side. The ones that stood up for me, holla back. I got y'all forever."
Ironically, Ja Rule has found himself in the middle of a difficult situation with regard to the recent feud between his friends R. Kelly and Jay-Z, which has resulted in a lawsuit and criminal charges. A couple of years ago, in the midst of Kelly's sex scandal, Rule stood up for the Pied Piper and appeared on Kelly's Chocolate Factory LP when most were treating the R. like public enemy number one. This year, it was Kelly proving he was down for Ja, joining the rapper on both "I Wonder" (which has never been officially released) and its remix, "Wonderful."
On October 29 at Madison Square Garden, Rule was slated to be a surprise performer during Kelly's set when the now-infamous Best of Both Worlds breakdown occurred. Kelly refused to continue performing the concert because he claimed two men in the audience were waving guns at him, although he changed his mind after being convinced that it was safe to return to the stage by the promoter. The singer never did make it back to the mic, because he said he was pepper-sprayed by a member of Jay-Z's entourage.
"I was not with Kells," Rule recalled of that night. "Kells was coming to the stage; I was on the stage watching the show from the monitors. I didn't see anything. I felt the melee going on and everybody start clearing the stage. How does Ja Rule always wind up in the middle of these things? I'm trying to stay neutral. You guys, settle that, good luck. I'mma stay absolutely out of it. "
With Kelly leaving the Garden well before the concert was scheduled to end — reportedly to seek medical treatment after the pepper-spray incident — Jay had to scramble and call upon his celebrity friends to complete the show. One of them was Jay's estranged buddy Ja Rule. Rule was quick to downplay longstanding rumors that he and Jay had beef stemming from a series of events that include the Inc. trying to sign onetime Hov enemy Nas, and Jay later going on tour with Ja's biggest foe, 50 Cent.
Me and Jay never had a falling out," he said. "It was just competitive. It was just that we wanted to be the best at what we do. That [night] was the first time we'd stepped on the stage together since '98, '99. It felt real good. In my eyes, that's how it should be. We came in [the game] together, seen each other grow. It was fun. "I remember when we use to go on Cancun trips. I got arrested, Jay would bail me out. It sounds bad, but it was fun. Those were the good old days. Hip-hop is different now. Everybody's cliqued up."
Far more contentious was the feud between the Inc. and the Shady/ Aftermath/ G-Unit crew, which bubbled to a boiling point at the end of last year when Rule released Blood in My Eye. Not only was the album his weakest-selling to date, it was laced with venom toward his enemies in almost every verse: "DMX was my dog, but now we just dog-fight/ Sucking on a glass d---, calling them crack pipes/ And I'm hearin' you letting yo' health slide these days/ And yo lady's d---ed up and you contracted AIDS/ Who the f--- you callin' gay, n---a?/ You musta' been talkin' to Em' and Dre." To me, those records on that album wasn't street records, those were hate records," he said. "The audience for hate music is slim. People don't want to hear that. We got terrorist attacks going on. Nobody wants to hear about all that bad stuff. I can understand why a lot of fans were mad at me. A lot of my male fans were like, 'Yeah, get 'em, Rule!' But a lot of my female fans were like, 'Forget them, Rule, do what we like you to do.' I understood that, but I'm an artist and sometimes it ain't about the money. That's what I felt like saying, how I wanted to put it across. That's why I didn't put none of them other records on there — no party-style records, no records for the ladies, no feeling records. Just 'I hate you.' "
Even though Ja won't be exchanging Christmas gifts with anyone from the opposing camps this year, he's ready to move past the feud. "I don't even gotta speak on it no more," he insisted. "I feel like I'm not never making another record about these n---as, ever. I don't feel I need to. We wasted a year on making records and sh-- like that. Basically, all n---as is doing is putting on a show for the people, and the show is wack. I listened to the Shyne [song, "For the Record," where he goes after 50 Cent], and Shyne is sh---ing on them n---as. And because the public is so drawn into the show, they can't detect what's real and what's fake. And [Shyne] is saying real sh-- on there. I ain't thinking about that anymore. How many [times] can I say, 'F--- them?' "
Eminem has gone public with similar sentiments. In a recent interview with MTV News, Slim Shady said he was "walking away from the beef."
With all his musical woes all but subsided, you'd think Ja would be breathing easy. But Rule and the Inc. are facing their toughest adversaries yet, adversaries that can potentially end his career and take away Irv Gotti's freedom: the U.S. government.
In January 2003, Murder Inc.'s office were raided by federal agents as part of an ongoing investigation into whether or not Gotti helped his friend Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff to launder drug money. So far, several people associated with the Inc., including Ja's manager, Ronald "Gutta" Robinson, have been indicted on those charges. Although Gotti has never been officially charged with any crime, the investigation hangs over the label's head like the clouds Rule sang about with Mary J. Blige in "Rainy Dayz."
What I'll say is that I'm on the inside," Ashanti said. "That's my family. People on the outside reading [newspaper articles] may get a little intimidated, but they don't know the half of it. Obviously, it's gonna effect you. On one side you have your records popping, a whole bunch of artists on your label, [and on the other] you may have drama. With us being close, we have each other and that's what keeps us going. It obviously is a lot to deal with."
"It's f---ing nerve-wracking and it's giving us all big headaches," Rule added. "But it's something we gotta deal with. But we're innocent, so our innocence will be proven."
Still, in spite of the turmoil, Rule has been able to flip the strife into a positive: It's become source material for his music. On R.U.L.E.'s "Passion," he raps:
"How unfortunate, January the sixth/ Federal officers raided our offices/ Making it hard for us to eat, to breathe, to live/ And they swear they got n---as that's informative/ They've been handin' down indictments for about a year/ And they sent nobody to jail yet, we still in the clear."
"You just have to block it out and record," he said about making music in the midst of the many dramas he's endured over the last couple of years. "But you have to go in and sometimes use a bad situation to your advantage. Anything that I go through, I use. If it's bad, I'mma turn that bad into a song."
Ja Rule's manager arrested
Ja Rule's manager was arrested on money-laundering charges Wednesday, just over a week after the bookkeeper at the rapper's label, the Inc., was indicted on similar charges.
Robinson is accused of working in conjunction with other suspects to launder more than $1 million — of which a portion allegedly came from drug funds — between 1997 and 2002. The Inc.'s bookkeeper, Cynthia Brent, was indicted on November 8 for laundering more than $1 million in drug money, and tampering with cash deposits (see "Inc. Bookkeeper Charged With Money Laundering"). Robinson's defense attorney Stacey Richman told the AP that Robinson would contest the charges.
The Inc. has been under investigation for allegations of laundering drug money since January 2003, when the label's offices and recording studio were raided by New York police.
Other artists on the Inc.'s roster include Ashanti, Lloyd and label head Irv Gotti.
JA RULE CAUGHT BETWEEN JAY-Z & R. KELLY
Rapper JA RULE has been caught up in the crossfire between R KELLY and JAY-Z after recording a duet with the former only to go on tour with the latter.
Ja Rule collaborated with Kelly and label mate ASHANTI on new single WONDERFUL, but he fears he has upset his pal by stepping up to replace him on the JAY-Z & FRIENDS tour.
Kelly walked away from the show earlier this month (NOV04) claiming he had been "sabotaged."
Rule says, "It's tough. Somehow Ja Rule always gets caught in the middle of some sh*t."
Ja Rule's fifth album ''R.U.L.E.'' in store now !
Ja Rule's album titles have always had a special meaning behind them, but with his fifth and perhaps most important LP, R.U.L.E., the Queens native says he kept it self-titled because the album was so personal.
"I felt there were a lot of things I had to express on this album that the people want me to say," Ja said Tuesday, sitting in a boxing ring at the Church Street Gym. "It's hard for me to express it all through interviews, through the magazines. I'm an artist, and the only way I know how to express myself is through music. I took the opportunity to do that through this album, get it out there to the people. "They went through this whole ordeal with me," he continued. "It's no secret what I went through last year, from the federal investigations to the beefs to 'Is he still married?' All of these questions and rumors have been thrown around. It's a special thing when the audience has gone through an artist's turmoil with him and he gets to talks about it."
Although Ja had a lot to get off his tattooed chest, R.U.L.E. doesn't contain any of what he calls "hate music," which coursed throughout his last LP, Blood in My Eye. Ja still stays aggressive, like on the underground-smash-turned-crossover-darling "New York" (see " 'New York' Love Goes Both Ways When Ja, Joe And Jada Hit The Bronx"), and he comes out with both barrels smoking on "Gun Talk." The sound of bullets flying co-stars on the track, as do a piano and bass. "When bitch n---as get you off your grind, n---a grab your nine," Ja raps. "When fake n---as try to cop your style, cop the .40 cal."
" 'Gun Talk' is real raw," Rule explained. "We got the guns blasting on the record. I'm speaking the truth on that record. That's one of the records that people are going to understand the lyrics. These are messages to the people of what I've been through and what I felt. People tried to take me off the grind and do my style ... Wow!" Ja speaks of another grind, peddling music and performing concerts, on "Where I'm From." "Me and my n---as ride even when the sun don't shine and it's cold outside," Lloyd, who also appears on "Caught Up," sings on the hook.
When Ja weighs in, he's serious and speaks in a grave monotone about life in his old environment, questioning, "Why do n---as in the 'hood never hit the lottery unless they go lottery, first in draft?" "That record right there is a special record," Rule said. "It's really talking about the good, how we're perceived. I think a lot of times we're misunderstood. We're looked upon like animals, savages sometimes, how we go about making our money in the ghetto. There's a line in there where I say, 'I call it feeding my family, you call it a tragedy.' It's crazy. It's so ill what we go through in the 'hood. I think sometimes white America don't see it. I think they don't think it's real sometimes. That's what the record is really about."
The subject of death is broached on "Life Goes On," which features Trick Daddy and Inc. producer Chink Santana. "It's a record that's dedicated to the fallen soldiers," he said. "The ones who ain't here. It's sending a strong message to the ones that are here. They're looking down on us, and life does go on, and they would want us to go with our lives. They would want for us to go on and keep their essence alive by going on and keeping it strong."
And what does every strong man love? A strong woman — even if that woman would never, ever wear your wedding ring. "N---as need to read the man-u-al," he warns on "The Manual" in his sing-songy flow. "Separate your housewife from a ho/ 'Cause there's no rules in this sh-- here." "Once a woman is used to doing what she's doing, used to being a woman of leisure, it's that," Rule explains. "Just like a man. Once a man is used to being a bachelor it's kinda hard to change him. 'The Manual' is a record that's dedicated to the liaison women. The women of leisure. They have a special place in life. They go through a lot, growing up in their childhood and the ghettos of America too. I give a spin to their spin, from a woman's point of view — what they go through, with the strippin' and things like that. That why I say they need love too."