Things take a step in the right direction as Ja takes calls at Philadelphia’s Power 99 FM. It seems R.U.L.E.’s lead single, the R. Kelly and Ashanti collaboration ‘Wonderful,” has touched a listener, specifically Blaine from North Philly, calling in on his cell phone from a public bus. “Wonderful” reminds Blaine of his girlfriend. Not long ago, he was struggling with nothing but lint in his pockets, yet his lady never left him. He thanks Ja before hanging up.
Feeling invigorated by the caller’s anecdote, Rule throws down his headphones and leaps from his swivel chair during the next commercial break. ‘That’s what I do,” he shouts, poking a reporter in the chest for emphasis. “I make records with meaning, things you can relate to. You can relate to ‘Wonderful.’”
As “Wonderful” gains play on commercial radio (Ja hopes it tops 8,000 spins by November 9), Rule indulges the streets with the posse cut “New York.” Featuring Fat Joe and Jadakiss, the track cleverly turns “100 Guns,” that old Boogie Down Productions gunrunning tale from 1990’s Edutainment, into a tribute to the five boroughs, which have been ignored and maligned in this era of the New South. “I like how they flipped it; that was masterful,” KRS One says. “What they did, that’s the difference between honoring a song and biting it. They honored the song.” While thus far, “Wonderful” and “New York” may be the most popular songs on R.U.L.E. for Hip Hop listeners, other inquiring ears will be most interested in “Fashion.” Here, Rule speaks i experience, rhyming, “In the Bible it says, Thou shaft fear man but God/Whoever said that ain’t faced the law.” In Jatroa 2003, FBI agents raided Murder Inc.’s Manhattan offices and later, the home of Irv Gotti. The issue in question is the Relationship between Rule, Gotti and Murder Inc. and ’80s drug 1 Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff. Allegations that Supreme
THE F HORD
it’s noT as easv as 1,2,3, BUTeveRV one Reues on a FORmuia. THese FORmuias THeRe, we saiD it aGain aRe THe secReT to THe success of THese 3rtists
MAIN INGREDIENT: Ja and some down ass chick Christina Milian, Lil’ Mo, Charli Baltimore, but usually Ashanti) create big records about pain and love. YEAHHH!
OKAAAY: “I Cry” 2015) WHAT???: “Mesmerize” 2002)
MAIN INGREDIENT: Take hits from the ’80s (yeah, yeah) and make them sound so crazy.
“Feels So Good” (2015) OKAAAY: “Get Ready”
WHAT???: “I Really Like It” (2015)
LL COOL J MAIN INGREDIENT: Lip lick ing lines that often name drop SLs, baguettes and rings you know, things the ladies love.
YEAHHH!: “Around the Way Girl” (1991)
OKAAAY: “Hey Lover” 2015)
MAIN INGREDIENT: An R&B chorus sets the mood for a fictional affair destined to fall apart, with a closing drum solo and label drama over who will sing the hook.
YEAHHH!: “You Got Me” 0999) OKAAAY: The Hypnotic” 0996) WHAT???: “Break You Off” for The Inc or that he strong armed a percentage of the company fnbm Gotti run rampant. Two years following the raids, and ce the investigation began, the federal government has p any charges on Rule or Gotti.
gations were true,” Rule says. “We’d be in jail right now.” “Thixinlyihing I’m guilty of is, I love my nigga,” Irv Gotti says about longtime friend Supreme. “It’s documented. I helped make Def Jam around S3(i)0 million. They in turn gave me a little bullshit 50/50 joint venture and $3 million. That’s how Murder Inc. was bom, not with a bag of money.”
The federal investigation received the expected far fetched headlines, blit Ja’s legal problems didn’t end there. While on location in Toronto for Ai sault on Precinct 13, Rule was arrested and charged with assault. Since anadian law restricts the public sharing of evidence, specifics around le case are vague. But Rule insists he’s innocent and laughs at jokes Lat the Hip Hop cops have migrated north of the border.
Ja Rule has learned a lot over the past two years. Mostly, he’s realized the Influence and power that artists have over their fans, especially the younger ones. He likes to use the word “brainwash” when describing the 50 Cent takeover of 2003. 50 built his case against Ja by mocking Rule’s propensity to belt out a tune or two. But anyone listening to commercial radio can attest that, though 50 doesn’t “sound like the Cookie Monster,” he sure does “sing for hoes” these days.
According to Ja, the two will never be friends, but he can give his rival kudos. “I don’t enjoy his music because I don’t like him. I don’t like hearing his voice. But he’s had some good records,” he says. “I’m not a hater to the point where I don’t know what a good beat is. Then I’m not being real with myself. I’m just grateful that everyone is starting to open their eyes and see the situation a little clearer. The light undertones of hate I had, he’s going through that right now.”
Ja is amused but not surprised by the recent “backlash” his enemies have endured. There was 50 getting booed at a show in London, and chairs thrown at him at Hot 97’s Summer Jam in New York.
But tonight, Hip Hop adversaries are the furthest thing from Ja Rule’s mind. Once again, fun Is on the agenda. It’s fight night, and he arrives at Manhattan’s Hammerstein Ballroom eager to watch two professional boxers whom he’s managing. Like any fight fan, he takes his ringside seat, drink in hand, and immediately checks out the ring card girls: “Them chicks ain’t making niggas go to the Hustler club.” As if on cue, a smarmy, middle aged man hands out business cards for Larry Flynt’s den of sin. Everyone in the aisle gets one, but the smut peddler gives about twenty to Ja. A more welcome visitor is a teenager who walks up singing the chorus of “New York.” “You coming back strong,” the kid says.
“Thank you, my nigga,” Ja humbly replies, perfectly slipping into the role of underdog. Guess there’s a little Detroit Piston fan in everyone.
By the end of the night, both his fighters score first round knockouts and the celebrations begin. But Ja pays attention to the man lying on the canvas. He knows better than anyone that you can learn more about a man in defeat.
“Great artists or great athletes got to fall down and then get back up, that’s what makes you a champion. Right now, Roy Jones’ whole shit is tarnished. He got knocked out and never got back up, twice,” he says. “The heart of a champion is, ‘I don’t care if you knock me down, I’m going to get back up, baby, and keep fighting.’”
Having spent the last two years on the ropes, Ja Rule has definitely taken his share of licks. But has this rope a dope strategy made him damaged goods in the eyes of fans? And after losing the battle, can he win the war? Ja leans over and lets us in on his little secret.
“No glass jaw here,” he says. “I take it on the chin well.”
LL COOL J: RUNE HELLESTAD/CORBIS; MASE: MARC SEROTA/REUTERS/CORBIS; THE ROOTS: TIM MOSENFELDER/CORBIS
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