Rap musician, songwriter
His slick image onstage and unabashed charm offstage have propelled Ja Rule to the forefront of rap, beginning with the release of his first solo album, Venni, Vetti, Vecci, in 1999. This East Coast rapper with big dreams and an unmistakable pout delivers heart-wrenching songs in a deep and throaty voice that belies his five-foot-six-inch stature. The intensely emotive quality of Ja Rule’s work has positioned him squarely in the spotlight as one of the modern music industry’s hottest commodities—not only as a hip-hop artist, but also as an R&B composer. Since his emergence in 1995, he has carved a niche for himself as a singer, actor, and songwriter. Each new project, whether recording or musical composition, consistently tops the charts.
Ja Rule was born Jeffrey Atkins on February 29, 1976, in the Hollis district of Queens, New York, the only child of Debra Atkins. According to his mother, Ja Rule’s potential as an entertainer was first manifest in a grade school presentation of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, in which young Atkins stole the show with his performance as Ebenezer Scrooge. By the time he finished high school, Ja Rule was determined to become a recording artist.
In his first recorded work, Ja Rule made a low-profile guest appearance on a Mic Geronimo single called “Time to Build.” The recording impressed TVT record executives, and they signed him and a group of his associates, known as the Cash Money Click. Under TVT management the musicians completed a single, “Get the Fortune,” by the year’s end. The release gave Ja Rule some exposure, and he went on to contribute a cameo on Jay-Z’s wildly successful “Can I Get A.” Ja Rule was later heard on the Streets Is Watching and Belly soundtracks.
Ja Rule released his first full-length solo effort, Venni, Vetti, Vecci, in 1999 under a new contract with Def Jam Records. Although the album’s official release was upstaged by the appearance of an unauthorized street version several days ahead of schedule, the subsequent legitimate version debuted at number three on the Billboard Top 200 chart. The bootleg recording hit number 57 on the R&B chart. Among the album’s highlights was the hit single “Holla Holla” and a collaborative effort featuring Jay-Z and DMX called “It’s Murda.”
Within a week of the official release, the legitimate album was number one on the R&B chart. The album went platinum by the end of the calendar year, making Ja Rule a major hip-hop star at the age of 23 and paving the way for a second solo album, Rule 3:36, late in 2000. Ja Rule, working with producer Irv Gotti, successfully launched three hit singles from the album: “Between Me and You,” “Put It on Me,” and “I Cry.” The
For the Record…
Born Jeffrey Atkins on February 29, 1976, in New York, NY; son of Debra Atkins; married Aisha Murray; children: Britney, Jeffrey “L’il Rule,” Jr.
Recorded with Mic Geronimo and Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter; member of the Cash Money Click; signed with TVT Records, 1995; signed with Def Jam, 1998; released debut solo album, Venni, Vetti, Vecci, 1999; released follow-up album, Rule 3:36, 2000; released Pain Is Love, 2001; leader of the Murderers and Murda Inc.
Awards: Vibe magazine, Solo Artist of the Year, 2001.
Member: American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP).
Addresses: Record company —Def Jam Records, Universal Music Group, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608.
popularity of these songs—including a video version of “Put It on Me”—helped spur sales of the album, which went platinum three times over by the end of 2001.
In between these two solo efforts, Ja Rule and his group “the Murderers”—artists Black Child, O-1, Vita, and Tah Murdah—produced Irv Gotti Presents the Murderers. The album, originally scheduled for release in January of 2000, was delayed for nearly three months because its controversial lyrics defamed police and homosexuals. On March 24, 2000, three days after the recording was released, Ja Rule and a group of his colleagues were involved in a stabbing incident at the Hit Factory, a recording studio in New York City. The details of the incident were blurry, and both Ja Rule and the Def Jam record label refused to comment on the situation; some observers speculated that the skirmish may have been a publicity stunt coordinated to coincide with the release of the Murderers’s album.
Early in October of 2001 Ja Rule released a third album, Pain Is Love (named for his tattoo), which sold 360,000 units during its first week on the charts. The numbers added up to a debut at number one—the second chart-topping debut for Ja Rule in just under 12 months. During the second week of release, the album sold an additional 221,000 copies, earning it gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Within a month Pain Is Love was certified platinum, with over one million units sold.
On the album’s promotional tour, launched in late September of 2001, shortly before the album’s release, critics hailed Ja Rule and his well-earned success. ABC News online dubbed him “the undisputed King of the street anthem.” Others also rated Ja Rule’s work highly, including Entertainment Weekly’s David Browne, who applauded Ja Rule’s “blunt precision” in expressing the depraved imagery characteristic of rap.
Ja Rule’s naturally photogenic appearance and camera-friendly demeanor soon led to film roles. He appeared with Pras (of Fugees fame) in Turn It Up in 2000 and as street racer Edwin Bishop in director Bob Cohen’s 2001 feature, The Fast and the Furious. A selfprofessed workaholic, Ja Rule also contributed songs to both of these films, as well as 1998’s Rush Hour, and 2001’s Rush Hour 2 and State Property. He performed his first R&B composition, “If We” with singer Mariah Carey and Nate Dogg on Carey’s Glitter album in 2001
Ja Rule—who has also written for Brandy, Shorty 101, Mary J. Blige, and TLC—arranged both music and lyrics for “I’m Real,” a duet he recorded with Latina hip-hop diva Jennifer Lopez. The song topped Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles in September of 2001, and the Internet music site Launch called it “the biggest radio record in the history of music,” a notable milestone for Ja Rule as a songwriter.
Among his early regrets, Ja Rule admitted in Vibe, was his failure to secure publication rights to the songs that he wrote for his first two albums, an oversight that allowed TVT Records to retain ownership of the works. He learned from the costly mistake, however, and thereafter published his own compositions under the name of Slavery Music. “It’s a beautiful thing to own your own publishing. Not a lot of rappers can say that,” bragged Ja Rule. He hopes to retire from his successful recording career after completing a fourth and fifth album: “Five albums and that’s it. I don’t want to do this forever.”
Under the legal name of Jeff Atkins, this singer-turnedactor and composer makes his home in West Orange, New Jersey. He and his wife, Aisha (Murray) Atkins, who were high school sweethearts, have two children: daughter Britney, and a son, Jeffrey Junior. His role as an involved husband and father is a natural counter to the grit and violence of his music.
When Ja Rule was named Vibe magazine’s Solo Artist of the Year in 2001, he admitted in an interview with Lola Ogunnaike that he had sold drugs as a youth and continued to use marijuana. Such admissions hardly diminish the glare of the media attention lavished upon him after the success of his recordings. Indeed, his popularity has brought him promotional contracts with Coca-Cola and Calvin Klein apparel.
Venni, Vetti, Vecci, Def Jam, 1999.
(With others) Irv Gotti Presents the Murders, Murder Inc./Def Jam, 1999.
Rule 3:36, Def Jam, 2000.
Pain Is Love, Murder Inc./Def Jam, 2001.
Billboard, June 19, 1999, p. 21.
Entertainment Weekly, October 12, 2001, p. 86; December 21, 2001, p. 57.
Jet, July 16, 2001, p. 36.
Vibe, January 2002, p. 86.
“Ja Rule Expanding His Resume to Include Songwriting,” Yahoo! Music, http://music.yahoo.com/music/news/launch/story.ht…20/2/p1&b’n/music/news/launch/urban/20010920/2/p2 (December 26, 2001).
“Ja Rule, Murderers, and Fifty Cent Involved in Stabbing,” Yahoo! Music, http://urban.yahoo.com/urban/music_news/launch/…html?s’n/launch/urban/news/20000324/20000324002 (December 26, 2001).
“Nominees Bios: Ja Rule,” ABC News, http://www.abc.go.com/primetime/specials/rma/bios/Ja_Rule_song2.html (December 26, 2001).
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