And I swear I was having a conversation about Mr. Atkins just last week! No one has worse luck in the music industry than this guy!
I always reference him as an example of someone who’s been completely run out of Hip-Hop. And I actually own a mix cd that I personally made of all of his best songs that I like! See most people attribute the demise of his career to 50 Cent‘s taunting and baiting, but it’s really a case of him just putting a nail in the coffin.
If you guys can afford to think waaaay back to 2002, you’ll remember a struggling Ja on his last leg in a long string of formulaic hits. By the time the 4th single “Down-Ass Chic/Bitch” off of his biggest album, Pain Is Love, hit 106th & Park, (I say that because radio began to only play it sparsely) he was met with more than a few grumblings of ‘again??!!’ by people who 6 months before would’ve considered themselves fans. Only the remix, “Down 4 U” featuring all of the women of the Murder Inc. Camp at the time breathed new life into things. It was just as formulaic, but too damn catchy to resist.
You would think that seeing a space to take a break and give an oppurtunity for artistic growth and for his audience to miss him a little that Ja would rest and step away for a year or so, but nooooo….What does he do? Come back that Winter with The Last Temptation. Maybe it’s because Rule already had his album titles laid out and was Hellbent on seeing them through, but of course he and the house that Irv Gotti built were too far up on their high horses to see that people were growing tired of the same tin-pan synths and drums over soft samples with Ja trading melodies with some R&B singer screaming “BABAAYY!!”. People were catching on to the Murder Inc. Sound, and coupled with a growing discontent toward Ashanti from older females, it seems like the label themselves were the last to know. So by the time the lead single off of The Last Temptation came out ( You guys remember the Grease inspired video right?) It was over before it started! Do you guys even remember the Other video from that album? The one with Patrick Swayze in it?? Yeah…
By then, Murder Inc. had it’s own set of problems to worry about aside from their dynasty crumbling, and their shine getting tarnished. The Feds were investigating them, and now, Curtis Jackson saw an oppurtunity to feed off of the growing public sentiment and became the voice of that wave. With the popular opinion against you already, it becomes very easy to look like the loser with every attempt you make to defy that. Knowing what we know now, Rule has way too much to prove to back down and look like the uhhmmm…bigger person. Even as news broke out today of his 2 year sentencing, he fell right into 50’s Twitter trap and began going back and forth with juvenile barbs laced with profanity (Like really nigga? You going to Jail…You got time to tweet?). And in 2003, Ja kept burying himself deeper in the hole with entire songs and projects dedicated to 50, like the horrible Blood In My Eye. Although that album spawned a nice little buzz cut, “Clap Back” which had a different sound for Murder Inc. and should have been his lead single on The last Temptation, he proved When he released R.U.L.E. that he would’ve done a lot better by ignoring Curtis from the start – It worked for alot of other rappers.
It’s almost as if people overlook and forget that one of the biggest rap songs of 2004, “New York” was a Ja Rule song, fresh off his beef with 50 and with no mention of him at all. It’s almost like they skip over his parts and go straight for Fat Joe and Jadakiss‘ verses.
So musically, you have a virtual vote-out and cast-off by your former fans due to your failure to pay attention to your redundancy, you have a federal raid of the offices of your label, a growing beef that goes waaaay beyond rap, and if I’m not mistaken, wasn’t he the MOST involved with Superhead out of all of the other names she dropped in her now-infamous tell-all? So basically, he fell in Love with a glorified prostitute? Yikes!
And I won’t even begin to make note of the atrocious F-Level filmography that Rule has built in his time.
But I mention all of this because my conversations involving Ja Rule usually surround him being essentially banned from the rap game as a successful artist and wondering where his income generates from now and what manner of lifestyle could he be sustaining with no hopes of future revenue as a performing artist. The talk generally involves people saying how much money he must’ve made in his prime and how he should be good for life. Then I proceed to explain how even tho his money was made when rap was pumping millions in and out, that kind of money gets split so many ways and the artist always makes the least. And this was right before the era of rappers cashing in on big time endorsements like book deals, sneakers and energy drinks – none of which Ja had involved himself in. Also, I have to remind folks that Ja’s last selling album was released in 2002! Almost 9 years ago! Unless he found some great investments and flipped that cash, I’m skeptical that he’s livin’ La Vida Dulce. Plus, Mr. Atkins doesn’t look like the most astute businessman.
Now when all of this came up last week, The homie Khadj informed me that Ja was in fact doing quite well financially and he knew this because of a close friend of his who works with Rule. He said he still gets some love overseas and has plenty of residuals. Hope that’s correct because it’s a hard knock life when you put all of your eggs in the rap basket. I’m even getting ready to apply back for school as I write this!
Whether Rule is well off financially or not, nothing can buy respect. And not since M.C. Hammer and Vanilla Ice have I seen one rapper become so laughable and hated on so quickly. Respect weighs heavily and has to hold the utmost importance for a rapper like Ja Rule who spent his entire career chanting the word Murder and promoting gangster rap. It would have been a softer blow for a rapper like Common, but not so much for Rule. It’s to a point where even The Game, who’s embarrassed himself countless times, and Diddy – who no one regards as a rapper, get more love and airtime.
So the biggest understatement today is, For the unluckiest guy in Hip-Hop, a 2 year jail sentence is really the very last thing needed. Good Luck.
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