Few artists have seen higher highs and lower lows than Jeffrey “Ja Rule” Atkins. He started as the standout member of Queens undergrounders Cash Money Click, and collaborated frequently with Jay Z and DMX in their pre-fame days. When he signed as a solo artist with Def Jam in 1998, he tried to follow Jay and DMX but didn’t really hit his stride until the 2000s when he rebranded himself as a thug-lovin’ ladies’ man and took off with astounding speed.
But it all came crumbling down almost as quickly as it began. What seemed to start as a local squabble with fellow Queens rapper 50 Cent, who was then unsigned, turned into an all-out rap war, with physical confrontations, stabbings, and a ever-widening bevy of diss tracks that eventually sucked in Eminem, Dr. Dre, Benzino, Busta Rhymes and others. When the dust settled, the tables were turned: 50 was music’s biggest star, while Ja Rule never came close to his former hitmaking prowess.
After a long hiatus from the public eye, Ja is looking for real-life redemption as well. Earlier this week, just days after his house arrest ended, he sat down with Complex in a back-room bar at Manhattan’s Hudson Hotel with his wife Aisha (the mother to his daughter and two sons) for a lengthy conversation. Sporting a bulked-up jail physique, black-frame glasses, and a remarkable air of calm, Ja candidly spoke on second chances, his time behind bars, rap beefs and everything in-between in his first post-prison interview. READ HERE.
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