By the year 2000, Ja Rule was a successful rap star. The Queens rapper launched his career by appearing on Jay-Z’s “Can I Get A…” in 1998, had a breakout Top 40 hit in 1999 with “Holla Holla,” and scored a platinum plaque for his debut album, Venni Vetti Vecci. But all of that didn’t really amount to much. Yes, “Holla Holla” was a hit, but that was his only hit. Yes, “Can I Get A…” launched his career but it was actually originally his song, so if he had kept it he could have had another hit. And yes, VVV went platinum but it was nothing compared to what Ja’s contemporaries like Jay Z and DMX were selling. Worse yet, people kept saying Ja was a wannabe DMX or a wannabe 2Pac. So for Complex’s latest episode of Magnum Opus, we talked to Ja, Irv Gotti, and everyone else involved about how Ja went from a budding rap star to a full blown superstar thanks to a song called “Put It On Me.”
Ja story starts in Queens with his short lived rap crew the Cash Money Click. The group fell apart once one of the members got locked up. However, the group’s grainy black and white video for “Get The Fortune” managed to catch the eye of Def Jam which eventually signed Ja to the label. He had limited success with his first album, but when he went to L.A. to make his second album his music went in a different direction thanks to the guidance of Irv Gotti who convinced Ja to make commercial music with a street edge. “He did like two million his first album right?” recalls Irv Gotti. “But we were pissed because Jay and X were doing seven million, eight million.”
Meanwhile, Ja was having a little too much fun in L.A. while away from his wife and kids. Instead of apologizing, he to made a song dedicated to his wife which he called “Put It On Me.” To add a female perspective, he threw Murder Inc’s Vita on the song, but since she couldn’t write rhymes Cadillac Tah penned her verse. As a finishing touch, Irv Gotti threw the then buzzing Lil Mo on the song to add a call and response element to the hook. In the end, the song became a Top 10 hit and helped Ja move nearly four million copies of his album Rule 3:36—helping the album outsell Jay Z’s The Dynasty: Roc La Familia which was released the same month.
But even then, the song wasn’t without its issues. Ja and Irv vividly recalled how Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles hated Rule 3:36 and Gotti had to promote their first single, “Between Me and You,” on his own. And even after all these years, the song’s credited producer Tru Stylez and co-producer Irv Gotti are still bickering about who really produced what on the song. Watch all those stories and more above and learn to finally appreciate Ja Rule.
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