The Shady Side Of Ja Rule

Ja Rule is one of the music industry's greatest enigmas. Born Jeffrey Atkins, the rapper has sold millions of records and has earned millions through his music, reality TV series, Follow the Rules, and 2013 memoir, Unruly: The Highs and Lows of Becoming a Man — among his many other business ventures. He's also the guy who made this gyro commercial. For a certain generation of hip hop fans, Ja Rule has, perhaps unfairly, turned into somewhat of a laughing stock. His once celebrated style of singing his own hooks became a point of contention for many listeners in the early 2000s. Years later, that style of music dominates the charts, and it's no stretch to consider Ja Rule one of the forefathers of contemporary singing rap.

Despite his successes and achievements, Ja Rule's career has been anything but smooth sailing. In fact, his lows probably even surpass his many highs. From the musician's legal problems and epic scandals to his historic hip hop beefs, Ja Rule has been caught up in a whirlwind of bad press over the years. Tune in as we piece together the most sordid details of his life and career, by painting a picture of the shady side of Ja Rule.

Ja Rule sold drugs to family friends

Selling drugs is sometimes considered a means of success and survival for many, and celebrating that lifestyle is deeply ingrained in hip hop culture. Growing up in Hollis, Queens, Ja Rule began to emulate the local drug dealers at a young age. 

"Those are the first, you know, successful figures you see when you come from the hood," the rapper said while speaking about drug dealers in a 2014 Vlad TV interview. "... That's your first sight of what success is and you figure out how to obtain that success, and the easiest way is to grab a pack and go out on the block or whatever."

He revealed that he first got into drug dealing around the age of 12 or 13, explaining that he was inevitably forced into hustling to help him and his mother stay afloat. The occupation led to some awkward relationships for a young Ja Rule, as he remembers selling to the parents of his friends. "Dudes that was close to us, their parents was on the s**t," Ja Rule said. "Sisters and brothers, and we used to sell to them, too. You know, our motto was, if they ain't gonna get it from us, they would get it from somebody else. So, when I look back on those times and situations, I was like, that was like some crazy s**t to do, sell to your man's moms."

Ja Rule's beef with 50 Cent begins

Before they were trading lyrical shots on the industry's biggest stages, Ja Rule and 50 Cent were just two rappers coming up from nearby neighborhoods in Queens, N.Y. According to 50, their longtime feud initially started when Ja saw him with the guy who stole his chain. However, Ja Rule denied this claim, suggesting instead that the beef began when 50 Cent supposedly felt slighted after being left out of the "Murda 4 Life" video shoot in 1999.

50 alleged to XXL that he did stop by that video shoot to confront Ja, but was pulled aside by legendary gangster and drug kingpin Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff, who apparently told him, "Leave them alone, man. You know they ain't gonna do nothing." But the young rapper didn't listen. Black Child, one of Ja Rule's collaborators, remembers their nemesis showing up that day, telling Vlad TV, "I guess he feel like Ja ain't roll out the red carpet for him ... He went back to the hood and wrote a song." 

That song was "Your Life's on the Line," in which 50 Cent appears to mock Ja Rule's "Murda" chant. In another song created during that time, "Ghetto Qu'ran," 50 revealed some information about Supreme's past illegal activity. The following year, the rapper was shot nine times, and Supreme was investigated for allegedly plotting his death. While the two feuds may appear unconnected, Ja Rule later claimed to Hot 97 that 50 Cent told investigators that there was a link.

Ja Rule, 50 Cent, and the Atlanta fight

A couple of months before the infamous 2000 shooting, both Ja Rule and 50 Cent were set to perform in Atlanta. All parties involved remember a conversation taking place between the two rappers that turned into a fight after mutual friend Chaz "Slim" Williams convinced them to talk ... but the other details differ. 

Williams, a respected New Yorker and mediator of that meeting, claimed Ja came to speak to 50 with a baseball bat in his hand. After he gestured with the bat, 50 Cent reportedly took a swing at him and a scuffle broke out. While Williams alleged that no one was hurt in the fight, Ja Rule had a different story. "The talk got heated because I got mad and I started screaming at him and telling him that he was a b**ch," Ja claimed on Hot 97. "... So he swings at me. He caught me a little bit, but I dipped it and then hit him with the bat, 'Poom!' So, now we start tussling." Ja Rule alleged that he and his friends beat up 50 while the others watched. However, Black Child remembers it even more theatrically, telling Vlad TV, "Me and Ja chased him through the lobby and s**t. And the elevator doors closed just in time."

According to XXL, 50 Cent claimed that Ja Rule lost a necklace pendant during the fight, which was snatched up by one of 50's guys and swapped for a Movado watch. However, Ja Rule denied this particular allegation.

Was Ja Rule involved in the stabbing of 50 Cent?

Shortly after the 2000 incident in Atlanta, Ja Rule and 50 Cent came together once again — this time in New York City at the Hit Factory recording studio. As producer Chris Gotti later told Vlad TV, Ja — who was on crutches at the time — reportedly found out 50 was in the building and was determined to confront him. "We have about 40, 50 guys with us," Gotti said. "... We went looking for him in the studio." The result, per The New York Times, was 50 Cent suffering "cuts and stab wounds to his back." 

Gotti and his brother, Irv Gotti (a.k.a. the CEOs of Ja Rule's Murder Inc. record label) were each charged with gang assault and first-degree assault. Meanwhile, rapper Black Child confessed to stabbing 50 in the back, but claimed it was in self-defense. Per Complex, the charges were later dismissed. For his part, 50 Cent claimed that he didn't even go to the hospital afterward, though he later received three stitches from the attack. Meanwhile, The New York Times reported that 50 obtained an order of protection against his assailants afterward, which put a dent in his street credibility. According to XXL, however, the paperwork was simply a formality put forth by the NYPD.

While Ja Rule wasn't technically present for the incident, it definitely didn't help this ongoing feud, with the rappers each releasing diss tracks — including Ja's "Race Against Time II" and 50 Cent's "Back Down."

Ja Rule was charged with assault in Toronto

In June 2004, Ja Rule was at a nightclub in Toronto when a group of patrons formed near him and began shouting "derogatory" statements about his already-infamous feud with 50 Cent, per USA Today. Becoming frustrated with the crowd, Ja allegedly punched a man in his face. He was charged and subsequently released on $10,000 (CAD) bail. The victim received a black eye and cuts.

Early the following year, Ja Rule pleaded guilty to assault and received a $1,200 fine. "I'm just sorry about my actions," he told reporters after his court appearance. The judge also apologized that day, saying that the comments that some patrons allegedly yelled were "disgraceful" and an "embarrassment" for the Canadian city. 

However, according to the man who was punched, Sandeep Grewal-Singh, he wasn't even one of the people yelling at the rapper, but was rather simply a bystander, who was punched and thrown to the ground and down a flight of stairs, as per his civil suit (via E! News). As a result of the attack, Grewal-Singh claimed he suffered "severe physical and emotional shock to the system" and was "permanently injured." He also alleged that he experienced "massive tearing, ripping and damage to his muscles, tendons, nerves, ligaments, blood vessels and skeletal structure" and "still feels nervous going out" years after the assault.

Was Ja Rule involved in a revenge plot?

A December 2004 party held for Ja Rule at a club in Midtown, New York turned bloody when a man was shot and killed and another wounded in the after hours. According to the New York Post, investigators were inititally pointed in the direction of the rapper and his bodyguards after they spoke to the surviving victim, Troy Moore. 

While the possible motive seemed a little unclear, it was suggested that the shooting may have been related to another crime. Moore and the man who died, Willie "Bang Bang" Clark, both previously served time behind bars and were the rumored suspects of a string of robberies, including one on rapper Foxy Brown's brother. Investigators may have believed that Ja Rule's bodyguards were acting in revenge for the robberies — or in anger for bringing that kind of heat to the rapper's party. Ja was, after all, friends with Foxy Brown and her brother, Pretty Boy, at the time. 

Regardless of the reason, investigators allegedly possessed surveillance footage, which showed Ja Rule's vehicle stop outside the club after Moore and Clark walked past it. One of the rapper's bodyguards was seen approaching the car. "Come with me, it's coming down," the reportedly bodyguard said, before another bodyguard exited the vehicle, and the two men from Ja Rule's security team apparently shot Moore and Clark.

A dancer's tell-all book detailed an alleged affair with Ja Rule

In her 2005 book, Confessions of a Video Vixen, Karrine Steffans dropped quite a few scandalous bombshells on the music industry. The former video dancer revealed that she had sexual affairs with a slew of big-name celebrities, many of them in relationships with other women at the time. According to the book, she was even married to hip hop pioneer, Kool G. Rap ... but it was her alleged time with Ja Rule that impacted her most.

"After the thing was over with Ja, I think I went a little crazy searching for his replacement," Steffans wrote (via The New York Times). "Once something was over with one of them, even if it ended horribly, that would only make me want to regain what I thought I had." 

But Ja Rule, who had been in a relationship with the same woman since high school, denied Steffans' allegations. During a 2013 HipHollywood interview, the rapper guessed at Steffans' motives, claiming, "I'm a target for fallacious women that want to not see me and my wife happy." Ja added, "So they'll make up stories and do whatever they have to do to sell books, or be on TV shows ... They'll take a small situation and make it something that's so much bigger than what it is."

Lil' Mo puts it on Ja Rule

In the early 2000s, Lil' Mo and Ja Rule collaborated to make two massive hits, "I Cry" and "Put It on Me." While they were two of the biggest songs of Ja Rule's career at that point, Lil' Mo then turned that success into records with artists like Jay-Z and the late Tupac. However, the singer didn't look back too fondly on her dealings with Ja. 

"Two hit record smashes," Lil' Mo said in an interview with MTV News. "Those two records ruled 2001. The whole world knows that." Not only did she claim that she wasn't paid for her contributions, but that she didn't even get a proper recognition. "I helped that brother sell 3 million records, and I don't have a plaque [for the Rule 3:36 album]. I did 'Parking Lot Pimpin” and Jay-Z sent me a plaque for every song he's done, a thank you card and a bottle of Cris."

In 2005, Lil' Mo decided to file a lawsuit against Ja Rule, Murder Inc. Records, and Def Jam for $15 million. While speaking with All Hip Hop, she claimed that she owns 10 percent of "Put It on Me," saying, "This is beyond personal, this is business. This is my livelihood as an artist. We don't make money until the label makes money so as a songwriter that was a part of my career that I was supposed to receive a substantial amount of money." 

Luckily, Lil' Mo and Ja Rule did later reconcile and release another song together.

Ja Rule spent time in prison over weapons and taxes

In July 2007, Ja Rule joined Lil Wayne on stage during a concert in Manhattan. Later that evening, Ja was pulled over for speeding. Per CNN, police then found, hidden in the backseat of his Maybach, a loaded firearm with the serial number scratched off. According to MTV News, the rapper pleaded guilty to "attempted criminal possession of a weapon" and was sentenced to two years in prison in 2010.

While serving that time, Ja Rule was hit with tax evasion charges. Fox News reports that the rapper admitted to failing to pay taxes on over $3 million in earnings from 2004 to 2006. As a result, he was sentenced to 28 months in prison, most of which could be completed while serving his previous sentence. While addressing the court before his second sentencing, Ja Rule said: "I in no way attempted to deceive the government or do anything illegal. I was a young man who made a lot of money — I'm getting a little choked up — I didn't know how to deal with these finances, and I didn't have people to guide me, so I made mistakes."

In February 2013 — just 20 months into his two-year gun charge sentence — Ja Rule was released from prison, allowed to finish the remaining time left on his tax evasion sentence on house arrest.

Ja Rule's involvement in a sketchy credit card service

In 2015, Ja Rule joined CEO Billy McFarland to help promote Magnises, "an exclusive Black Card with special perks & VIP access for millennials," per Nylon. The rapper was named Creative Head and spokesman for the company. "We all have eyes, but not everyone has vision," he told the outlet of his business venture. "You have to have that vision to see what's going to be hot tomorrow. I think that's what makes people great: being able to see what the public needs and wants tomorrow, not today."

The card first opened for members in New York, then expanded into other states across the country. According to Fortune, "For $250-per-year, members would gain entry to exclusive celebrity events, a concierge service to score hard-to-get concert tickets and restaurant reservations and access to a swanky, shared hangout pad." While the black card only duplicates a member's actual credit card, it allows them to "swipe with style."

Magnises claimed to grow from 1,200 members in 2014 to 100,000 in 2016, but the company's WeFunder page only listed 10,000 members. How the company made money was also a mystery. The WeFunder page alleged it was mostly funded by membership fees, but a member of the Magnises management team said it was fueled primarily by branded events. In the end, members began to complain about "broken promises," overcharges, and bad business dealings, per Fortune. Magnises earned an "F" grade with the Better Business Bureau and finally collapsed alongside the catastrophic Fyre Festival.

Ja Rule was burnt by the Fyre Festival

Magnises CEO Billy McFarland told Rolling Stone that the plan for the ill-fated Fyre Festival was hatched in early 2016 by himself and his business partner, Ja Rule. It all sounded amazing: They shot a beautiful promotional video that featured the likes of Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski, promising, per Elle, "Yoga on the beach, water trampolines, seabobbing ... music, art, food and ... $1 million of real treasure and jewels hidden around the island." The event also had a slick list of musical acts lined up, including Lil Yachty, Blink-182, and Migos.

What guests got, however, was something much less than promised. Not long before the event's highly-anticipated start in April 2017, The Wall Street Journal warned that some musical acts were not yet paid and guests were worried about the lack of communication. According to Billboard, flights full of paying guests ($1,200/guest) headed to Exumas were delayed then cancelled. Those who did make it to the island were met with disaster tent setups, given little support, and fed with cheese on bread. 

Speaking with Rolling Stone, McFarland said, "We were a little naïve in thinking for the first time we could do this ourselves. Next year, we will definitely start earlier." By the following year, however, McFarland was slammed with a $100 million lawsuit and sentenced to six years in prison for fraud. His partner, Ja Rule, was deemed ignorant of the festival's wrongdoings in July 2019.