Ja Rule Gets Bad Press?
First of all, you have to understand the background of rappers, where we come from. Even Michael Jordan and Bill Cosby come from the ghetto. The difference is that if you go into the NBA, there's a farm system set up for you which alienates you from being anywhere near anything that has to do with your old upbringings. Hip-hop doesn't have that. So, if I become a millionaire overnight, I really haven't been taught how to use that power, because there's no farm system. So, you can't really blame us for these situations when they get out of hand.
Though he was named Jeffrey Atkins back when he was born in Queens, New York on February 29th of 1976, today he is known only as Ja Rule. A founder of Def Jam's notorious Murder Incorporated, the gravel-throated baritone's distinct voice and impassioned rhymes catapulted him to the top of the charts as one of the world's leading gangsta rappers.
Ja made the jump to movies in 2000, since appearing in such hit flicks as Scary Movie 3, Turn It Up, The Fast and the Furious, The Cookout and Half Past Dead. His latest film is Assault on Precinct 13, a crime thriller where he lends a little street credibility to the production, typecast as Smiley, an imprisoned felon.
BSN: What made you decide to do this film?
JR: "I was flown the script, and asked to check out the role of Smiley, to see if I wanted to be a part of it or not. That's basically how it started. Then I went and met with J.F. [director Jean-Francois Richet]. We kicked it. The funny thing is we actually kicked it more about music than we did about movies, but we vibed. And the rest is kind of history."
BSN: You've parlayed your success in rap into a film career. Is that an easy transition to make?
JR: "No, the movie business is very different from the music business. You see, a lot of rappers are not disciplined. That's why we rap for a living. 'Cause we don't have to be disciplined. We don't have to hide what we do image-wise. The worse we are, the cooler we are. So, it's different for a rapper when he gets into this movie business."
BSN: How so?
JR: "You have to be on point. You gotta be on time. There's a lotta studying involved. You got homework. You have to read your script, go over your character, and then create an inner character for the character."
BSN: You know, Samuel L. Jackson just pulled out of a film when he found out a rapper was attached to the project. Has your presence ever caused a reaction like that on a set?
JR: "Yeah. I think so. I know what homey's probably going through and why Sam's going, 'Nah.' In reality, we're already stars. We already have money. For instance when I did The Fast and the Furious, nobody really knew Vin Diesel at the time. I wasn't the star of the film and only had this itty-bitty part in the movie, but there'd be herds of kids mobbing me. You know what I'm saying?"
JR: "So, I could see how the tensions start to build. Some actors might think, 'All that attention, and he ain't even the star.' And then the rappers get the chips on they shoulders, feeling, 'I'm rich already. I don't even need to be here.' But it shouldn't be that way. The rappers have to understand that this is a job that needs to be taken as seriously as any other job."
BSN: As a role model, how do you teach your fans that it's not so cool to be undisciplined?
JR: "First of all, you have to understand the background of rappers, where we come from. Even Michael Jordan and Bill Cosby come from the ghetto. The difference is that if you go into the NBA, there's a farm system set up for you which alienates you from being anywhere near anything that has to do with your old upbringings. Hip-hop doesn't have that. So, if I become a millionaire overnight, I really haven't been taught how to use that power, because there's no farm system. So, you can't really blame us for these situations when they get out of hand."
BSN: But aren't gangsta rappers setting a bad example for impressionable young fans when they wage wars against each other?
JR: "Well, it is counter-productive on the part of the artists. But you gotta look at the people behind the scenes that make the money off these artists that go out and feud. They don't want the wars to stop, because it makes them money. Do you understand?"
BSN: Yes I do.
JR: "It's a double-edged sword. It's really hard for us to step out of these situations when they want us to keep pumpin' it, pumpin' it, pumpin' it. You understand?"
BSN: I think so.
JR: "It's very difficult to explain. You'll never see Britney Spears and Christine Aguilera because they're bickering over their music."
BSN: And why not?
JR: "Because they wasn't brought up that way. You understand what I'm saying?"
BSN: I think they might not like it each other, but they probably wouldn't threaten to shoot each other.
JR: "That's because they wasn't brought up that way. When you don't grow up with that mentality, you don't have it. Were you brought up in the ghetto?"
BSN: I was raised in Queens, like you, but back in the Fifties, if that counts.
JR: "Then you probably saw a lot of unfortunate things happen in your 'hood. Some people make it out, some people don't."
BSN: You have your own record label. Can't someone of your stature control his own image?
JR:: "It's the media. I recently got some bad press because of a shooting at one of my after-parties. Here's the skinny on that. I'm a rapper. Let's say I do a concert, and then the promoter books me an after-party that I get paid to attend. If the Crips and Bloods have a gang-bang shootout there, it gets printed in the paper as a 'Ja Rule Shootout.' So, if Ja Rule throws a party, all the 'hood kids come, a fight breaks out and I get blamed for the situation. It's sad because my after-party is never going to be packed with white people, because these parties are all thrown in the hoods of America."
BSN: Would you like to not always have to defend your gangsta image?
JR: "I would love that. But you know it's never going to be like that, because people love negative press more than positive press. It's unfortunate that as hard as I work, as many good things that I do, it's just the negative ones you always hear about."
BSN: Is that the downside of hitting it big in rap?
JR: "I wouldn't call it a downside. It just comes with the territory."
BSN: Do you fear any of the rappers who have a beef with you?
JR: "Nah, my life's in God's hands. Whatever's going to happen to me, God has written for me already."
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It was sexy to be against the war back then. He was probably in it to get laid.
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