Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer
Hip hop beef in its purest form emerged late in 2002 when 50 Cent emerged from the shadows. He had an issue with the biggest rapper in the game, Ja Rule. Because of this issue, 50 Cent did not stop until he had Ja Rule at his knees.
Back in 1998, both rappers were in Queens trying to make their dreams into reality. While the rappers never knew each other, they traveled in the same circles. To this day, Ja Rule and 50 Cent have many of the same friends.
Ja Rule was destined to make it after he teamed up with the Irv Gotti-led Def Jam. Upon also linking up with Jay-Z and DMX, Ja Rule had a name for himself. In 1998, DMX released his debut single, "Get At Me Dog." The original version of this song also featured a verse from Ja Rule.
During the fall of 1998, Ja Rule's big break came when Jay-Z decided to release "Can I Get A..." off his multiplatinum success, Vol 2. ... Hard Knock Life. The song featured a verse from Ja Rule and was the biggest single off the album. Not only was it a major release off Jay-Z's album, but it also gained exposure as the biggest single off the Rush Hour soundtrack. When the Chris Tucker film became a box office hit, it only made Jay-Z bigger, and Ja Rule because of association.
Jay-Z ft. Amil and Ja Rule - "Can I Get A..."
While Ja Rule was on the fast track to success, 50 Cent was working with the Trackmasters on his debut album, Power of the Dollar. Initially, the album was slated for a 1999 release and 50 Cent began promoting the album. During his promotional run, he ran into Ja Rule a couple of times. Initially, their relationship was friendly and Black Child, an artist signed to Murder Inc., was featured on 50's album. Soon, 50 Cent's buzz was built and he landed a full track on the In Too Deep soundtrack, "Rowdy Rowdy."
50 Cent - "Rowdy Rowdy"
After both rappers had buzz from film soundtracks, New York City was excited because of all the new talent and it appeared as if Queens had won again. Because of Ja Rule's success, Irv Gotti quickly came up with some beats and placed him in the studio to begin working on his debut album, Venni Vetti Vecci. Behind the success of the lead single, "Holla Holla," Ja Rule went platinum and with very little promotion. Fans were behind his movement and loved the idea of a sympathetic thug.
Ja Rule - "Holla Holla"
With Ja Rule now off touring with the stars and celebrating his platinum hits, 50 Cent had to deal with his album being pushed back. Columbia Records, who had been behind 50 Cent ever since they signed him early in 1998, were now nervous to release his album. They did not like the content, as they felt it told too much about the streets and the content was a little too violent. Because of this, 50 Cent was sent into the studio to record a radio single with Destiny's Child, which led to "Thug Love."
50 Cent had been pushed back to 2000, while Ja Rule was preparing to do a film with Snoop Dogg. Not only did he build a friendship with Snoop, but Rule also began a friendship with Busta Rhymes following the video for the "Holla Holla (remix)." Ja Rule was on top of the world and he wanted to spread the love, but not everyone was feeling it. DMX, his longtime ally, felt as if he had built his empire with his style and was not giving him the proper credit.
In May of 2000, Columbia Records gave 50 Cent a date to film his video for "Thug Love." The thugs on the street kept a close eye on this date. Queens kingpin, "Supreme," had a lot of interest in the local movement and liked Ja Rule so much that he helped get Murder Inc. off the ground. He had been a big fan of 50 Cent too, until he heard his street single, "Ghetto Qu'ran (Forgive Me)." In the song, 50 tells of what really goes on in the street, but he told too much and McGriff (Supreme) was being investigated.
Supreme had arranged for a present for 50 Cent the day of his video shoot. While 50 Cent was leaving his grandmother's house in Jamaica Queens, an unnamed hitman open rounds of shots on 50 Cent. On the street, 50 Cent laid there, almost dead. The people behind the hit celebrated the death and Irv Gotti and the others associated with Ja Rule were witnesses. When 50 Cent was saved from death and built himself back up, he aimed to take down those who took him down.
At the time of the shooting, Ja Rule was on top of the world, he had moved his wife and daughter out of the hood in Queens and into a home in New Jersey. He was back in the studio, preparing his second studio album, Rule 3:36. The first single, "Between Me and You," marked a new relationship with Ja Rule and pop music. From this point on, all of Rule's music was geared towards this audience. The sympathetic thug had changed and fallen in love. The people ate it up and Ja Rule enjoyed triple platinum success.
On the other hand, 50 Cent was back at square one, learning how to function again. In 2001, 50 Cent regained his senses and he returned to the studio. Back in the studio, 50 Cent was upset because he could no longer rap the way he used to. Feeling as if he would never make it in the rap world, he was close to returning to a life of crime. But, his friends convinced him to continue to push his dreams, so 50 Cent jumped back in and kept rapping and was better than ever.
Following the shooting, Columbia Records dropped him from the roster and no label wanted anything to do with 50 Cent. With nowhere else to turn, 50 Cent created his own record label, G-Unit Records with his partner, Sha Money XL. Everybody in the crew who came with 50 Cent was added to the label. His friends from the hood, Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo, and Bang 'Em Smurf & Domination formed an early version of the label and group, G-Unit.
In 2002, 50 Cent went back into the studio and recorded his sophomore album, Guess Who's Back? The album featured multiple diss records aimed at Jay-Z, Ja Rule, and Murder Inc. 50 Cent dealt with vendors and retailers, himself, and the streets of New York supported him. The album was a success and 50 Cent was close to getting revenge over Supreme McGriff by taking Ja Rule down. In 2002, 50 Cent released his single, "Wanksta," and it rose from a local song to a top five hit before the end of the year.
50 Cent - "Wanksta"
In the song, 50 Cent talks about a rapper who pretends to be a gangsta, but really does not live that life. No name is mentioned in the song, but many people assumed it was about Ja Rule. After loading up the summer of 2002 with the Ashanti collaborations, people were tired of Rule. His 2001 album sold six million records in the United States, alone, and Ja Rule got cocky. DMX noticed this and began his arsenal against Rule, this completely turned the streets against Ja Rule and Murder Inc.
Ja Rule released the first single from his 2002 album, The Last Temptation, which featured Bobby Brown, but it did not even crack the top 40. For the first time in his career, Ja Rule was struggling to keep the fans interested. While Ja Rule was falling off, 50 Cent was making appearances and landing a unique deal with hitmakers, Eminem and Dr. Dre. The hitmaking duo decided to produce 50 Cent's next album, Get Rich or Die Tryin.' The album featured the diss record, "Back Down."
Feeling fortunate to have all of his dreams come true, 50 Cent decided he would not pursue a feud with Ja Rule. But, Rule saw how he teamed up with Eminem and Dr. Dre, so he decided to diss all of them. Also, his former friend, Busta Rhymes, made a song with Dr. Dre, so he was also brought into the feud. For all these years, Ja Rule was about peace, but soon he was doing magazine interviews and talking reckless about many people he even used to work with, such as Fabolous and Lil' Mo.
The fans were against Ja Rule and his only saving grace was that the suburbs still loved him. That, paired with another Ashanti feature in "Mesmerize," kept Ja Rule around for a little bit longer. But, even those fans were turning on Ja Rule. It was clear how bad the fans hated Ja Rule when "106 & Park" booed the world premiere of his video, "The Reign." 50 Cent responded to the Ja Rule disses and he teamed up with the likes of DMX and Busta Rhymes to bring him down.
Ja Rule ft. Bobby Brown - "Thug Lovin' "
Ja Rule ft. Ashanti - "Mesmerize"
Ja Rule ft. Alexi - "Murder Reigns"
For a short period of time, Ja Rule and 50 Cent shared the top. Some people think Ja Rule could have stood a chance, but making himself an enemy to everyone and a negatively-received album only hurt him. 50 Cent, on the other hand, had taken his spot and was smart enough to build his label. Before the end of 2003, 50 introduced the world to G-Unit Records. The group released their debut album, Beg For Mercy, and they lowered the boom on Ja Rule's career.
50 Cent focused on branching out following the release of his album. G-Unit Records landed an exclusive distribution deal with Interscope Records. 50 Cent put out albums from Lloyd Banks and Young Buck and featured himself on their debut singles. Due to the promotion, both albums were platinum successes. From that point on, 50 Cent started G-Unit Clothing and a sneaker line. Back into the music, he signed Compton rapper, The Game, to G-Unit.
However, 50 Cent soon fell victim to his own strength. In order to promote his second album, The Massacre, 50 Cent began feuding with Jadakiss and Fat Joe. 50 Cent also reignited his feuds with Ja Rule and Nas during this period. It was during this time that Ja Rule experienced a brief comeback and two major hits, "Wonderful" featuring R. Kelly and "New York" with Fat Joe and Jadakiss. However, the legal issues of his partner, Irv Gotti led to Def Jam dropping him even after releasing another platinum album.
Ja Rule ft. R. Kelly - "Wonderful"
Ja Rule ft. Fat Joe and Jadakiss - "New York"
Following the short comeback, Ja Rule disappeared from the spotlight. He reconnected with the streets and mended fences. In 2004, he took the stage with Eminem and reached out to Dr. Dre in 2005. Ja Rule resurfaced in 2007, right when 50 Cent's popularity was at an all-time low. Rule had formed a new alliance with Lil Wayne and had ended his feud with Busta Rhymes. 50 Cent, on the other hand, had made new enemies with Cam'ron and wanted to feud with Lil Wayne.
Despite his multiple public appearances, Ja Rule's album was shelved by Universal Records. 50 Cent's album, Before I Self Destruct, was slated for a November 2008 release. The album suffered multiple push-backs and did not come until December 2009. When the album was released, it received the lowest numbers of 50 Cent's career since his independent days. In the present day, Ja Rule and 50 Cent still make news, but it is no longer about the music.
Usually, Ja Rule is talking about his new business endeavors and providing commentary about the ongoings in the hip hop world. 50 Cent has taken a similar approach, becoming the Charles Barkley of hip hop, insulting almost everyone. The guns have been put away and people have come to realize 50 Cent is only having fun with the game now. Currently, the big names in rap are Rick Ross, Drake, Lil Wayne, and Nicki Minaj. In 2009, Ja Rule said he realized his time came and went.
While the music scene is dominated by these artists, Kanye West is successfully landing his comeback and is building his label roster. Ja Rule is looking for a distribution deal for his Mpire label and he has proclaimed his artist, Harry O, to be the future of rap. On the other hand, 50 Cent has moved G-Unit Records from their longtime home of Interscope Records over to EMI Records. Here, they are releasing new music from longtime artists, Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo.
Most of the newer artists signed to the label's operated by Ja Rule and 50 Cent have said they have no issues and only want peace. Therefore, it will not be out of the question to see some of their artists working together. Ja Rule and 50 Cent have agreed they will never be friends and their beef will never end, but they are willing to coexist in this changing industry.