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Exodus (2005)
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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
11/2/2004 1:02:37 PM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Ja Rule.

Ja Rule probably should have battled nemesis 50 Cent with sticks and stones, considering what happened after their war of words.

A few years ago, Ja Rule was among the most popular — and overexposed — figures in hip-hop. His first four albums had sold millions of copies each. His deep, gravelly voice, either in rap form or an off-key warble, punctuated hit after hit. He enjoyed numerous collaborations with artists ranging from J.Lo to Jay-Z to labelmate Ashanti.

Then a pre-superstar 50 Cent blew up with the song "Wanksta," a thinly veiled attack calling Ja a fake gangsta wannabe perpetrating a tough-guy image. Even though Ja fired back on underground songs, interviews and last year's "Blood in My Eye" album, the image seemed to stick.

As his beef with 50 Cent escalated, the man born Jeffrey Atkins suddenly became uncool. His catchy harmonizing was considered wack and weak. Some said the verbal wounds would be fatal to his career.

Not quite. Despite being the object of 50's ridicule and many rap fans' scorn, Ja Rule, 28, is on the verge of a comeback.

"I'm a vegetarian, I don't even want no beef right now. I'm cool. Let them other (guys) deal with the beef, I'm good," Ja says with a rueful smile.

"I'm gonna make my records and do what I do with my peoples and have a good time with life, and you know, we wanna get back to having fun, making you dance in the club, and party, because that's what real gangstas do, they party."

His sixth album, "R.U.L.E.," set for release Nov. 9, is being buoyed by the hit "Wonderful," featuring R. Kelly and Ashanti. And Ja didn't even have to change his style — he's still crooning badly, still rhyming with the same blustery excitement.

"If we come out of this, and we do our thing, that's a big story. It was all odds against us. No one thought we would," boasts Irv Gotti, head of Ja's record label, The Inc., formerly known as Murder Inc.

During an interview at the Inc. offices, Ja sat bare-chested as he waited for a clean shirt to be delivered, showcasing his muscled but diminutive frame. Animated and candid yet philosophical, he talked freely about his quick downward spiral and his feud with 50 Cent.

Both hail from the New York City borough of Queens. They'd been friendly, until one of 50's friends robbed Ja of his jewelry at a nightclub. Egos were bruised, arguments ensued, and the tiff soon became public. 50 Cent seemed to thrive from it — as he once boasted on stage, he built his career on the feud.

"Sometimes, in beefs and battles, that's what it's all about, it's for the fans, it's like a big show, and for me, it wasn't that, it was very real." Ja said. "But 50 made it into a show."

While 50's popularity exploded and he became 2003's best-selling artist, Ja's career seemed to implode. He may have been an easy target, though; he had become an almost omnipresent musical force, conquering pop, rap, and R&B with his rough yet accessible slice of rap. One minute he was bumping and grinding with Jennifer Lopez (news); the next he was on movie screens in "The Fast and the Furious."

For some, he got too big, and perhaps strayed too far from his early, thugged-out image. So when 50 came to take him down, people were waiting for the fall.

Even Ja can identify with that feeling.

"When you're a big artist, people wanna see you fall sometimes, and it's like that. This is human nature, and I really had to step back and understand," he says.

So he decided to just ride out the turbulence and lower his profile. The married father of three was conspicuously absent from Ashanti's sophomore set last year, his ubiquitous collaborations dr

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