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#ThrowbackThursday: “Livin’ It Up” By Ja Rule Featuring Case

By Matt Clizbe

Rapper Ja Rule was surprisingly in the news this week thanks to him facing a $100 million class action lawsuit that has just been “murda” on his reputation. This week long reputation roast is rooted in the now canceled Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, which fell apart quite infamously.  Attorney Mark Geragos filed the fraud and breach of contract suit on behalf of attendee Daniel Jung against Ja Rule, AKA Jeffrey Atkins and his fellow Fyre Festival co-founder Billy McFarland. This is because Fyre Festival promised attendees a luxury experience, described as “an immersive music festival on a remote and private island in the Exumas” featuring “the best in food, art, music and adventure.”  Well, despite some paying up to $12,780, festival goers were treated to an experience that many considered to be the exact opposite.

 

According to social media Via CNN:

 

“The festival’s lack of adequate food, water, shelter, and medical care created a dangerous and panicked situation among attendees — suddenly finding themselves stranded on a remote island without basic provisions — that was closer to The Hunger Games or Lord of the Flies than Coachella,” the suit states. “Festival-goers survived on bare rations, little more than bread and a slice of cheese, and tried to escape the elements in the only shelter provided by Defendants: small clusters of ‘FEMA tents,’ exposed on a sand bar, that were soaked and battered by wind and rain.”

 

Therefore, this week’s TBT is Ja Rule’s 2001 hit, “Livin’ It Up.”  Unlike today, this Pain is Love hit single comes from a time when everything was going right for Rule and his career.  Released in July of 2001, “Livin’ It Up” even had the classic groove of Stevie Wonder going for it, sampling wonder’s 1982 hit “Do I Do”, complete with R&B singer Case singing the “Murder Inc.” rendition of Wonder’s hook. Obviously, this musical celebration of opulence is not only the opposite of what Fyre Fest attendees got to experience, and at least in part served as big part of the hip hop cliche filled image that he likely marketed himself with. It worked for him too.  

Related Media 

Stevie Wonder 

“Do I Do”

From Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiquarium I

Tamla/Motown Records

Pain is Love was Ja Rule’s third album, which served as part of a late 90s, early 2000’s R&B/pop trend that took the genre of hip hop to previously unseen commercial heights. As one of the trend’s key beneficiaries, it also  allowed him to coast off of the momentum of his previous two albums, Venni Vetti Vecci, and Rule 3:36, which dominated the pop charts and launched him to stardom in 1999 and 2000. Following an impactful introduction as a featured artist on the Irv Gotti and Lil Rob produced “Can I Get A…” by Jay-Z in 1998, Ja Rule used the era defining sound to help Gotti build one of the Def Jam’s most controversially successful subsidiaries, Murder Inc. Records. In addition to Livin’ It Up”, this success was thanks to the strategic pairing of Ja Rule with a string of female performers, complimenting his unique rap delivery with a melodic and often sexy pop appeal.  This formula lead to the launch of artists like Vita, Charli Baltimore, Christina Milian, Lil Mo, and Ashanti, who spun the fame of her Ja Rule association off to becoming Murder Inc’s marquee R&B singer, her solo No 1 hit,  “Foolish” compete with its  Goodfellas themed music video.

Related Media 

Ashanti 

“Foolish”

From Ashanti 

Murder Inc./Def Jam Records/IDJMG

Everything The Inc touched turned platinum, and the whole industry knew it by the time Pain Is Love was released.  In addition to providing a platform for lesser known artists like Ashanti, which were being developed as part of Murder Inc’s internal agenda, the Ja Rule pair up formula often boosted previously established names in R&B like Case, Bobby Brown Ronald Isley, a posthumously released 2pac, who weren’t signed to Murder Inc, but used their sound to rejuvenate or boost their sound to urban/pop music lovers of the time.  The biggest of these stars was Selena actress turned singer and all around mega star Jennifer Lopez.  In addition to Inc. standards like “Always on Time”, and “Down A** B****”, Pain Is Love included a joint release from Lopez and Tommy” Mottola’s Epic Records called “I’ Real” (Murder Inc remix), which showcased her music abilities at a unique time in her development as an aritist, and helped her cast a wider net for fans of the highly successful pop/hip hop genre.

 

Ja Rule Featuring Ashanti 

“Always On Time”

From Pain Is Love

Murder Inc./Def Jam Records/IDJMG

Ja Rule Featuring Charli Baltimore
“Down A** Chick”

From Pain Is Love

Murder Inc./Def Jam Records/IDJMG

Jennifer Lopez And Ja Rule
“I’m Real (Murder Inc. Remix)”

From Pain Is Love

Murder Inc./Def Jam Records/IDJMG/Epic Records

The lasting impact of this Murder Inc. formula became undeniable after Hamilton creator Lin Manuel Miranda credited it as the inspiration for his musical’s standout composition “Hepeless”, and featured Inc’s strategic pair of Ja Rule and Ashanti on Atlantic Records’ The Hamilton Mixtape album to perform their own version of it last year.  Ja Rule would go on to release 4 other albums, but none of them would be able to match the success that came from Pain is Love, signifying both the apex and ultimate decline of a one time genre defining master of the pop crossover.  By 2003, this decline turned into a fully fledged backlash, lead by Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ rapper 50 Cent.  Also controversial in his own right, 50 dedicated much of his debut album’s cuts to delegitimizing Ja Rule through tracks like “Wanksta” and “Back Down” because of their very convoluted personal history.  

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50 Cent 

“Back Down” (Explcit)

From Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ 

Shady/Aftermath/Interscope Records

50 Cent 

“Wanksta” 

From 8 Mille Soundtrack

Shady/Interscope Records

Ashanti Featuring Ja Rule
 

“Helpless” 

From The Hamilton Mixtape

Atlantic Records

Upon his decline, Ja Rule’s association with criminality rose. In 2003 Murder Inc was investigated by the FBI because of possible money laundering charges, and in 2004 for a possible connection to a fatal shooting.  Also, in 2007, he was arrested for drug and gun charges, which resulted in him later getting sentenced to 2 years in prison in 2010.  Now, with him facing a $100 million class action lawsuit, it’s clear that things may only be getting tougher.  It is with that in mind that this week’s  #TBT takes a look back to when Ja Rule and Murder Inc were at the height of their success, “Livin’ It Up with Case.  Enjoy!