"I like breaking new stars more than anything."
—Irv Gotti


With Ja Rule About To Blow Up, Murder Inc. Boss Gets His Turn
In hip-hop-speak, when you're murdering music, you're killing it—taking it over, bringin' it to the next level. It's slang that expresses the ultimate victory in rap. Irv "Gotti" Lorenzo is the CEO of Murder Inc., the man behind Ja Rule, DMX and Jay-Z. A&R Director of Def Jam since 1997, Gotti signed DMX to the label and has been heavily involved with Jay-Z's career since Day One. His crew, The Murderers (Ja Rule, Tah Murder, Vita, 0-1) are some of the best MCs on the streets, and the production team, Top Dawg Productions, has been responsible for anthems like Jay's "Can I Get A…," Foxy Brown's "Hot Spot," DMX's "What's My Name?" and Ja Rule's "Holla, Holla."

Now Gotti is getting set to take his crew to the next level, led by Ja Rule, whose highly anticipated album, "Rule 3:36," drops this Tuesday (Oct. 10). When asked what the album title meant, Ja explained, "These are the rules of life. And the 3:36 rule is a very specific one that I've learned; it was the best lesson. But I'm not tellin' you what it is!" The first single from the new album, "Between Me And You," is already closing in on the #1 spot on the airplay charts. These days, life is good for Irv Gotti. The lesson just might be, don't give HITS Crossover DoyenneMichelle S. your Skytel number…

The Ja Rule album is dropping this Tuesday [Oct. 10], and you have a monstrous lead single with "Between Me And You."
We had to push it back a week because of sample problems.

Well, damn—by then, the single might be #1! Quite a lead-in!
It should be, because it keeps getting more and more spins at more stations. I've been a part of some big records, but this one is the biggest.

When you were producing this record, which is the second album for Ja, how did you intend to take him to the next level?
The intent was exactly what we're doing—blowing up at radio. Because when he came out with his first album, "Holla, Holla" did really well at radio. And then, when we did the Murderers project, radio really didn't support that record because it was so street. With Ja's new album, we felt like we needed to get back at radio. We wanted to give them something that they could play, because Ja was a radio artist with his first album.

And he's guested on a lot of other artists' albums. Are there any noteworthy collaborations on this record?
No. The only ones on the album are The Murderers. We really have an internal camp, so we don't feel the need for any collaborations. We feel we can hold it down all by ourselves. The only other collaboration that we have outside our own camp is Lil' Mo. We think she is one of the other hottest singers out there. She's got so much talent—you know what I'm saying? That's real.

Did you produce the whole record?
Me and all of my Top Dawg producers, Lil' Rob, Dat Nigga Reb, Tai and DL.

For people who don't know the story, how did you come up on Ja Rule?
I found him with the Cash Money Click in '91. This guy Chris Black, who's in jail now, was part of the Cash Money Click. I was messin' with them, and I wanted to sign a new group after I had just finished signing Mike Geronimo. Chris introduced me to Ja, and after Chris went to jail, I just took Ja and went solo with him.

Is the success of this first single beyond your expectations or right in the pocket?
No, it is beyond. We have so many spins, man—we're fast approaching 4,000 spins.

I told you, you have some shit, bro! That's why I was all over the magazine early as fuck, saying this record was a smash. Because to me, the beat on that is so crazy, how could people not respond?
And the hook and everything, the lyrics…everything was so right. They're saying Pop radio is about to move on it now.

They will. At Rhythm, it took a big airplay jump, too. So it's going.
It's going all over the place. I'm not gonna lie, I expected it to be big, but it's gone past my expectations.

It will certainly put your crew in demand for new production work. Are you getting requests yet?
Oh, yeah. We always get a lot of requests, because we did "Can I Get A…," "What's My Name?" and "Hot Spot." Each year, I always have one or two joints bangin', so we always get calls for singles. But right now, it's off the hook.

Now that this Ja record is about to drop, what else are you working on?
I'm working Tah Murder, Black Child and Vita—the rest of the Murderer group. But I'm looking to break another artist—because, you know, that's my thing. I signed DMX; I helped Jay-Z with Roc-a-Fella, so my thing is really fucking with new acts. I like breaking new stars more than anything.

Yeah, you've been doing it a minute. Where do you see hip-hop going? What are you looking for these days?
Man, that's a good question. I see it getting even bigger with the sales of Eminem. Eminem is gonna surpass 10 million and shit. Nelly's gonna do 5-6 million. It's more common now for people to sell large amounts of records. Where before, when somebody was selling 3-4 million, it was like, "Oh, my goodness!" Now, Jay did 3 million with this last album, and people were like, "He did all right"—you know what I'm saying? So I see more records being sold. With the Crossover and the white audience getting involved with it—I think hip-hop is unstoppable right now.

What do you think about "Direct Effect," this new MTV show that airs weekdays after "TRL"?
It's all hip-hop, and that's one way of letting the world know, because MTV has really got hold of a bunch of motherfuckers, man. And they're getting the "TRL" audience, which is a huge audience, to stay tuned and watch rap videos.

Acts that might not otherwise get shots on regular video programming.
Right. It's like prime-time—right home from school. It's real good.

How do you think the hip-hop community will respond to that show? Will they support it?
They're gonna support it 100%, and if they don't, they're fools. Once MTV supports a hip-hop act, he's really gone.

It's gonna make people bring music videos to the next level as well.
With more money involved and more records sold, there's gonna be more money for videos. People are gonna really go after it.

You're probably feeling like it's unstoppable right now.
When they give hip-hop nothing, it's unstoppable! Because it's rooted from the street, so even when they don't give it exposure, people still have a way of getting at it and finding it. Now that they're making it more accessible, with Pop Radio playing "Between Me and You" and MTV with their new shows, it's just right there for everybody to see.

Any shouts?
Just everybody go pick up that Ja album on October 10! Because I was a part of the Ruff Ryders camp and helped DMX and I was part of the Jay-Z camp and the Roc-a-Fella success—I just personally believe that it's my turn. I've put in my work. I've paid my dues and I feel I'm next in line. When you look at all the other crews—Cash Money, Aftermath, Roc-a-Fella, Ruff Ryders—it's time for Murder Inc. to be out there. Ja Rule is at the forefront for Murder Inc. how X is at the forefront for Ruff Ryders and how Jay is at the forefront for Roc-a-Fella. I just think it's my time right now.

Well, you're making a helluva statement, bro.
I'm gonna tell you something scary. There areother songs on the album that are bigger than this record. With the last album, after "Holla, Holla," we had nothing to keep up the momentum, because wedidn't haveanything on the album that could compete with it. So this time, when we dropped "Between Me and You," it was like, "All right, let's keep these bangers for the follow-up. We'll kill 'em with this one, but we're gonna crush 'em with these." We're gonna drop some more fucking heat, man!

And Ja's got flow.
I feel he's arguably one of the best songwriters out there. When it comes to me playing the beat and him creating the hook and the song and the flow—he's incredible. He don't write no lyrics down anymore; he just goes right off and does it. When I first signed Ja, he was 17 years old. He's 23 now, a beautiful kid. He's a perfect dude, man.

Good luck next week—I think you're gonna have a blazing debut with this album. I'm scared of you!
Thanks. Radio has really been there for us. I wanna thank radio—thank you, everybody, for the support of my record.

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