Name at birth: Jeffrey Atkins
Ja Rule's 1999 solo debut album, Venni, Vetti, Vecci, launched the hit single "Holla Holla" and made the 23-year-old a hot new icon of "thug rap" style. Born Jeffrey Atkins, he grew up in the tough, drug-riddled Hollis neighborhood of Queens, dropped out of high school and began building a music career under the nom de rhyme Ja Rule. His second album, Rule 3:36 (2000), included the hit duets "Between Me and You" (with Christina Milian) and "I Cry" (with Lil' Mo); Pain Is Love (2001) included the hit "Always on Time," a duet with his protege Ashanti. As Ja Rule racked up hit after hit, he became the poster artist for Murder, Inc., the music label overseen by controversial producer Irv Gotti. (Murder, Inc., a sub-label of DefJam Records, was later renamed as simply "The Inc.") Ja Rule also stayed in the news thanks to his violent verbal feuds with rappers DMX and 50 Cent, and in 2007 he was brought up on gun charges after partying with Lil Wayne (Ja Rule reached a plea agreement in late 2010 and was sentenced to about 16 months in jail). Ja Rule's other albums include Pain is Love (2003), Blood in My Eye (2004, with the hit "Clap Back") and R.U.L.E. (2004). Onscreen he has appeared with Vin Diesel in the summer hotrod flick The Fast and the Furious (2001) and with action star Steven Seagal in Half Past Dead (2002).
According to a 2003 article in New York magazine, Ja Rule “was raised a Jehovah’s Witness and spent much of his young adulthood performing ‘field service’ (door-to-door proselytizing) for the faith.”