Jeffery “Ja Rule” Atkins is a Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, and actor who gained fame in the early 2000s with popular hit songs such as “Holla Holla,” “I’m Real” featuring Jennifer Lopez, and “Wonderful” featuring R. Kelly and Ashanti. Ja Rule was born on February 29, 1976 in Hollis, Queens, New York City, New York to Debra Atkins and William Jeffery Atkins. Ja Rule’s father left the family when he was young forcing his mother to raise Ja Rule and his sister, Kristen, alone. Kristen died from respiratory complications when he was five years old.
Ja Rule lived in a strict religious household since his mother was a devoted Jehovah’s Witness who didn’t allow birthday or Christmas celebrations and prohibited popular music. As a result, Ja Rule secretly listened to early rap music which inspired him to become a rapper.
Rule also lived briefly with his grandparents because of his mother’s work schedule. He attended Martin Van Buren High School in Queens where he picked up the nickname JA based on his initials. A friend added “Rule” creating the stage name he eventually performed under.
In 1993, seventeen-year-old Ja Rule dropped out of high school to pursue a rap career. He joined the group Cash Money Click. When the group failed to produce an album, he left them to become a solo rapper. In 1998, Ja Rule signed a record deal with Def Jam Records and debuted with a Jay-Z rap song called “Can I Get A…” that same year. In 1999 he released his debut album, Venni Vetti Vecci on the Murder Inc record label founded by his friends, Irving and Chris Gotti. The album which featured “Holla Holla” and “Murder 4 Life,” debuted at no.3 on the Billboard 200 chart and was certified platinum after selling two million copies. Other Ja Rule albums followed including Rule 3:36 (2000), Pain Is Love (2001) and Last Temptation (2002) all of which certified platinum. Ja Rule continued to release albums including Blood in My Eye (2003) R.U.L.E. (2004), and Pain is Love 2 (2012).
Controversy arose alongside Ja Rule’s music success. He had a number of high profile “feuds” with other rappers including 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, Eminem, DMX, and Busta Rhymes, which included numerous “diss” tracks of them and their music on his albums. Adding to the controversy, his music label, Murder Inc., was under investigation for laundering money for Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, a Queens drug kingpin. Ja Rule was also accused by some critics of copying the rap style of the late rapper, Tupac Shakur.
Ja Rule had legal issues as well. In 2003, he pleaded guilty for assault charges stemming from his punching a nightclub patron. He paid a $1,200 fine. In 2007, Ja Rule and rapper Lil Wayne were arrested after a concert for possession of unlicensed weapons. Rule was convicted on the charge and served two years in prison from 2011 to 2013 which partly led to his rap career decline. Nonetheless, Ja Rule continues to be active in the music business as a producer and promoter.
Ja Rule married Aisha Fatima in 2001. The couple have three children, Britney Atkins, Jeffery Jr., and Jordan Atkins.