Murder Inc. Records (1998-)

Ja Rule, seated, wearing sunglasses
Ja Rule, November 10, 2016
Photograph by WebSummit, courtesy Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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Murder Inc Records, a Hip Hop record, was founded by brothers Chris Gotti and Irving Domingo “Irv Gotti” Lorenzo Jr. in 1998. It signed artists such as Jeffery Bruce “Ja Rule” Atkins, Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas, Tiffany “Charli Baltimore” Lane, Ramel Leroy “Black Child” Gill, Lloyd “Lloyd” Polite Jr, and others. Murder Inc Records was founded with the help of Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons. The record label’s name came when Irv Gotti watched an A&E Biography about an organized crime group, Murder Inc, that was active in New York City from 1929 to 1941.

In 1999, Murder Inc released its debut album Venni Vetti Vecci by Ja Rule. The album features the single “Holla Holla” and sold a million certified platinum units. In 2000, Murder Inc released a compilation album called Irv Gotti Presents: The Murderers. That album peaked at number 15 on the billboard 200 but failed to sell 500,000 copies.

During that same year, Ja Rule released his second album, Rule 3:36 which sold three million units and was certified triple platinum. In 2001, Murder Inc Records signed Ashanti and Charli Baltimore to the record label while Ja Rule, its most successful performer, released his third album, Pain Is Love, which sold three million units and was certified triple platinum.

In 2002, Ashanti released her debut album called Ashanti, which also sold three million units and was certified platinum. Later that year, Murder Inc released its second compilation album, Irv Gotti presents The Inc. which sold 500,000 units and was certified Gold. Ja Rule would release his fourth studio album in 2002 called The Last Temptation, which sold a million units and was certified platinum.

Despite its successes, the label has been involved in several controversies. This included Ja Rule in a rap feud with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. The rap feud, one of the most intense in Hip Hop history during the early 2000s, included numerous diss tracks such as Back Down and Clap Back. Adding to the controversy, the record label was investigated for laundering money for Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, a Queen’s drug kingpin.

On January 3, 2003, federal agents and New York City Police raided the headquarters of Murder Inc Records. The raid came from a yearlong investigation into the record label’s alleged connection to McGriff and money laundering. On October 25, 2005, Irv Gotti and his brother Chris, were charged with money laundering and conspiracy to launder money. At the trial the two were found not found guilty of money laundering and conspiracy to launder money.

Despite the legal challenges Murder Inc. continued to release albums, including Ja Rule’s  The Blood In My Eye (2003), and R.U.L.E (2004). Ashanti released Chapter II (2003), Ashanti Christmas (2003), Concrete Rose (2004), and The Declaration (2008), all of which scored moderate success. By the end of the decade, however, the record label declined as many of its most prominent artists left the label. In 2022, a documentary about the label called The Murder Inc Story was released.

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