On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN welcomed Irv Gotti and Ja Rule to talk about their career highlights, Ashanti, their upcoming Murder Inc. docuseries, and DMX’s passing, among other topics.
Murder Inc. was created in 1999 by Irv Gotti, who had previously worked as an executive at Def Jam Records. What started off as a three-man trio that included Ja Rule, DMX, and JAY-Z, grew into a chart-topping, Def Jam-distributed juggernaut that sold millions of albums at its peak. Ashanti, Lloyd and Ja Rule were just a few of the musicians who helped the label establish itself as a force in hip hop and R&B. “Holla Holla,” the RIAA-certified platinum single from Ja Rule’s Venni Vetti Vecci, was released as the label’s first record in 1999.
It was followed by Ja’s second studio album in 2000 and Murder Inc.’s compilation album Irv Gotti Presents: The Murderers, which included the likes of Black Child, Tah Murdah, and Vita. The record company also signed Charli Baltimore and Ashanti in 2000, with the latter going on to have significant success with her multi-platinum debut album and subsequent releases.
When federal officials stormed Murder Inc. offices in 2003 in search of proof that the organization was funneling and laundering money, much of the label’s success came to an abrupt halt. Murder Inc. briefly fell from grace, amid a high-profile dispute with 50 Cent’s G-Unit and a federal probe over suspected links to Queens, New York drug lord Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff. However, after the acquittal of brothers Irv and Chris Gotti on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to launder money, the label continued to release music, eventually fulfilling its contract with Def Jam in 2005.
Fast forward to 2009, both Ashanti and Lloyd left Murder Inc. to release music independently whilst Ja Rule — who remains a close friend and collaborator of Irv Gotti — stayed on the label’s roster. With the help of 300 Elektra Entertainment, Irv revealed in July that Murder Inc. would be resurrected.
Currently, Irv Gotti is preparing to launch his forthcoming original BET docuseries “The Murder Inc Story,” which tells “the untold tale of the rise, sudden fall, and redemption” of the record company. In the five-part documentary series, which is set to air later this year, viewers will get a look at the label’s turbulent history via archival videos from the past two decades.
For this week’s “Drink Champs” recap, REVOLT compiled a list of nine facts we learned from the Murder Inc. interview. Read them below and watch the full episode here.
1. On Ashanti turning down the Murder Inc. documentary
Irv Gotti was asked why he didn’t attend when Ashanti was celebrated with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame earlier this year. The ceremony took place in April, and Tichina Arnold and Ja Rule presented her with the prestigious award. Gotti says, “Me and Ashanti created and made history, but I don’t see eye-to-eye with her no more.”
Elsewhere, Irv pivots into discussions of Ashanti possibly telling her side of the story in his upcoming docuseries and appearing on a reunion tour. “When we did the doc, we tried to get Ashanti three different times. She turned it down each and every time. What I’d like to say is just the other side … We tried and flirted with the idea of doing the Murder Inc. reunion tour. She turned it down.”
2. On Ashanti calling Irv Gotti out over her masters
In a 2021 interview with Angie Martinez, Ashanti spoke with the radio personality about re-recording her first album so she could own her masters. The singer’s eponymous classic was released in 2002 through Murder Inc. Irv Gotti took issue with Ashanti’s claims and stated she is basically attempting to cheat him out of money.
“I helped make those records, so I own them. Me and Rule was talking today, and I’m not going to say no numbers, but I never signed my artists to 360 deals. I never said, ‘Give me some of your show money’ … I never did that. I feel I was always very good to my artists,” Irv says. “Rule makes a lot of money doing shows, Ashanti makes a lot of money doing shows. What’s left for the guy who is the record label, who helped make the records? How I make money out of this is the masters. How am I supposed to feel when you want to remove that aspect? You’re basically saying … my beautiful kids, you don’t want them to eat.”
Doubling down on his sentiment from previous interviews, Irv says that there “ain’t no f**king compromise” when it comes to giving Ashanti back her masters. “I made those records. She wrote them, but she wrote them with the help of me telling her what to write,” Gotti says.
3. On Irv Gotti selling his stake in Murder Inc.
It was announced earlier this year that Irv Gotti sold a stake in his Murder Inc. master recordings to Olivier Chastan’s acquisition vehicle, Iconoclast. The veteran music exec revealed that the agreement was worth $300 million, with $100 million coming from his masters and the remainder going towards his prospective ventures, including films and TV shows. “I’m entering a deal with him for a lot of money. I signed a letter of intent — it’s like $250 million dollars,” he said.
“Not just the catalog, but to give me funding for visionary ideas. What we’re looking at right now is I will own my TV. I will own my movies that I make. I am fully funded with a partner. I have a $200 million line of credit where I can go out and be who I’m supposed to be in this motherf**ker,” Gotti shares. He later states that Milwaukee Bucks Co-Owner Marc Lasry drilled the idea of ownership into his head, subsequently connecting him with Olivier Chastan.
4. On Ja Rule launching his live-streaming platform ICONN
Launched in 2019 with the goal of changing the way artists are presented, engaged with, and booked in the entertainment industry, Ja Rule created ICONN. The platform is accompanied by an app, on which people can book musicians for concerts and other events. “ICONN is my live-streaming platform. Dope platform. ‘VIBES Concerts series’ is a series that I created to be on the platform. It’s sexy. It’s grown and sexy, hip hop, fly s**t,” Ja Rule says. “I wanted to bring back a nice vibe of us getting dressed up, going out to spots, dinner, drinks, artists performing with live bands. You know the whole vibe of that.”
5. On Irv Gotti falling out with Jennifer Lopez
Jennifer Lopez has worked with a number of famous names throughout the years, including Irv Gotti and Ja Rule. Even though the singer had a good professional relationship with the former, Irv’s comments regarding Lopez and Diddy during an interview with Elle Magazine permanently damaged their friendship, according to the producer. When asked if her 2001 song “I’m Real” was about Diddy, the multi-platinum singer denied it was. However, Irv told the inquiring reporter, “The b**ch is lying.” On “Drink Champs,” he reveals that Jennifer Lopez was unaccepting of his apology and admits he still regrets making those comments.
“I’m a total f**k up. I ruined the relationship with J. Lo. With J. Lo, it’s all my fault. J. Lo was nothing but a great friend and a great thing. She calls a magazine to get quotes from me,” Irv shares. “Benny Medina was like, ‘You’re going to be like the Quincy Jones of Michael Jackson.’ Understand the two records I did for J. Lo were monster No. 1’s all over the world. I f**ked it up, though.”
6. Irv Gotti on dating Ashanti and the moment she wanted to leave Murder Inc.
Because of its two most successful artists, Ja Rule and Ashanti, Irv Gotti’s Murder Inc. label was a major force back in the early 2000s. Irv and Ashanti were thought to be dating at the time, which the former confirmed in a 2019 Wendy Williams interview. Irv Gotti explains to N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN how their romance contributed to the success of her career. “It helped her,” he states.
Speaking on her departure, the famed producer shares, “My thing with Murder Inc., when she said, ‘I don’t want to do this no more,’ that s**t cut deep, n**ga. I put you the f**k on, I named you the princess … She said, ‘I don’t want to do it no more.’” N.O.R.E. interjects, stating that the producer’s federal charges could’ve spooked Ashanti into leaving.
7. Irv Gotti on beating federal charges for money laundering
After a two-year prosecution — in which the Gotti brothers were required to establish that their lucrative, multimillion-dollar record label was not a money-laundering scheme for Supreme Team’s Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff — the U.S. government exonerated Irv and Chris Gotti and Murder Inc. in 2005. After Irv sponsored a movie made by the Supreme Team commander, the record label was questioned about their relationship with McGriff. He explains why he didn’t plead guilty, as doing so would have meant McGriff was also guilty. He also claims Ashanti’s team was secretly hoping for him to be brought down, so she could leave the label.
“I’m quite sure that her people were telling her that this is a good thing for you. You’re the hottest R&B motherf**ker, Gotti’s going to go to jail, and you’re free. News flash, not guilty, b**ch,” Gotti shares. Elsewhere, he continues, “I gave [Supreme] $50,000, he didn’t give me no money. I did that to invest in the movie. I didn’t just do it, it’s other names that did it. I said, ‘Is that money laundering?’ They said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well, tell them n**gas suck my d**k.’”
8. Irv Gotti on his relationship with Lloyd falling apart after he appeared in a G-Unit music video
In 2009, a month after Ashanti’s departure, Lloyd revealed that he was quitting Murder Inc. to go independent. Though the singer cited the label’s roster growing increasingly smaller as his reason, Irv Gotti tells N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN that the issues began when Lloyd made a cameo in a G-Unit music video. “Everything was great with Lloyd until he was in the G-Unit video … It’s just certain things, and that’s when the bullsh** started with me and him,” the producer says.
On the topic of Lloyd’s departure, he went on to share, “I could’ve been a bad, bad man. Meaning, I’m on the label, you got a contract with me, Lloyd. You want to break out and go to Interscope. You got a deal on the table. I could’ve easily said, ‘Give me a million dollars and I’ll let you out of the contract.’” He adds, “I ain’t do that s**t, n**ga. I ain’t say, ‘You can go, but I need a check … $500,000 or something.’ I just let n**gas go. I let f**king Ashanti go. I could’ve been a monster to her. She only recorded four albums, I had three more to go.”
9. Irv Gotti on his comments regarding DMX’s death
DMX tragically passed away in 2021 at the age of 50, leaving a legacy behind as one of hip hop’s most influential figures. Many people, including “Drink Champs” alumni Swizz Beatz, took issue with Irv Gotti’s allegation that X died from an overdose of crack cocaine and fentanyl. Despite the fact that he extended an apology to both DMX and his ex-wife Tashera Simmons for commenting on the cause of death prior to the family receiving confirmation, Gotti stresses that it was a tremendous error on his part.
“Someone told me what happened and I stupidly said it. I don’t really regret that as much as the other things that I’ve done stupidly because X was never a faker or fronter. However he passed away, he would’ve been cool with his people and fans knowing. I could be wrong, all good,” he explains. Ja Rule interjects, “This situation, to me, it was personal. I felt it, and I called Gotti right after the whole s**t, and I said, ‘Yo, Gotti, what the f**k, my n**ga?’”