The Rise, Fall and Return of Irv Gotti’s Murder Inc.
Murder Inc. is making a comeback! The powerhouse label had an impressive run during the early 2000s with No. 1 hits from Ja Rule and Ashanti. The CEO and founder Irving “Irv Gotti” Lorenzo recently announced that he’s launching the label’s very first tour.
Last week, Irv went on Instagram and shared a photo of himself, Ja Rule and his business partner. In the caption he wrote:
“Ahh Man. 2019. Do Me and [Ja] have something for all our loyal Murder Inc Fans. Do y’all realize we never did a MURDER INC TOUR. Like everyone performed in Arenas all day. With Radio Shows. But never did Murder Inc Tour on [their] own.
I got something for my young audience too. Never forget y’all. Me and Rule leaving my guy Omar. And also shout out to my man Michael Rapino. Both at @livenation JUNE 1, 2019. All My Murderers!! Save the Date. The anarchy will begin. Oh. We putting it together. Excited!!”
While Irv hasn’t confirmed who would be performing on the upcoming tour, the news comes after Ja Rule and Ashanti recently announced their plans to record a duet album.
If this trek comes to fruition, like Diddy's Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour in 2016, this won't be just a concert, it would be a moment in hip-hop and R&B history.
Murder Inc. Records was the brainchild of Irv and his brother Chris Lorenzo.
A native of Queens, N.Y., Irv was already a brash A&R man at Def Jam with previous experience as a touring DJ for JAY-Z (pre-Roc-A-Fella Records days) and later producing Mic Geronimo's breakthrough hit “Shit’s Real” in 1994. Irv even helped craft a posse track "Time to Build" featuring Mic, a then-unknown DMX, Ja Rule and JAY-Z, which was regarded as the first Murder Inc. collaboration. He would eventually bring DMX and Ja Rule to Def Jam and the rest, as they say, is history.
In 1997, Def Jam awarded Irv $3 million to launch his own label Murder Inc. Records. In 1999, Ja Rule, the label's flagship artist, released his debut album, Venni Vetti Vecci, which garnered the hit single, "Holla Holla." From 1999 to 2005, Ja Rule had an impressive run in rap music garnering hits like "Put It on Me," "Always on Time" "Down Ass Chick," "Livin' It Up" and "Mesmerize" with Ashanti.
Meanwhile, Ashanti was smashing Billboard records with her self-titled debut album in 2002. The collection sold over 500,000 copies in the first week of release and earned her a Grammy Award in 2003 for Best Contemporary R&B Album. She would release three more albums under Murder Inc., before leaving in May 2009 after the relationship "ran its course," according to Irv.
But the hits weren’t only reserved for the artists on the label, Murder Inc. also produced chart-topping hits for Jennifer Lopez ("It Ain't Funny" Remix), Fat Joe ("What's Luv"), Mary J. Blige ("Rainy Dayz") and others. Irv was also filling his roster with next-in-line superstars like Lloyd, Charli Baltimore, Vita, Black Child, Cadillac Tah and more. He even had R&B veteran Bobby Brown on his label for a short period.
By 2002, Murder Inc. brought hip-hop to corporate America and had the credibility, the finance and the chart dominance to match. However, along with the success came a few roadblocks.
Rap rival 50 Cent, reportedly upset about Ja's success, was plotting his hostile takeover of rap with his debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin'. Their feud would reach a fever pitch after Ja confronted 50 in a hotel lobby in Atlanta. According to Ja's memoir, Unruly: The Highs and Lows of Becoming a Man, 50 swung first; Ja dodged and began to beat him back with a toy bat. "Bam! I dropped the bat. I pulled the shirt over his head. I started catching him left, right, uppercut... We proceeded to whip his ass."
Then in that same year, Ja recalls a recording studio attack at the Hit Factory in New York against 50 Cent where he was allegedly stabbed. "I hit him with the crutch. We proceeded to whip his ass. I was putting in my work. 50 was crunched in the corner. I slammed the big Tannoy speaker down on him," he said.
Despite their feud, 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin' caused a musical shift in rap that Ja Rule couldn't adapt to. Upon hearing Fif's "In da Club," Irv knew it would be hard to compete with that. “That record was so dope. I looked at Rule. I said, ‘Yo, we have a major problem.’ We took the L.”
When Ja was at his peak, rap beef wasn't a thing that he had worried about. But now, he was having a difficult time capturing the fans' attention who was no longer listening to his sing-songy raps. It left the "Between Me and You" rapper extremely frustrated at the time.
"A lot of people think I was angry at the fans. But I wasn’t as much as angry as I was hurt," he told Angie Martinez in a 2013 interview. "I did a lot for my fans. I really love my fans. It was really a weird time for me and out of that came the anger and then I went into a dark place and everything was dark for me. Everything I wanted to do was just angry. It wasn’t fun anymore.”
Then on Jan. 3, 2003, the investigative task force, made up of members of six federal agencies and the NYPD, raided Murder Inc. offices and confiscated computers and documents looking for evidence of money-laundering against Irv Gotti. They also raided Chris' home in upstate New York as well. Authorities believed Irv was receiving illicit funds from now-incarcerated drug kingpin Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff and was funneling drug money through their company. While Irv admitted that McGriff is a dear friend of his, he denied the feds’ allegations of being involved in criminal activities.
The feds' investigation marked the decline of Murder Inc. Following the raid, album sales starting plummeting and they reluctantly dropped the "murder" moniker and renamed their label The Inc. Records. On December 2, 2005, after two years of hell and a month-long jury trial, Irv and Chris Gotti were found not guilty of money laundering.
"All I'm gonna say is with me they (the feds) had it wrong. They need to understand hip-hop more," Irv told MTV News weeks after the trial. "They investigated me, and I hope they see they got it wrong and I didn't do anything wrong. Let me go back to being a great earner. I'll pay my taxes, just leave me alone."
By this time all the artists on his roster have defected from the label, except for Ja Rule, who remains his most loyal friend.
In 2017, Irv announced that Murder Inc. is back under a new partnership with 300 Entertainment. His two new signees are rapper Boogiie Byrd from Washington, D.C., and rap duo Fitted Circle from St. Louis. "My acts Boogiie Byrd and Fitted Circle are going be the next superstars to come out under Murder Inc.," he said. "The sky is the limit with me and 300."
Watch Lloyd's "Get it Shawty."
Watch Ja Rule's "Mesmerize" featuring Ashanti.