2017 Is In Need Of An Official Murder Inc. Reunion Tour

Can Irv Gotti please get this going for us?

At the tender age of 11, I was a peak Ja Rule and Murder Inc. fanatic. When he was spitting that spine tingling intro from his most successful album Pain is Love at the 2001 Source Awards, that was the specific moment where he became one of the all-time rap greats in my eyes.

During a recent scan of my Instagram feed, I randomly discovered that the legendary producer/CEO Irv Gotti is planning to relaunch the prolific Murder Inc. Records., and to be candidly honest, I had a few mixed emotions, opinions, and a lot of questions about it. Like is the label's flagship artist Ja Rule going to be a part of it? Would other mainstays like Ashanti and Lloyd give join the blessings? Is Chris Gotti going be the A&R? On foe ‘nem, I still have plenty of questions about this!

READ: Irv Gotti Announces Relaunch of Murda Inc. Records

But more than anything, that classic Murder Inc. logo posted with the announcement reminded me of the cultural significance and impact that the label had on modern black music. The INC’s influence was so strong during its heyday, much of which is still felt to this very day. I mean, between 2000 and 2002 how many rap labels can you name that dominated both hip-hop and R&B with an iron fist whose CEO wasn’t named Sean Combs? Exactly.

And speaking of Puff, with the success of the epic Bad Boy Reunion Tour, the craving for black music nostalgia is at an all-time high. If Irv Gotti really brought The INC back, fans would be crying to for the original squad to come back like Voltron. For those who followed the notorious label over the years it's what they deserve: an official Murder Inc. reunion tour.

Especially with their peers like the Ruff Ryders touring again, it would practically be a crime if Ja and company didn’t get together for at least one last hurrah. Granted, we may have seen Ja Rule, Lloyd, and/or Ashanti together again for performances every now and then, but there’s so much more that folks need to experience once again. Hell, out of every major label or clique that existed at the time, including Ruff Ryders, Bad Boy, So-So Def, Roc-A-Fella, No Limit, and Cash Money, they may be the only ones who have yet had an official reunion.

For all of you younger millennials out there, I’m gonna bring briefly bring you up to speed with this one, so bear with me, because it's story time. Long before Ja Rule's Fyre Festival disaster, he was the one of the top dogs of the business. His career trajectory started skyrocketing in ’98 when he went from being a member of the Cash Money Click to standing alongside Jay-Z and one time arch nemesis turned ally DMX as part of the fabled super-group "Murdagram" --- to then evolve into a superstar in his own right as Gotti’s flagship artist for the INC. Not to mention the fact that Ja in his prime was a heavy-handed, nimble lyricist in the streets and a gravel voiced, passionate lover when he “sung."

After the success of his debut album, Venni, Vetti, Vecci, Murder Inc. became bigger and better as they brought along more talented artists like his lyrical henchmen Cadillac Tah and Black Child, the underrated female rhyme slayers Vita and Charlie Baltimore and much later, broke ground in R&B as they gave us their beautiful crown jewel Ashanti and in their later years, introduced us to Atlanta crooner Lloyd. And with that came tons of memorable Hip-Hop and R&B hit records, platinum albums that included The Fast & The Furious soundtrack, and essentially being “the Death Row Records” of New York for all its huge success and controversy.

Unfortunately, it all came crumbling down after 2003 for two major reason. One was due to the FBI’s accusations of Irv and Chris Gotti (real name Irving and Chris Lorenzo) laundering money for incarcerated former drug lord Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff which led to a four-year investigation that significantly crippled both the label and the brothers.

The other was due to the unprecedented ascension of a fellow rapper Queens who survived being riddled with bullets and left for dead, only to return with a vengeance… literally. Yes, 50 Cent, who kicked off ’03 with the release of his magnum opus, Get Rich or Die Trying, violently snatched NYC away from anyone and everyone who wasn’t named Shawn Carter at the time. Fif’s dominance and their blood feud in the streets lead to one of the most heated and ugliest rap beefs since Tupac and Biggie. I vividly remember being 13 at the time when things spiraled out of control to the point where The Honorable Louis Farrakhan was summoned to help squash it. His relentless assault combined with Ja having to serve a two-year sentence for a gun charge proceeding that had permanently marred his rap career to the point where fans, artists, and executives alike turned their back on him for a very long time.

WATCH: Interview: Ja Rule And Irv Gotti Are Working On A TV Show About Murda Inc.

Fast forward to 2017, where up until the infamous festival, Ja Rule has maintained some renewed success outside of music. Meanwhile, Irv and Chris Gotti slowly climbed their way back to the top with the forthcoming Tales series and Add Ventures Music --- respectively. Given that the climate has long since changed and so many artists have all been influenced by Murder Inc. (whether they would admit it or not), it's time that the label get it together for a full-fledged reunion tour.

It’s a practical idea given the fact that Irv Gotti is plotting to breathe new life into the defunct label. There would be so many opportunities along with it such as introducing fans to the new artists they intend to push and to show who would take Ja’s old role as the franchise player. But more importantly, it would re-introduce The INC’s glorious history to a brand new generation of fans like the Bad Boy and Ruff Ryders reunions tours.

Now, of course it would be lit to see Ja and Ashanti perform their classic duets like “Always on Time” and “Mesmerize” along with their solo hits like “Holla Holla” and “Happy." However, consider the full extent of all their hits and collaborations. Lloyd’s solo set alone would be insane as it would (hopefully) include the likes of Scarface, Lil Wayne, and dare I say Andre 3000. Ashanti’s solo set would be amazing as well when you think about the memorable hits she contributed to during her career. It would be loaded with timeless melodies such as “Movies”, “Rain on Me”, “Only You”, “Rock With U”, and like I mentioned earlier her many duets with Ja Rule.

READ: Ashanti Reflects On Her Record-Breaking Debut Album

But hold on, it gets even more epic from there. Ja Rule has made some star studded history over the years with the likes of—get ready-- The Game, Lil Wayne, Case, KXNG Crooked, Fat Joe, Christina Milan, R.Kelly, and Nas, Method Man, Jennifer Lopez, Bobby Brown, N.O.R.E., Jadakiss, Mary J. Blige, and Birdman. That’s damn near a mini music festival within itself! I guarantee you that tour would rock both Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center when Ja is able to perform his features like J.Lo’s “I’m Real” and “Ain’t it Funny” remixes, Fat Joe and Ashanti’s “What’s Love”, his collabo with Nas and Ashanti, “The Pledge”, and I could go on and on. And I sh** you not that if Joey Crack and Jada get together to perform "New York", there will be an earthquake in NYC! It would that epic.

Although their prime was not as lengthy as Cash Money Records or Bad Boy, Murder Inc. Records is equally one of the most important rap labels in the grand scheme of the culture and it deserves to be appreciated again. Ja Rule helped lay down the foundation many of the singing rappers follow today.

Murder Inc., despite all its controversy and backlash, managed to permanently make a positive musical impact on black music through its long roster of hits. They were one of the best crews to have ever done it, and if they finally give us that reunion tour, the world will be reminded of thee greatness.


My Niggas!! Murder Inc The Group. #immortals

A post shared by Irv "Gotti" Lorenzo (@irvgotti187) on

“When the gun blows/And the shots fall/And the smoke clears/We’ll be right here/Screaming Murda/Know its Murda/We’ll be right here.”

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VIBE: Can you give us a rundown on how you selected these artists?

Pusha-T: It was a vetting process between us and 1800. I would look for guys that were a strong lyricist, guys who're into melody. Just, you know, small followings, but I thought they were dope.

That’s interesting because in this era of music people focus on the people with the massive followings on social media.

You know, you got to think, if it’s too big then it’s not really special to see it in this process.

Very true. Your music has pretty much always stayed true to your sound and brand. So did you find it challenging to work with this pool of new artists that follow so many of the new trends in hip-hop?

Nah, I think that this is part of my calling and how I’m supposed to mature in the music business. Man, I’m performing in front of 18 to 45 [years old] every night, and it trips me out to see the people get hype over “Grinding” and the people that just know me since 2013. But you know, with that being said, I think I have my hand on the pulse, on what’s going on musically out here. I’ve learned how to enjoy it. I enjoy all types of rap. People will listen to my raps and listen to my music and be like, “aww man, he ain’t going to rock with me.” And really, I do. I enjoy it. I mean, how could you not? To be in it like this, how could I not find appreciation in everything that’s going on?

The way you answered my last question seems like you’re considering retirement or at least exploring what that looks like. But you’re right in the thick of it all, so that’s very interesting.

Yeah, man. I don’t think lyric-driven hip-hop goes out of style. I think that stays around forever, and then I feel like you retire when you’re out of the mix of it and out of the culture and lifestyle of it. When you start not caring about hip-hop aesthetics and just being first and competing, then you supposed to be like, alright cool, I’m out. But until then, I still know what’s fresh to put on and so on and so forth.

One of the biggest differences between vets and new artists is the communities they live in and the things they witness as youth. Did you see some of those differences reflected in their music while working with them?

Yeah. As a veteran artist, I was speaking about what was going on outside at that very moment. I think the newer artists are more introspective. They’re more about themselves and trying to convey messages from their heart. They’re trying to sell you on them, whether they want to party [or] they’re heartbroken. It’s not so much looking out the project window and saying what’s going on. It’s like, I don’t even want to go outside. I’m in my room, and y'all don’t even know I’m writing and I’m going to show y’all one day. It’s all about that.

That seems kind of overwhelming or can come on too strong at times, no?

Nah. As a writer, you dial in on things… You know when somebody says something in a song like, “oh you meant that.” Or you were so intricate with the description of that, you had to get that off. So that’s a score as a writer, me listening to somebody like that. That’s a good thing.

What’s the greatest lesson that you have given this new generation?

I think the greatest lesson for me and the position I’m in right now is opening up these corporate opportunities. They do everything themselves. They’re shooting their own videos, recording themselves. They’re writing, producing, and recording themselves. They’re damn near engineering. One of the girls, [Nita Jonez], she was like, “Yeah, I just be knocking little stuff out while I’m at the crib.” I’m like, I don’t even do that. I don’t even know how to finesse all that. But they’re so self-sufficient. Only thing I could try to do is just package it for them the best way possible. They all got dreams of being huge. A lot of that has to do with the art and what they’re doing, but how it’s presented [as well]. And that’s what I try to show 'em and teach and help 'em with.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from them?

Man, there are just absolutely no rules. No rules at all. They’re such free spirits. They don’t even record how I do. I come in a with a new notepad, pen, and I write like that. I have to see it. It helps me memorize it. They come in and run straight to the mic and just be who they are. And they find themselves through it all. Not everybody; there were some other writers in there, like, Hass and Tyler. Tyler [is] so good at it. It comes out just that precise or damn near close. And then he’ll go and chop it up, make it right a little bit. But they just have that unorthodox attack in the studio. I’m more like, I want to sit down, chill… I don’t even like being in the studio that long. I probably write at home, then I’ll come here and figure out the rest. It’s a very formatted type of thing. And some of the spontaneity and some of the energy probably gets lost in my way because they come in and vibe immediately. Things that may just happen on the spur of the moment, they catch it. When I come in, it’s just all there. Either I’ve written it already or I’m writing it and that’s just what it is. I may lose an adlib. I may lose something that’s quirky in a song that just happens that probably won’t happen for me, but they’ll catch every time.

Do you think there’s a way to balance that incorporates both of those worlds – yours and theirs – to make that ideal way to create?

Well, I think it would have to come from practice. Certain people learn a certain way. Honestly, there’s no difference in what they do than what Jay-Z does. He just practices so much that way that his mind works and processes things really fast. And you know, he’s just really confident in not seeing anything and catching the vibe and going at it. Theirs is just unorthodox. It’s the same thing though. And then as they do it more and better, it’ll get more concise.

In any field, with mentorship there’s only so much you’re willing to take from your mentor before you’re ready to do it yourself. Who were your mentors, and what were some of the things you did and didn’t take from them?

From afar, it would have to be Teddy Riley. Him moving to the area, Virginia Beach, where I’m from – him alone was like wait a minute, music is a real thing. Oh man, there’s a Ferrari down my street. I can’t believe this. I’m seeing Jay-Z’s here. Michael Jackson’s in Virginia Beach for what? You know, shooting a video, all of these things that happened, let me know that this is a real thing and not just for the people on TV. Now in arm’s reach, you got Pharrell and Chad. You got my brother [Malice] who taught me how to write. He actually taught me that MC Hammer wasn’t a rapper when I thought he was. Pharrell literally taught me how to count bars. It’s just been so many lessons between those guys; they taught me everything. They taught me to look at a song, try to see it the whole way through and not just get up and write for the sake of writing. Pharrell always told me, “you may not have something to say today.” Like if I get stuck, “It’s fine. You’ll get to it. We’ll find it another day.” Never force it though.

There’s a huge divide in the genre as far as rookies vs. vets go. This project is so good because it’s paying it forward. Do you think that’s both a necessary and important part of the culture that needs to be restored?

Yes. Well, no. You know what? It’s not for everyone. It’s not for everybody to do. Some people are so stuck in their heyday that they can’t even see what’s going on outside. Everybody that I’ve ever liked in rap music, I probably have had a longer career than all of them. Like whoever I thought was the greatest in my time, I be like, bro, wait a minute they only have five years, five albums? What? When I really think about it, it’s because they all got stuck in their heyday. And that was a hell of a time. The greatest of all great raps, but you know, they couldn’t see any further than that. And when something new came up, they was like, “Yeah, but y’all don’t like us because we…” They just start getting washed and their jeans start fitting differently and they pick the wrong size. They just get stuck in that time period and before you know it, it’s skinny jean time and they got on fucking size 42s and they weigh a buck 50 and they look crazy. And it’s wrong because you get stuck because you don’t embrace and try to help and learn from what’s coming in next. And you should. This is music. You can never stop learning. You have to continuously learn with this forever. It’s just what it is until you just say I’m done. It’s not for everybody man. If you’re not trying to push hip-hop forward, then no, you’re going to be washed and you should be. You should be. I think it’s corny. This is the youngest genre of music. The youngest, most powerful, most influential. We should not be at a point where the elders are knocking the rookies. It’s corny. That’s an effort to stunt the growth of the genre. And that is just totally wrong, 100 percent.

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