Excerpted for Billboard.com.
Will Smith may be "Mr. July," but in a few weeks Ja Rule may be dubbed "Mr. November." With the Nov. 19 release of his fourth Murder Inc./Def Jam set, "The Last Temptation," and the Nov. 15 debut of his first starring role in Sony Pictures' "Half Past Dead," Ja Rule could follow in the footsteps of collaborator Jennifer Lopez and become the second musician/actor to top the charts and the box office in the same week.
"The movie comes out four days before [the album's] release, so that will put him in a new light in the public's eye," Def Jam/Def Soul head of marketing Deidre Graham says. "He's going to be introduced to a new audience with this movie; [co-star] Steven Seagal alone brings a different consumer to the table."
In addition to his on-screen exposure, Ja Rule is also attracting attention on the airwaves with lead single "Thug Lovin," which features Bobby Brown. Ironically, the idea for the single came from Brown's own film career. "I was sitting at home watching 'A Thin Line Between Love and Hate,' and [Stevie Wonder's "Knocks Me off My Feet"] comes on," says Ja Rule. "I started getting this idea for a hook, and there on the screen appears my man Bob -- it was perfect!"
Having issued four multi-platinum albums in as many years-with the last two debuting at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 -- Ja Rule is a franchise artist. And Def Jam has crafted a marketing campaign worthy of his stature. "Ja has achieved a lot of accolades, and now our goal is to get him a Grammy," Graham says. "We want to put him in that popular setting. He needs to be in that Grammy world. He consistently sells records, as well as having written hits for Jennifer Lopez and Mary J. Blige. Now it's his time."
Ja Rule will be featured as the Yahoo artist of the month for November, while "The Last Temptation" will be featured on bet.com's Get It First page. The rapper will also appear on a host of TV programs throughout November, including "Saturday Night Live," BET's "Access Granted," MTV's "Spanking New Music Week," a live "Total Request Live" performance with Bobby Brown, and "106 & Park."
Murder Inc. CEO Irv Gotti believes that like his previous albums, "The Last Temptation" will mark the next step in Ja Rule's career. "'Venni Vetti Vecci' sold 2 million worldwide, 'Rule 3:36' sold 4 million worldwide, and 'Pain Is Love' sold 6 million worldwide, so I'll take 8 [million]," Gotti says with a laugh. "All jokes aside, this album is humongous."
Ja Rule recently wrapped a brief European tour with Ashanti that testified to his star power overseas. "It was a nine-day tour, and we sold out everywhere with 10,000 people or more," Gotti says of the jaunt, which included stops in London; Manchester, England; and Amsterdam. He's scheduled to return to Europe later this month to promote the album, which will be released Nov. 18 there.
According to Gotti, there are also plans for a worldwide Murder Inc. tour featuring Ja Rule, Nas, Ashanti, Charli Baltimore, and Fat Joe, beginning in early 2003.
Excerpted from the Nov. 9, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.
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