Early aughts hitmaker Ja Rule may be best known for his chart-topping collaborations with everyone from Jennifer Lopez to Fat Joe to (of course) Ashanti, but he likes to blow off steam much like the rest of us — finding sleeper picks for his fantasy team and settling in for a cozy afternoon with NFL Sunday Ticket.
That’s right, Ja is a diehard sports fan. A lifelong New Yorker, he pulls for the Giants — but he spoke with Billboard about his picks for the upcoming NFL season and his fantasy strategy, as well as a little about the non-football projects he’s working on right now.
You’re a Giants fan, right?
So has that been a lifelong thing for you?
Yeah, always a Giants fan. In New York — we’re kind of weird in New York, because we have several teams. How it breaks down is like, Yankees/Giants, and if you’re into the Mets, [it’s the] Jets. That’s kind of how it goes in New York.
I’m from Seattle originally, so I’m a Seahawks fan.
Uh oh, uh oh — y’all are gonna have a good season, you’re probably gonna make it back to the Bowl this year. I think you guys are going back.
Who’s your AFC prediction?
You know, I don’t know. I don’t think New England’s going to make it back — they’re kind of light on the wide receivers. That never really affected Tom Brady before, but… we’ll see.
I’ve seen a few people picking the [Baltimore] Ravens.
You know, I like the Ravens, but I don’t know. I’m not sold on Flacco as a quarterback. I’m not.
Do you think Flacco is an elite quarterback?
He’s borderline. You know? He was really good the season they won, but after that he was like, “F— it, I won, I’m cool.” He didn’t play with the same tenacity or ferociousness that he played with the season before. So I don’t know — I might not put him in that elite category. I don’t think I would put him in the elite category.
Who’s your favorite quarterback right now?
You know, that’s a two part question, because my favorite may not necessarily be the best.
True. Is your favorite Eli Manning?
Hell no! But I do love Eli — I do love Eli because he won us two championships, and I do feel Eli’s an elite quarterback. Here’s why I’m going to say I feel he’s an elite quarterback: he comes through in the clutch and for me that’s big.
He may not be like his brother [Peyton Manning], the best regular season quarterback with all the stats and all that, but when it comes time for the playoffs and the big games, he shows up. For me that’s bigger than being the regular season greatest quarterback ever. Peyton kind of doesn’t show up in the big moments, so…
And who’s your pick for the best quarterback out right now?
Hmmm… I would probably go with Aaron Rodgers, I think he’s the most consistent. Even though he doesn’t have the championships under his belt, obviously. I think he’s the best quarterback on the field, when he’s healthy — his arm is incredible.
Have you always followed football really intensely?
All sports — I’m a sports fanatic. I love all sports, from basketball to golf to tennis. I watch everything.
Do you play fantasy or bet on sports?
Absolutely! I play fantasy. I’m not doing the season leagues this year — I’m going straight to DraftKings and FanDuel this year. It becomes a headache when your guys get hurt, and you’ve gotta switch a guy, make a trade — I travel and work a lot, so this is how guys take advantage of me in my league. They know if I’m overseas, I can’t check my team — they take advantage of me in the long leagues.
But the daily leagues — I’m a problem. They don’t want no problems with me.
So this weekend you’re going to be playing?
I’m going to do a fan league too — I’m doing DraftKings. I’m going to start off slow, a little $5 tournament for the fans and see how they like it, if they want to join in and play. As the league progresses, I’ll go up in money and go up in numbers of people I’ll let play.
It’ll be fun. Try to win my money, guys. I had a pretty good season last year — I’m up like $6,000 from last year. But I played FanDuel last year, I didn’t play DraftKings.
It’s really fun. Sometimes too much fun.
It’s really fun. See, I’m a gambler — I used to gamble really heavy and it was getting really bad. My wife wanted to kill me all the time for gambling enormous amounts of money. I get my fix off of FanDuel. I don’t have to go heavy — I play in the $25 tournaments, really light.
Not that much on the line.
But the upside is good! If I hit a good week, I’m gonna win some real money! So that for me, as a gambler, that’s fun for me. It’s almost like playing slot machines (which I never do). For me, the upside to it is cool.
I do my leagues with my friends, where we play for real money. We’ll play for a hundred or whatever, and there will be like 10 of us. That’s fun too — the stakes are a little better and I could take home some good money every week off of them [laughs].
How are you feeling about the Giants this season?
You know, I feel alright. I’m a little nervous. Our offensive line is not that great. But we do have [Odell] Beckham, Jr. and Victor Cruz. Cruz is coming back off of injury — he’s injured right now, I don’t know if he’s going to play Sunday. He might. Beckham, Jr.’s going to have a big season, believe that.
But also, you never know — now he’s on the radar, teams are going to double him up. I think Victor Cruz might have a better season, because he’s going to be open for more passes, and in a lot more one-on-one situations. We’ll see.
What do you think their record is going to be?
Man, it’s hard to tell with the Giants. It all depends on their schedule, if they have a tough schedule or a light schedule. We might be able to skate through and get in the playoffs, but we’ll see. Our division is not that strong — actually, I’m not going to say that, because the Eagles look good, Dallas is looking good … Washington is not looking too good. But you never know! With them benching [Robert Griffin, III]…
Kirk Cousins though?
He’s a manage-the-team quarterback. He can sling the ball, he’s not going to try to do anything crazy — he’s just going to manage the offense, which is probably the best thing for them. So we’ll see.
See this is where you win big — when you have your early season theories and predictions of what could happen, and you pick the sleeper guy that breaks out and has the big week — that’s what I always look for, because that’s the win. You need one sleeper dude every week that’s going to break out and have a big week — then you have a chance to win the big money.
With daily fantasy, everybody has the same pool of players to pick from. So you know all the popular players are going to get picked — you gotta find a sleeper! You’ve gotta find the guy that not too many people are picking, who’s going to have a big breakout day, and then you might get lucky to win the big money.
Who’s your sleeper pick for this week?
I’m still contemplating on that… but I’m going tell you who I’m picking right now, on all my teams, who I think is going to be the guy. I’m going with [Andre] Johnson. He just got traded to the Colts and I think Andrew Luck is going to pick teams apart with him. [Johnson’s] a big receiver — he was dope with the Texans, but they didn’t have Andrew Luck. He’s in a better system — a big passing system — so let’s see what happens.
He’s my sleeper this week — but he might not be that much of a sleeper, a lot of people are thinking the same thing. He’s not really, really a sleeper — we’ve gotta dig a little deeper than that to get a real sleeper.
Do you go to games often?
I go sometimes, but I’m not gonna lie to you — football games I would rather watch at home. They’re fun to watch at home. You can relax. I have [NFL] Sunday Ticket, I can watch three different games at once and all that — I’m very content with being at home watching the games. You can’t see everything when you’re there.
Outside of the football stuff, are you working on any new music right now?
I’m always working on new music — working on my new album now. I’m not in a rush to put it out, I’ll probably put it out early next year, mid-next year.
I have a few other things that I’m working on right now. I like to focus on one thing at a time, not doing too many things at once — you know, “jack of all trades, master of none” type of situation.
Right now I’m doing some film and TV things — I have my new TV show coming out with MTV. October 26 we air, 10 p.m. on Monday nights. I’m focusing on getting that out there, doing a lot of promotion. My shoe line I just launched with Steve Madden, I’m giving that a lot of attention right now. And I start shooting my new film next month.
After that, I’ll go back in the studio and give that my full attention.
Have you started talking with anyone about working together on the album?
Absolutely. I want this to be very tightly under wraps, though. I think people enjoy when they feel like they discovered something, that wasn’t talked about or promoted.
For me, the world is so different now from when I released my first album in 1999. We lived in a “push” world, where everything was promoted — pushed to the consumer. Now we live in a pull world — I don’t need you to promote to me, I can go on the Internet and find whatever the f— it is that I want. I think people enjoy that, more so than being promoted products.
There will be some good [collaborations] though. The album is called Genius Loves Company, if that’s any hint of what it’s going to be like.
You recently tweeted that Wikipedia had your height wrong, and it kind of went viral. How did you find that out?
My fans, they’re really funny. One of them hit me on the side, and said, “Ja, your Wikipedia is wrong.” I was like, “What are you talking about?” and they tell me that the height says 5′ 6″. I go and look, and it was like — this is crazy, that Wikipedia can just put anything up that they want. People make up anything they want… there’s probably so much crazy shit on my Wikipedia.
It was all in fun, me just messing with Wikipedia. Got some good press, I guess, off of that.
Is it fixed now [at press time, his height did not appear on his Wikipedia page]?
Probably not. I’m probably 4′ 6″ now on there. 4′ 2″. But who cares, it’s all in fun. I think a big misconception of who I am is that people think I’m so serious and I get mad when I see these things — people think, “Oh, it’s Murda [Inc.], and Ja is this crazy guy.”
But I’m really a fun dude, and people who know me know I like to have fun. I clown on people all the time. That’s what we do — from when I was young, that was our thing, we’d be on the block talking shit about each other, killing each other everyday with jokes. I’m a good jokester, and I like to have fun and be crazy with it. I think that’s a misconception, that when people think about Ja Rule they think that I take myself too seriously. I really don’t — I like to have fun with it.