Irv Gotti Explains How Jay Z, DMX and Ja Rule Got Their Record Deals
Irv Gotti has an illustrious history in the hip-hop game, with stratospheric highs and basement-level lows through a career at Def Jam and as the chieftain of Murder Inc. Records, the label behind the massive success of Ja Rule and Ashanti in the late-1990s and early-2000s. Lately, the hip-hop mogul has been active on Instagram, penning long, extended captions on the likes of Straight Outta Compton, Empire, Iggy Azalea, Nicki Minaj, Miley Cyrus, DMX, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift and many, many more. But this morning, Gotti took to his Instagram to unleash a stream of extended Instagram captions on old school photos of Jigga, X, Ja and Ashanti, among others, unearthing some gems from the early days of Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam, the Ruff Ryders and more. Check out some of the more pertinent excerpts below [slightly edited for clarity; caps his] and read through for the full, unedited Instagram run further down.
On Helping Roc-A-Fella's Early Days:
"Then Jay brought [Dame Dash] and Biggs to the studio [and] said they was his partners at Rocafella and asked me to help them. This was in 1995. Reasonable Doubt was made. I brought 'Ain't No Nigga' to Funkmaster Flex and introduced [them] and told my guy Flex that Rocafella was the movement and Jay, Dame and Biggs is a different crew. Flex played that record crazy that night. The rest is HISTORY. "
On Bringing Ruff Ryders to Def Jam:
"I immediately take Lyor [Cohen], Kevin Liles and my nigga Dame [Dash] up to Yonkers where Lyor can see for himself how special X is. Ruff Ryder's Studio in Yonkers. It was packed. A true HIP HOP moment. The Lox, Drag On, everyone up there. Knowing Gotti is bringing Lyor Cohen to Yonkers, they all spit. DMX with his jaws WIRED shut closed the show like only HE can. Destroyed it. We leave the studio, Lyor is giddy with excitement. His exact words to me: "WE HAVE THE PICK OF THE LITTER" hahaha. X gets signed. We make "Get At Me Dog" and his Dark and Hell Is Hot album. I give "Get At Me Dog" to Flex and explain exactly who DMX and Ruff Ryders is. Flex plays "Get At Me Dog" like a million times. DMX AND RUFF RYDERS IS BORN."
On Building Murder Inc:
"We go to L.A. We rent a mansion in Hollywood Hills and we make Rule 3:36. We go for a sound that is RADIO-DRIVEN. FEMALE FRIENDLY-DRIVEN. ALL THE WHILE JA IS STILL SPITTING AND BEING THAT RAW NIGGA. SO MAKE RECORDS THAT FEMALES WILL LOVE, BUT DO IT FROM A THUG PERSONA. This is the vision. It fucking worked. A whole MURDER INC SOUND WAS CREATED. Me, @lilrizzy and fucking RULE CREATED A SOUND THAT NIGGAS IS STILL USING TIL THIS DAY!! To me, personally, it was my biggest accomplishment taking Rule and MURDER INC to the top of the game. Because I had to think harder because I helped Jay and X, and they was in the way. So I had to think creatively what to do."
On Meeting Ashanti:
"Then I met Ashanti through a mutual friend. She comes to my office at Murder Inc. I tell her I'm busy making Ja's album and working on X And Jay so I don't have time for her. I tell her that if she wants, she can come to the studio and learn and be around it and if I think of something for her, maybe she can do something. To my surprise, she took that invite and was in the crack house studio like every day. At first, I wouldn't pay her any attention. We was making Pain is Love with my new producer 7. We was them NIGGAS and on fire. After a few months of her being at the studio all the time, I started talking to her and vibing with her and our chemistry was growing. So I put her on the Big Pun record I did. Then when we made "I'm Real" for J. Lo, which was crazy... I wanted J. Lo on a Nigga-sounding record that niggas would play. Hahah. Ashanti referenced that record. She was begging me to keep that record for her."
IrvGotti187: I met Jay Z in 1987. We went to London With Jaz. While Jaz was making his album. Me and Jay ran around London together. I knew he was different and special from then. I met DMX a year later in 1988. Also met @the_general_dee and his brother Waah. They said they was forming a company called Ruff Ryders. I convinced Waah to buy me a drum machine and I would produce records for @DMX. 1st time I heard X rhyme. Blew me away. His energy. And rawness. Knew he was different and special. Then I meet @ruleyorkcity in like 1993. Met him through Chris Black. Who was a straight hustler. Rule was part of his group Cash Money Click with O1 being the 3rd member of the group. Soon as I met Ja. And heard him spit. He immediately stood out from the pack. We would become like brothers. And I would take Ja everywhere with me. To Yonkers. To fuck with X and Ruff Ryders. And to fuck with Jay whenever I could. Jay was knee deep in the drug game during those times. And was not a small time hustler. Rap was his HUSTLE. I always felt different because I knew when I met these 3. That they all was special. We struggled together for all those years. All trying to get on. With lil success. I stayed fucking with all of them. Putting out a record with X at Sony. Record with Ja and CMC at Blunt Records. And then Jay brought @duskopoppington and Biggs to the studio. Said they was his partners at Rocafella. And asked me to help them. This was in 1995. Reasonable Doubt was made. I brought Ain't No Nigga to Funkmaster Flex. And introduced and told my guy Flex that Rocafella was the movement. And Jay. Dame. And Biggs is a different crew. Flex played that record crazy that night. The rest is HISTORY. Through my involvement with Rocafella. Lyor Cohen hires me to be at Def Jam. My very 1st Mtg I tell them. I WANNA SIGN DMX. They laugh at me. Thinking my ambition was funny. After a few months. I quit def jam. Said yall are corny. And I will take my chances in the streets. Because they wasn't listening to me and me wanting to sign X. Lyor calls me. And tells me to come back. When I do he tells the A&R department of James Jones and Tina Davis. That I am to answer to him and Kevin Liles only. Part I
IrvGotti187: Part II. I immediately take Lyor. Kevin Liles. And my nigga Dame. Up to Yonkers. Where Lyor can see for himself how special X is. Ruff Ryder's Studio in YONKERS. it was packed. A true HIP HOP moment. The Lox. Drag On. Everyone up there. Knowing Gotti is bringing Lyor Cohen to Yonkers. They all spit. DMX. With his jaws WIRED shut. Closed the show. Like only HE can. Destroyed it. We leave the studio. Lyor is giddy with excitement. His exact words to me. "WE HAVE THE PICK OF THE LITTER" hahaha. X gets signed. We make Get at Me Dog and his Dark and Hell Is Hot Album. I give Get at Me Dog to Flex. And explain exactly who DMX and Ruff Ryders Is. Flex plays get at me dog like a Million Times. DMX AND RUFF RYDERS IS BORN. And basically SAVES AND RESSURRECTS A COMPANY CALLED DEF JAM!! Now at this time. JA IS TRAPPED AT BLUNT. Which was why he was he was last to get on majorly. All the while. We are trying to figure out. How to get him away from Steve Gottlieb and the prison of BLUNT. So at this point. Lyor is riding with me heavy. I am the golden child at Def Jam. And Lyor helps me get Ja out and sign him to Def Jam. Then something I didn't expect to happen. Happens. DAVID MCPHERSON. Wants to meet with me. He is a top exec at Sony. He says he wants to meet so I can produce for him. When we meet he says fuck that. I see what you are doing over there at def jam with Jay and X. And I am here on behalf of Tommy Mottola. And I wanna offer you a label deal. They put millions on the table and a Joint Venture deal. 50/50 partnership. Lyor is fucking pissed. Why? At the time I am doing all these massive things for def jam. I am getting jerked. 60K a year. Hahah. NO FUCKING BONUSES OR ANYTHING. Forces Lyors hand. When I got to Def Jam. Poly gram was gonna FIRE Lyor and Russell. And take Def Jam. Because they was losing so much money. THATS WHY I SAY DMX SAVED DEF JAM. ITS A FACT. THEN JAY Z HARD KNOCK LIFE ALBUM. THEN THATS WHY LYOR PUSHED ME TO DO ANOTHER DMX ALBUM IN THE SAME YEAR. DMX 1ST ALBUM SOLD LIKE 7 MILLION WORLDWIDE. JAY Z SOLD CLOSE TO 10 MILLION WORLDWIDE. DMX 2ND ALBUM SOLD LIKE ANOTHER 6 MILLION WORLDWIDE. All those albums dropped in 1998. May. September. December
IrvGotti187: Part III. That's like 250 Million in billing for Def Jam in 1 a 6 month period. The Universal Music Group with Edgar Bronfman and Doug Morris is formed. All the people who wanted to fire Lyor gets Fired and Lyor becomes the Boss of Island/Def Jam. Because through those albums. He is on FIRE. Def jam gets bought out for 132 Million and Russell and Lyor get paid. So I meet Doug Morris and Edgar Bronfman. They match my deal I was offered by Sony. And MURDER INC RECORDS WAS BORN. Me and Ja make Venni Vetti Vecci album. I give Flex Holla Holla. And MURDER INC and our It's MURDAAAAA Becomes a worldwide RECOGNIZABLE thing. We sell 2 MILLION DEBUT ALBUMS. But you have to understand. Jay and X is selling more records. So I was like. We have to do better. But it's HARD because. I am apart or Jay and X. I know the SLOTS they control as artist. So where is the SLOT for Ja??? So he can sell 5 Million or better. We was not satisfied with 2 Million. We need to own the world how they are owning the world. Jay is the coolest. Authentic street nigga. And no one represents or talks about that life better. DMX is the rawest nigga. Who is that nigga in every hood that is living that fucked up life. Nobody is moving them from there slots. They are at the top of game. Where does Ja fit? Who is just as nice and raw as them. We go to LA. We rent a mansion in Hollywood Hills. And we make Rule 3:36. We go for a sound that is RADIO DRIVEN. FEMALE FRIENDLY DRIVEN. ALL THE WHILE JA IS STILL SPITTING AND BEING THAT RAW NIGGA. SO MAKE RECORDS THAT FEMALES WILL LOVE. BUT DO IT FROM A THUG PERSONA. This is the vision. It fucking worked. A whole MURDER INC SOUND WAS CREATED. Me. @lilrizzy and fucking RULE. CREATED A SOUND THAT NIGGAS IS STILL USING TIL THIS DAY!! To me personally. It was my biggest accomplishment taking Rule and MURDER INC to the top of the game. Because I had to think harder because I helped Jay and X. And they was in the way. So I had to think creatively what to do. All the while. I would always try and get Jay. X. And Ja to do a MURDER INC SUPERGROUP ALBUM. Which I knew would be one of the greatest Hip Hop Albums of all time. But that's another story.
IrvGotti187: Part III. I felt the urge to share this. To let yall know. I ABSOLUTELY HAVE A STORY TO TELL. Amazing HIP HOP CULTURED STORIES! Straight Outta Compton is so inspiring. Because it's an amazing HIP HOP STORY! I was blessed to be apart of Jay. X and Ja's career. I was apart of each of there struggles to get on. I was apart of each of there rise to the top of the world. I always felt different and special because of my relationship and bond with them. And they all was the illest to me. Most common question each of them would ask me. "GOTTI. YOU THINK THAT HE IS BETTER THAN ME" hahaha. Needless to say. I stayed in an a lil awkward position and would always answer. "YALL ALL GET BUSY" They each was SUPER COMPETITIVE. X and Jay battled. With them 2. Super weird because of that. That all changed when we did. MONEY CASH HOES. What a session. At Hit Factory Studios. Man. Ruff Ryder and Rocafella. All in one room. I was the happiest nigga in there. Cause it was all MY NIGGAS. TOGETHER. AND GETTING READY TO SMASH THE WORLD TOGETHER. WHICH I LOVED. Hard Knock Life Tour was thought and conceived from that session I loved it. Such a unique time. Real niggas was winning. We wasn't selling SINGLES. Niggas was moving millions upon millions of Albums. And getting 50% of that shit. The niggas who I started the struggle and grind with. We are touring the world. And killing the game. JAY. X. AND JA. MY NIGGAS.
IrvGotti187: Part IV. MURDER INC!! Then I met Ashanti!! Through a mutual friend. She comes to my office at Murder Inc. I tell her I'm busy making Ja's album. And working on X And Jay. So I don't have time for her. I tell her that if she wants. She can come to the studio. And learn and be around it and if I think of something for her. Maybe she can do something. To my surprise. She took that invite. And was in the crack house studio like everyday. At 1st. I wouldn't pay her any attention. We was making Pain is Love with my new producer 7. We was them NIGGAS. And on fire. After a few months of her being at the studio all the time. I started talking to her and vibing with her. And our chemistry was growing. So I put her on he Big Pun record I did. Then when we made I'm Real for J Lo. Which was crazy. We made that record in like 5 Mins. Swear to god. Rule wrote it. Me and 7 made it. I wanted to jack Rick James Mary Jane record. I wanted J Lo on a Nigga sounding record. That niggas would play. Hahah. Ashanti referenced that record. She was begging me to keep that record for her. Hahah. After J Lo recorded it. Corey Rooney did the vocal production on the record. And he kept a lot of Ashanti's background vocals underneath J Lo's lead. So to Ashanti. It was like HER HIT RECORD. CAUSE SHE WAS HEARING HER VOICE ON THE RADIO ON A #1 record. Hahah. Was #1 for 17 weeks. Haha. Then we made Ain't It Funny. Which I let Ashanti write. Telling her what I wanted for the writing part. That record was #1 for 11 weeks. At this point me and Ashanti is like BONNIE AND CLYDE. Chemistry is off the charts. So I am making this record for Craig David. Me and 7 think to use the Debarge record. The Biggie One More Chance Hit. It's dope. But I catch myself. Why am I keep giving away these hits. When I have BONNIE right here with me. I tell Ashanti. You gonna fucking write this record. I tell her write about a women who is stuck in a relationship. Write about a women loves a nigga. Who keeps doing her wrong. But she can't leave. Write a women who is FOOLISH. Ashanti writes what I asked for. Now the interesting thing is. I call Jay. Thinking. I'm gonna put Hov on this. It's perfect.
IrvGotti187: Part V. I turn to Ashanti. And I say to her. FUCK THAT. I'm not giving you the easy way out and letting Hov do the 3rd verse. I push her to write the bridge part. To stand alone on the record. To make women FEEL her. I am screaming at her at this point. Cause I want her to be GREAT. And I'm not settling for anything else. She delivers. She writes that Bridge part. That til this day. When she performs it. The crowd SINGS EVERY WORD OF THE BRIDGE. My vision became reality. They FELT Ashanti Exactly how I wanted them to feel her. I called her the PRINCESS OF HIP HOP AND R&B. Why? Because MARY J. BLIGE is the QUEEN. And I love Mary. She is IMMORTAL to me. And what Mary and Puff created. I wanted to create that magic with Ashanti. Crazy shit. I was doing all these things for Ashanti. And she wasn't even signed. Hahaha. It was all out of LOVE and HUNGER TO BE GREAT. I wasn't even thinking about a contract. Rule allowed me to put her on Always On Time. I put her on What's Luv with @fatjoe. And when we put out FOOLISH. I gave it to Flex. And the rest is HISTORY. WE BROKE RECORDS. THE HIGHEST SELLING DEBUT FOR A FEMALE ARTIST. EVER. IN THE HISTORY OF THE MUSIC BIZ. SHE SOLD 503,000 copies the 1st week. She was touring the world. And she was SCARED TO DEATH. Hahha. Her 1st show. She was like so nervous. I was like. You MURDER INC. WE HOT. WHAT YOU SCARED FOR. Hahah. It was a Hot 97 show. So I go out on stage. And I'm like yall ready to see the Princess. The crowd goes crazy. I'm looking at her on the side of the stage like see. She is still scared to death. I go to the DJ to tease the crowd with Foolish. The go completely insane. To which I'm looking at her laughing like. Nothing to be scare of. Rule was there. MURDER INC WAS IN THE BUILDING. AND WE HAD HER BACK!! Funny to me!! I'm gonna stop now. But just now. I HAVE A HIP HOP STORY. I have a unique and genuine story. Filled with everything. I didn't even touch on my relationship with SUPREME. THE BEEF WITH 50. THE FUCKING FEDS!! I don't know anyone in Hip Hop. That went through what I went through. Facing 20 fucking years. So stay tuned. Because announcements will be made. I'm working. Plotting. #visionaryideas