The legacy of Murder Inc. has been a heavy topic of discussion lately. BET has begun to air the 5-part docuseries, “The Murder Inc Story,” as of August 9th. The 1st episode’s focus centered on iconic producer and CEO Irv Gotti’s rise in the music industry and the many superstars he brought to the forefront. However, much of the conversation has been diverted towards Irv Gotti’s alleged romantic dealings with his former artist, Ashanti. Gotti’s recent appearance on the Drink Champs Podcast helped grasp the public’s attention towards their history over twenty years ago. So what led to the demise of Murder Inc. and Ashanti’s relationship with the label that made her hot?
Along with his brother Chris Lorenzo – aka Chris Gotti, Irving Lorenzo – better known as Irv Gotti, started what would become the widely successful Murder Inc. Records in 1998. Throughout their successful run, they achieved many record sales exceeding millions. According to The Boombox, they were given $3 million from Def Jam to launch the record label and swiftly got to work. The brothers acquired Hip-Hop artists like Black Child, Nemesis, and Ja Rule, who already had a close relationship with Irv Gotti.
Queens-born Ja Rule became the flagship artist of Murder Inc. Records, and in 1999, his debut Venni Vetti Vecci was released. It appeared on the Billboard Charts at the #3 position with solid first-week sales. The album’s first and only single, “Holla Holla,” also made a great impression on the charts, becoming a Top 40 hit.
They quickly built momentum as the team began to work on Ja Rule’s follow-up album. In June of 2000, the first single from his sophomore album was released called “Between Me And You,” which peaked at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song featured vocals from Christina Milian and was a departure from the grittier records from the rapper’s debut.
Then in October of that year, Murder Inc. released Ja Rule’s second album, Rule 3:36. The album further proved that both the record label and Ja Rule were on the rise as he would also achieve his first top ten hit with the second single, “Put It On Me,” featuring Lil’ Mo and Vita.
Ja Rule’s next album, Pain Is Love, was released one year later and proved even more successful. The album also helped introduce R&B singer Ashanti to the mainstream, who was then signed to Murder Inc. The pair collaborated on the number-one single, “Always On Time,” which prompted the release of her debut single, “Foolish,” in 2002.
The next few years would continue to stamp Murder Inc.’s grip on the music industry. Ashanti’s debut album sold over half a million copies in the first week of its release, which was undoubtedly impressive for any artist. In addition, Irv Gotti would go on to produce massive hits for many artists, including Mary J. Blige, Fat Joe, and a host of others.
But in 2003, Murder Inc. went through a tumultuous time both internally and in the media. The record label offices were raided by the FBI in an attempt to find evidence of money laundering and other illegal activities. In addition, Ja Rule and Irv Gotti were in the midst of a highly publicized beef with rapper 50 Cent, with the public seeming to side with the latter rapper.
Ashanti and another artist on the label, now rebranded as “The Inc.,” R&B singer Lloyd, continued to enjoy success for some years. But soon enough, both artists requested to be released from their contracts to explore their musical endeavors elsewhere. By this point, the label was not experiencing nearly half the success it once had.
Ashanti indeed enjoyed great success while signed to Murder Inc. Her first three albums all achieved Platinum status, with her self-titled debut selling over 3 million copies. She also released a holiday album, Ashanti’s Christmas, in 2003. Following the release of her third album in 2004, Concrete Rose, Ashanti, and Murder Inc. started experiencing public issues. But other areas in the singer’s life would begin to blossom. Soon, she was seen on movie screens as she’d been cast in several movie roles.
Ashanti starred in Coach Carter in 2005; the following year, she garnered another starring role in John Tucker Must Die. For her role in Coach Carter, she received an MTV Movie Award nomination in the Breakthrough Female category. She also starred in the film Resident Evil: Extinction in 2007.
Then in 2008, Ashanti returned to music and released her final album on Murder Inc., The Declaration. The following year, Irv Gotti made a declaration of his own, stating that he was dissolving the relationship between Ashanti and the label. Irv Gotti spoke with Angie Martinez in a past interview where he revealed that Ashanti felt “Murder Inc. was hurting her” and “damaging her career.” He also stated it was “all good” but was clearly hurt by the decision.
Ashanti went on to achieve more success in her career following her departure from her former label. She released her first album post-Murder Inc., “Braveheart,” in 2014. This would also be her first foray into becoming an independent artist, releasing it on her own imprint, “Written Entertainment.” Unfortunately, while the album debuted at number 10 on the charts, it did not enjoy as much success as her previous efforts. She’s also continued in her acting career. Ashanti was a prominent cast member on Army Wives in 2013 and acted in several other productions. She also continues to produce successful tours, with her most headlining stint being the Millenium Tour in 2021. The Grammy Award-winning singer also received a spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this past April.
While Ashanti continues to live an unbothered and successful life, it appears Irv Gotti would like to think otherwise. In addition to his recent Drink Champs interview, where he’s received numerous amounts of backlash, Irv Gotti had more to say to Page Six. Irv Gotti claims he’s far from over their past ordeal and still feels betrayed. The record executive stated that Ashanti “ran like a cockroach” when the FBI conducted their raid in the Murder Inc. offices. Additionally, he recalls the singer wanting to “abandon” him once they faced their troubles.
But Irv Gotti didn’t stop there. He implicitly stated that he is the reason for Ashanti’s popularity. Specifically, he claims to be the “person that made her.” “And yes, I can say I made [Ashanti],” said Irv Gotti to the outlet. “How do you know I can say that firmly? The minute I stop making her records, [Ashanti] has not made a hit since.”