Venni, Vetti, Vecci: 20th Anniversary

Ja Rule: Venni, Vetti, Vecci
Def Jam Records 1999

By: Mic Cool

Just over 20 years ago in late 90’s, Jeffrey Atkins aka Ja Rule appeared on Mic Geronimo’s “Time To Build”.

Rising producer Irv Gotti already put his stamp on Jay-Z with production on Jigga’s Reasonable Doubt. Then he helped groom a young and hungry DMX, but his eyes were fixated on Ja Rule. Irv wanted to get Rule out of his TVT deal and needed him to go solo. There was a video station called “The Box” where if u called in the most times your video would get played. Irv called in multiple times to play the first Ja Rule video “Holla Holla”. This would go on to be Ja’s first single, but before that was officially released, Rule on was Jay-Z’s smash single “Can I Get A” along side Amil to be featured on the rush hour soundtrack. Irv Gotti originally had this beat reserved for Ja, but Jay liked it so much that he needed it as his next single.

Critics continuously compared Ja Rule to DMX and 2pac. This is something that would ignite a minor feud between DMX and Ja. Irv Gotti had great working relationships with both Jay-Z and DMX and they were supposed to form a supergroup with Ja Rule called “Murder Inc.”, but egos got in the way. A couple of songs on Venni, Vetti, Vecci had all three artists on it. The Hard Knock Life Tour started in 1998 while all three artists were hot. Def Iam signed Ja off of the strength of DMX and Jay-Z’s deals. Def Jam allowed Irv Gotti to create a sub label called Murder Inc. He then signed Ja Rule as his first solo artist.

Enter 1999, June 1st to be exact, and the release of the much anticipated debut album from Ja Rule is released. Venni, Vetti, Vecci opens up with “The March”, an intro that hypes up the first song; “We Here Now” witch unloads with lyrical fury . Irv did all the production on the album. “World’s Most Dangerous” and “Let’s Ride” were catchy as hell, thus The Inc. finally had a sound . Wherever they wanted to take it. “Holla Holla” was ahead of its time . “Kill em all” had Jay-Z on the hook. “Nigguz Theme” was about brothers hating on each other. “Suicide freestyle” featured R&Bb singer Case, and had a biblical theme going off top. “Story to tell” was a journey like Slick Rick tale. “Count On Your Niggas” is as tale about loyalty. “It’s Murda” is the quintessential posse cut with Jay-Z and DMX… they ran it no doubt. “E-Dub and Ja” was a bit surprising. You wouldn’t think it would happen, but Erik Sermon and Ja Rule went bar for bar. “Murda 4 Life” featured Roc-A-Fella Records second in line, Memphis Bleek. This track was so strong that it was also featured on Bleek’s freshman album. The heartfelt “Daddy’s Little Baby”, featuring Ron Isley is about his first born daughter. “Race Against Time” would question immortality, while “Only Begotten Son” closes out the LP in true fashion, with its religious theme intact claiming once and for all…Ja came, he saw, he conquered…Venni, Vetti, Vecci.

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Swizz Beatz: The Monster

By: Mic Cool

Born in the Bronx NY, the place that birthed hip hop, Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean would help shape the east coast landscape as a mega producer. After getting the equipment he needed he started to DJ and garnered success. After relocating to Atlanta Georgia due to violent behavior, he began to work for his uncles Joaquin and Darrin Dean who just happened to be co CEOs of the Ruff Ryders record label. In his early work he chose not to sample but rather accentuate the performance aspect of his music. With his uncles and aunt heavily involved with Ruff Ryders, he began to produce tracks at the age 16. A year later he made his first collaboration with DMX witch just happen to be the chart topping “Ruff Ryders Anthem”. Swizzy did a lot of production on X’s first two albums It’s Dark and Hell is Hot and Flesh of my Flesh Blood of my Blood.

Following those accomplishments he produced other major hip hop songs “Banned From TV” from N.O.R.E. And Jay-Z’s “Money Cash Hoes”. He then produced most of the songs on the Ruff Ryders compilation “Ryde or Die Vol. 1” as well as the bulk of Eve’s debut who was the Ruff Ryders First Lady. Now in a joint venture with Clive Davis, Swizz established his own label “Full Surface Records” a part of J Records. The first artist signed was Philadelphia based rapper Cassidy who’s underground following was becoming a big deal off of his battle raps and the ability to become a larger artist with the right backing. Swizz put out his first Lp Ghetto Stories in 2002 getting noticed not only for his beats but now actually rhyming on the first single “Guilty” featuring a reggae artist Bounty Hunter. His second single featuring Cassidy, “Bigger Business” also reached the billboard charts.

Along with him associating himself with Ruff Ryders he also began churning out hits with labels like Elektra, Atlantic, Def Jam, and Bad Boy Ent. By 2003 his artist Cassidy had a massive song featuring R Kelly, “Hotel” and it blew up. He worked with the Problem for a while producing some of his biggest songs and when Cassidy was in a accident he waited until his boy came out of his coma and also beat a murder case, then they did “My Drink N My 2 Step” bringing back their dominance. After he and Cass parted ways, Swizz released his second LP One Man Band led by the singles “It’s Me Bitches”, “Money in the Bank” and “Top Down” which reinvigorated his sound and put him back in the charts. In that time period he married R&B songstress Alicia Keys and signed legendary group Bone Thugs N Harmony. His first Grammy award came in the form of “On To The Next One” by Jay-Z.

Let’s face it he reinvented The LOX after Puff Daddy made them wear shiny suits, he created a backdrop for DMX, he basically help shape The Ruff Ryders sound. Currently he sits as VP of sports, style, marketing, design, and brand music development for global footwear at Reebok. He is still trying to revive DMX’s career while working with a whole new crop of artists, and Swizz is still makes those beats. What his bread and butter has been and always will be.