Yesterday, former label head Irv Gotti released the latest episode of his five part “Jewels From Irv Gotti” series on Complex. In one of the more confusing verticals the site has created in awhile, viewers are subjected to advice from the former label head. I’m not sure why, but in his latest edition Irv touches on Jay Z’s success, saying that he followed Biggie’s blueprint to success following Hard Knock Life Vol. 1.
I grew up watching And1 Mixtapes. For those not enlightened by the rules Skip To My Lou and company abided by, there was a specific rule meant to keep only the best and most capable on the court at all times. The rule was simple: if you got dunked on or your ankles were broken you were out, kicked off the court amidst a sea of screams and shouts. Perhaps the most democratic system I’ve ever encountered, I can’t help but think it applies here as well.
Irv. Buddy. It’s over.
For those of you born after 1995, Irv Gotti was once the head of one of the most promising rap labels in modern times: Murder Inc. That the whole operation was propped up by a singular artist with an obvious shtick was largely ignored amid the shouts of “Murda” and Ja Rule’s thin upper lip mustache. Their current roster, which is Ja by his lonesome, is much more honest than the fifteen acts listed in their heyday, only four of which actually released albums on the imprint. But there was a time when it all seemed like it would work out. Gotti rolled out one female rapper after another opposite Ja until the fateful day when 50 Cent, Eminem, Jadakiss and Busta Rhymes came together for “Hail Mary.”
Once again, for those of you a bit too young to recall, Ja Rule was on top of everything for a brief moment in hip-hop history. With a string of hit singles he was in rareified territory until he was subjected to one of the most memorable diss tracks in modern history. Shit, “Back to Back” was pretty rough on Meek Mill but at least the MMG rapper is still allowed to have a career. As for Ja we've barely heard his name or his music (he did serve time in prison) until he popped up just recently. Even then he offered up a sort of nod to 50 Cent in recent comments where he even said “Good Luck” to the G-Unit rapper.
“This is my opinion,” Irv Gotti said. “My truthful opinion though. Jay Z, he made Reasonable Doubt, which is one of the greatest rap albums ever. Biggie died. He went and ran to the Biggie formula. So, he figured ‘I’ll get all them great records they was about to give Big.’ But that wasn’t his energy. He made that album. He didn’t fuck with none of us. It was a Bad Boy, Hitman album. "Sunshine," "You Belong To The Streets," all of that bullshit. Jay especially, he looked and seen what I did with X and was like ‘Woah, holy shit. That shit worked.’ His Vol. 1 album sold like platinum.”
So it’s with all that in mind that I’m trying to wrap my head around Irv Gotti taking shots at the most successful rapper in hip-hop history. I’d understand if it was a contemporary, an artist on the rise looking for some notice or a journalist making conjecture, but Gotti lost his claim to whatever Old Head position he thinks he owns way back in 2007.
Similar to the ideology of the streetball legends of And1, if you can’t hold your own on the court you have no business being out there. Let’s be honest. Irv and Ja Rule got crossed over harder than Kobe last night, dunked on harder than that French dude who got in Vince Carter’s way; they ceased to really matter to the world at large. Interestingly enough, Irv is probably right on this particular topic: Jay Z very well may have taken cues from what Biggie had planned in pushing his own career forward but it worked and winners often write history. Those who don’t are often in the position of Gotti at this point, grasping at straws with click-bait worthy assertions as to why he’s still relevant. A broken clock is always right twice per day and I’ll admit that his sentiment throughout the segment has weight, it’s just that it doesn’t matter anymore.
It pains me that Complex offered a segment like this to the former tastemaker/label head. Mostly because there’s so many others who could offer similar insight with markedly more ethos. With that in mind it’s time to implement And1 rules to this situation, taking away Irv’s mic and asking him to leave the court. It’s been over for a minute and those who care have moved on. How can you audit someone else’s remarkable career when your own was cut short?
[By Jake Krez, who has yet to be dunked on. Follow him on Twitter.]