— The release of Ja Rule’s debut album, Venni Vetti Vecci, marked the beginning of Ja Rule and Murder Inc.’s brief reign over New York Hip-Hop.

On June 1, 1999 Ja Rule’s debut album, Venni Vetti Vecci, was something of a prophecy. With a title that alludes to the Latin phrase, “veni, vidi, vici” meaning “I came, I saw, I conquered”, Ja Rule foretold what he would do to the Hip-Hop scene in the late 90s and early 2000s—quite accurately I might add.

Following a failed deal with TVT Records, producer and A&R Irv Gotti convinced Ja Rule to sign a deal with his newly founded Def Jam imprint, Murder Inc. Records. Ja Rule subsequently appeared on songs with other rising stars like Jay Z, DMX, LL Cool J, Method Man, and Redman in order to promote his new label and budding career. After receiving a multitude of positive reviews, Ja Rule was presented with the opportunity to release an album through Murder Inc. and he didn’t disappoint.

While Ja Rule has never particularly been viewed as an exceptional writer, his gravelly voice and half-sung melodies gave him a unique edge in regards to his delivery. That rugged sound partnered with ballad-like crooning helped to bring more authenticity to his lyrical content, which often focused on his nihilistic view of the world—more particularly the streets of New York. So much so, in fact, you could almost feel Ja Rule’s pain radiating from your speakers. You’ll notice this on tracks like, “World’s Most Dangerous” and “Nigguz Theme”. However, on the songs “Daddy’s Little Baby and “Only Begotten Son”, Ja Rule steered away from the street themes that were more characteristic of Hip-Hop at the time and got a bit more personal as he tackled the subjects of parenthood and abandonment.

The team of contributors associated with Venni Vetti Vecci was also stacked. With Irv Gotti as the executive producer, the album’s production was highly adored. So much so, in fact, many critics went as far as to say that Ja Rule’s appeal could be minimized to his unique vocal style and the instrumentation that backs him. Needless to say, production from Irv Gotti, along with Tyrone Fyffe, Erick Sermon, Lil Rob, and others played an important role in Ja Rule’s debut album. Features from Jay Z, DMX, Memphis Bleek, Ronald Isley, Black Child, Nemesis, Case, Caddillac Tah, and Erick Sermon were just icing on the cake.

Venni Vetti Vici also performed well commercially. While debuting at #3 on the Billboard 200, 184,000 copies of the album were sold in its first week. Just over a month later, Venni Vetti Vecci was certified platinum. By 2002, it had sold 2 million copies worldwide. This was achieved with the help of the leading single, “Holla Holla”, as well as singles, “Kill ‘Em All”, “Daddy’s Little Baby”, “It’s Murda”, and “Murda 4 Life”.

Check out the full album and music videos and let us know what you think? Should Venni Vetti Vecci go down as a Hip-Hop classic?

Written by Simo Haier

On February 27th, 1974, Delaware-born audio engineer, record producer, DJ, and music executive, and professor Young Guru was born.

Young Guru, born Gimel Androus Keaton, started his career as a teenager when he acquired the name he would later use as a DJ while teaching African history classes at a community center. He then went on to build a collection of microphones, lighting, and amplifiers throughout the early 90’s before attending Howard University. At Howard, Young Guru witnessed the early stages of Bad Boy Records and landed some of his early engineering jobs. From there, he was able to further catapult his career.

While DJing in Washington, D.C during the mid-90’s, Guru stumbled upon top 20 rapper/singer, Nonchalant, and became her tour DJ. He later engineered her 2nd album, following a six-month music-recording course at Omega Studios. Although that album never saw the light of day, something great came from this collaboration. The album’s producer, Chucky Thompson (member of Bad Boy Entertainment’s “Hitmen” production team), saw Young Guru’s potential and invited the budding engineer to work with him in D.C. However, in 1999 Young Guru went independent and headed to New York where he worked with another member of the Hitmen squad, Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie, as well as Roc-a-Fella artist, Memphis Bleek. This eventually led to Young Guru meeting Jay Z and becoming one of his most trusted engineers and Djs.

Over the years, Young Guru has been an essential part of many artists’ careers including those of Jay Z, Cam’ron, Ghostface Killah, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Ludacris, Freeway, Mariah Carey, Method Man & Redman, T.I., Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Pete Rock, Beanie Sigel, Talib Kweli, and Fabolous. He was also the tour DJ for Jay Z & Kanye West’s Watch the Throne world tour as well as Jay Z’s 4:44 tour. Today, Young Guru is the Director of Operations at 9th Wonder’s record label, It’s a Wonderful World Music Group, and has held the position since he was appointed in April 2015.

Although not necessarily a household name, Young Guru has earned his place as one of the most significant characters in hip-hop. In fact, the Wall Street Journal has dubbed him as “…the Most Influential Man in Hip-Hop You’ve Never Heard Of”. With major hits like 2011’s Grammy-nominated NY anthem, “Empire State of Mind” under his belt, it’s hard to disagree.

Happy Birthday Young Guru!

Written by Simo Haier

— Almost 2 decades ago, DJ Clue? made his leap from the streets to the record label with the release of his star-studded debut album, The Professional.

Many of us can still remember a time when music wasn’t so accessible and musical products themselves were much more tangible. While today you can instantly stream or download just about any music that you want, things weren’t always like this. Artists found themselves creating projects on an incredibly tight budget, often over the course of months. Crews hit the corners to distribute mixtapes like the Sunday newspaper. And, Hip-Hop connoisseurs were in the streets sniffing out the hottest new product like shameless dope fiends. So, during the ‘90s, when Hip-Hop was receiving more admiration that it ever had before, DJ Clue? mastered a formula that made him one of the first and few DJs to take his talents to the record label.

DJ Clue Presents ‘The Professional’

On December 15, 1998, DJ Clue? released The Professional through his newly founded label, Desert Storm Records (a subsidiary of Roc-a-Fella and Def Jam). Prior to this release, DJ Clue? had become one of NYC’s top DJs due to his prominent street-level mixtapes featuring exclusive tracks from Hip-Hop’s biggest names like Mobb Deep and even Notorious B.I.G. However, once given the opportunity to deliver a studio album, DJ Clue? significantly stepped his game up while still providing quality exclusives that folks on the block can appreciate.

The list of featured acts on The Professional is absolutely insane. In some cases, you get hit with excessive firepower on tracks like “Fantastic 4” featuring Cam’ron, N.O.R.E, Big Pun, and Canibus. A young Fabolous continues making a name for himself on “That’s the Way” and “If They Want It”. Missy Elliot, Nicole Wray, and Mocha set things off with “I Like Control”. Jay Z and Ja Rule join forces for the smooth cut “Gangsta Shit”. Mariah Carey even got a skit. The remaining roster includes DMX, Drag-On, Eve, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Jadakiss, Styles P, Nas, Nature, Boot Camp Clik, M.O.P, Memphis Bleek, EPMD, Lord Tariq, Made Men, Redman, Flipmode Squad, Foxy Brown, Mase, Keith Murray, Raekwon, Big Noyd, and Mobb Deep.

As of 2001, The Professional has been certified platinum by the RIAA with over 1,000,000 records sold in the United States. Still, those numbers alone can’t sum up this project. This album is a piece of history – as all albums are. However, this is one where you can see where so many different artists were at a particular time in history as well as their chemistry with each other – all in one place.

Check out the full project above.

Written by DJ Robinson