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Ja Rule reflects on new film, faith and redemption

Ja Rule reflects on new film, faith and redemption
(Photo courtesy of Reverence Gospel Media)

Born in Hollis, Queens on Feb. 29, 1976, Jeffrey “Ja Rule” Atkins began rapping professionally while still in his teens, although he really made a big splash in 1999 with the release of “Venni Vetti Vecci.” That solo album went platinum on the strength of the single “Holla Holla,” thereby kickstarting an enviable musical career which has produced a half-dozen more studio LPs while netting the popular hip-hop artist four Grammy nominations and counting.

He also collaborated on hit songs with everybody from Jennifer Lopez (“I’m Real”) to Christina Milian (“Between Me and You”) to Ashanti (“Always on Time”) to R. Kelly (“Wonderful”). Meanwhile, he expanded his repertoire to include acting, appearing in such films as “The Fast and the Furious,” “Scary Movie 3,” “Assault on Precinct 13” and “Shall we Dance,” to name a few.

No stranger to controversy, Atkins also became embroiled in some famous feuds, most notably with rival rapper 50 Cent. He was recently been released from prison after spending a couple of years behind bars for tax evasion and gun possession.

Here, he talks about his new film, “I’m in Love with a Church Girl,” a faith-based tale of redemption chronicling the real-life reformation of drug-dealer-turned-pastor Galley Molina.

What interested you in “I’m in Love with a Church Girl?”

First of all, I just enjoyed reading the script. Second, I also liked a lot of the parallels between me and the character Miles Montego. Those similarities convinced me that I would like to be a part of the project.

Has making this film influenced your spiritual relationship with your higher power?

Absolutely! I’ve always been a spiritual person who believed in a higher power. So, I’ve always had my one-on-one with God, even if I wasn’t much of a religious person. But I would definitely have to say that this movie brought me even a little closer to God.

Has the experience of working with Pastor Molina on this production enhanced your life?

Definitely! The movie is Galley’s life story. Galley Molina’s a great inspiration and role model for a lot of young kids out there.

How did you prepare for the role?

One of the things I did was I went to church with Galley to study him, because I thought I’d be doing more preaching in the film.

Was it weird playing him with him right there on the set?

No, that’s part of the beauty of doing a true story, having the person that the picture’s about there. I felt fortunate to be able to get his advice about how to approach the character and his input about how this or that scene should play out. So, it was great to have Galley there.

What was it like working with this cast, Adrienne Bailon, Stephen Baldwin, Vincent Pastore, etc?

Adrienne and I have known each other for a long time. Me and Stephen, too! And Vincent and I worked on two films together prior to this one. So, it was great just being around everybody again and spending time together on the set!

What message do you think people will take away from the film?

This is really an inspirational film which is all about connecting with people who aren’t that much into church, although it’s for church people, too. That’s the beauty of the film.

Do you think if gangsta rappers really fell in love with ‘Church Girls’ they might stop saying horrible and abusive things about females in their songs?

Maybe … maybe … She may be onto something.

Do you think that reggae is at the root of what is happening today in EDM [Electronic Dance Music] and trip-hop?

Trip-hop? I don’t know if I ever heard of trip-hop. I’m in a room of hip-hop heads, and nobody ever heard of it. But EDM, absolutely!

Have you applied any of the financial advice you received from Alan Hevesi [former NYS Comptroller] while in prison?

Heavy D, that’s my boy. Alan Hevesi and I forged a great relationship while in prison. I’m glad he’s home now. He’s an older man, so he belongs home, not behind bars. But I definitely benefitted from his knowledge. I used to pick his brain a lot while we watched the New York Knicks on TV.

What is your favorite charity?

My own, the LIFE Foundation.

Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

No, I think I’ve been asked everything under the sun.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

My reflection. No, that’s a tough question. I see a man that’s in the process of growth, going from one end to another.

When was the last time you had a good laugh?

A minute ago. I have one every day.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Chocolate lava cake.

What is your favorite dish to cook?

I’m a breakfast type of guy. Don’t get me wrong. I can cook, I’m kinda nice on the burner, but I enjoy making breakfast. I do it all. Scrambled eggs, french toast, pancakes — breakfast is my thing.

What was the last book you read?

“Hellbound on His Trail” by Hampton Sides.

What’s up for you next, musically?

Actually, I just dropped two new records called “Fresh Out da Pen” and “Everything.” They’re available on iTunes.

Who is your favorite clothes designer?

That’s a difficult question. It’s tough to say, because I like a lot of them.

What excites you?

I’m an adrenaline guy. I like to do stuff that gets my blood pumping, like roller coasters or jumping out of planes. I’m into all that crazy stuff.

What was your best career decision?

The best decision I ever made, period, was to get into the music business.

If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

It’d be a tossup between world peace and ending poverty.

If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend the time?

With my family.

If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

A lion.

What is your earliest childhood memory?

Hmm … playing with this very noisy popper toy when I was about 4. It looked like a lawnmower, was round at the bottom and had little balls in it that would go “Pow! Pow! Pow!”

We lived in a tiny apartment, so as you can imagine, there was no escaping the popper. My mother had to hide it from me.

If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?


What key quality do you believe all successful people share?

Selfishness. To be the best at what you do in any field, and to accomplish the goals you set for yourself, you have to be somewhat selfish.

If you had to choose another profession, what would that be?

I’d probably be an athlete — either basketball, football or boxing. I was good at those sports.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Walk carefully! Tread light!

How do you want to be remembered?

As an artist who was really passionate about his work. And as an inspiration. I do what I do to inspire people.

Can you give me a “Ja Rule question” that I can ask other people I interview?

Yeah, here’s a good one: If you had to spend all of your money in a month, how would do it?