Songs are often metaphoric messages, with lyrics often working on a variety of levels. But metaphors also can be effective, if not controversial, in other cases, such as when it comes to choosing a name for your record company. Just ask Irv Gotti, CEO of Murder Inc., a label that has stormed the charts with an artist roster that includes hard-edged rapper Ja Rule and vocalist Ashanti. The unqualified success of his company has made Gotti one of the hottest business and creative commodities in the industry.
Although certain terms in hip-hop conjure negative images - especially among the uninformed - in the case of Gotti’s organization, when taken in context, the meaning behind his record label’s name is crystal clear: Murder Inc. is about delivering “killer” music and artists with “murderous” talent for the hip-hop masses.
Gotti was honored as the Urban Songwriter of the Year at the
2003 BMI Urban Awards. Click here to read more
“I chose The Murderers [Ja Rule, Black Child, 0-1, Vita and Cadillac Tah] because they’re the hottest rappers on the streets, and I wanted that new blood to set off the Murder Inc. movement,” Gotti explains.
At Murder Inc., million-sellers are the norm, with Ashanti, Ja Rule’s Pain Is Love and Rule 3:36, and The Fast & the Furious soundtrack all certified multi-platinum).
As the music world knows, Gotti’s creative touch extends well beyond the streets, and he’s got the industry laurels to prove it. At the 2002 BMI Urban Awards — which saluted the top rap, hip-hop and r&b songwriters, producers and publishers — Gotti was a recipient of the prestigious Songwriter of the Year trophy for placing two songs on the most performed list: “I’m Real” (Jennifer Lopez featuring Ja Rule) and “Put It On Me” (Ja Rule featuring Lil’ Mo and Vita).
That’s not all: Gotti also claimed a Producer of the Year award, and his DJ Irv Publishing walked away with a pair of publishing awards. To top it all off, Gotti was among the select BMI songwriters who had #1 songs on the R&B/Hip-Hop and Rap charts during the previous year.
But his most recent laurels came at this past May’s 51st Annual BMI Pop Awards. Gotti placed five titles on the Most Performed List of 50 to reap the coveted BMI Pop Songwriter of the Year award. The songs earning Gotti the crown were “Always On Time” (Ja Rule featuring Ashanti), “Foolish” (Ashanti), “I’m Real” (Jennifer Lopez with Ja Rule), “Livin’ It Up” (Ja Rule featuring Case), and “What’s Luv?” (Fat Joe featuring Ashanti).
Gotti’s influence on new millennium rap is undeniable.
“My goal is to make really good music and give something to the people that buy the music, he says. “Artists owe it to the people; we have to go to the record studio and put out great albums.”
Gotti got his start in New York as DJ Irv, which led to working on Mic Geronimo’s 1995 debut album The Natural. A year later, he contributed production on Jay Z’s 1996 seminal debut Reasonable Doubt, which went on to become a hit. Then in 1998, he worked on DMX’s debut, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, another set that made waves in the hip-hop world.
Gotti’s claim as Don of the hip-hop world was solidified thanks to “Put It On Me,” by Ja Rule featuring Lil’ Mo & Vita, which Gotti co-produced. The song went Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the spring of 2001. “It made Ja a star,” says the CEO.
Later that fall, Jennifer Lopez's “I’m Real” was released and soared to the #1 spot on the Hot 100, and peaked at #2 on the Hot R&B Singles & Tracks chart. Gotti was co-writer, and to him it was a defining moment. “Jennifer was a pop star and well known, and that changed things; it took us over the top.”
Gotti sums up his business career success by looking to his creative past as a DJ. “That’s what built the passion for the music,” he recalls. “Seeing people like Eazy-E, Dr. Dre and Russell Simmons getting paid for the passion. . . . I wanted to get paid for it as well, you know what I’m saying? But the passion — that came from being a DJ.”