Chances are you know Ja Rule as the hip hop great who dominated the charts in the late 1990s and early 2000s; what you probably didn’t know was that the Queens born emcee nearly made it big as a boxer.
That’s right, Ja Rule says he was well on his way to kicking butt and taking names professionally in the ring, but the disciplined training regimen that accompanies throwing right hooks and jobs didn’t suit him.
“It takes a lot of discipline to be great, even with talent,” said Ja Rule, whose new reality show Follow the Rules debuts tonight at 10 p.m. EST on MTV. “When you’re young you just don’t get it. It was just too much for me at the time. I wanted to do kid things.”
I caught up with Ja Rule to chop-it-up about everything from his new reality show to why he’d totally win Skull Challenge to why he likened being a Knicks fan to waiting for Christ to return.
Jason Jordan: I always like to gauge the sports backgrounds and experiences of all of my guests on the Celeb Chop-Up; now I know you’re from Queens, what sports did you try coming up?
Ja Rule: I played football, basketball and I boxed.
JJ: What was your best of the three?
JR: I would have to say basketball and boxing; I know you told me to choose one, but… I was a really good athlete. I thought I was gonna be an athlete professionally! I took another turn along the way. (Laughs)
JJ: OK, gauge me how nice you were in boxing and basketball.
JR: In basketball I’d say I was really solid. Coming out of junior high school I was being recruited to go to good basketball schools like McClancy and Christ the King, but my height just didn’t keep going the way I needed it to go. Plus, I had a knee injury so I had to stop playing. With boxing, I was doing that already then I got really good. I was being trained by Aaron Pryor’s old trainer Artie. He thought I was gonna be the next champ!
JJ: So what happened? Why am I not interviewing you before your big fight with Floyd Mayweather right now?
JR: (Laughs) Well, it was the discipline. It takes a lot of discipline to be great, even with talent, but when you’re young you just don’t get it. It was just too much for me at the time. I wanted to do kid things.
JJ: Give me your shining moment in sports.
JR: (Laughs) Probably when we won the Mark Jackson tournament back in the day. I used to play with AIM High AAU and we were really nice!
JJ: Are you a Knicks fan?
JR: Yeah, I’m a tortured Knicks fan!
JJ: Is this the year they make the playoffs?
JR: (Laughs) Man listen man; being a Knicks fan is like waiting for Christ to come back… We have faith that it’ll happen but we just don’t when!
JJ: There it is. Let’s take this thing random in 3, 2, 1… President Obama’s Secret Service code name is Renegade; if you were President what would your code name be?
JR: (Laughs) Oh, wow. Murder!
JJ: Well, that may not be the best look because if there’s a situation they could get confused about whether they failed or not.
JR: (Laughs) True!
JJ: What’s your biggest pet peeve?
JR: Probably when my money is out of order. I like all of the faces facing the same direction and everything. It’s probably more OCD than anything.
JJ: What competition based reality show would you absolutely win?
JR: That’s a good one! I’m gonna say Skull Challenge! I’m in shape right now!
JJ: Give me your top five rappers of all time.
JR: (Laughs) Dylan! Dylan! Dylan! Dylan! Dylan! (Laughs)
JJ: One of Chappelle’s greatest skits right there.
JR: (Laughs) No doubt! OK this is in no particular order: Rakim, G Rap, Nas, Jay Z, BIG and Pac; you’ve gotta give me six! I need a sixth man!
JJ: Fair enough! You can’t win the ship without a strong sixth man.
JR: That’s right!
JJ: You were definitely on top during your era of rap, but, I’m curious, what current rappers do you feel could’ve been big back in your heyday?
JR: That’s a great question; it’s like asking who could’ve survived back in the day with Jordan. It’s tough because we were really competitive back then with me, Em, Jay, X… Man! It was tough! I think guys like J. Cole, Kendrick and Drake could’ve done well back then. To me they’re like throwback artists. They really love the craft of rap and they’re not all about the money. Back in our day we did it because we loved to do it and the money came. A lot of artists today just do it solely for the money.
JJ: In the epic game of Paper, Rock, Scissors which object do you tend to get the most wins with?
JR: The rock. Ya know, people rarely go for the paper, they usually go for the scissors.
JJ: What fast food restaurant has the best fries?
JR: McDonald’s. Even though I don’t eat fast food!
JJ: What movie absolutely deserves another installment?
JR: Ooh, Straight Outta Compton man! I need to see the Death Row era. They didn’t give Pac and Snoop a lot of screen time. I need to see what happened when Dre left and all that started up.
JJ: What’s the most overused slang word or phrase out today?
JR: Umm, it’d have to be “ratchet” or “on fleek”. I want that to go away. Or maybe “lit”.
JJ: Here’s the scenario: While parking you tap the car in front of you and no one’s around, do you leave a note or do you move to a different row?
JR: (Laughs) No way, I’m leaving! They’ve done it to me! And I was pissed too! But I’ve done it before too so karma is strong.
JJ: If you would 100 percent get away with it which crime would you commit?
JR: (Laughs) Oh man I’m robbing a bank, no question!
JJ: What current fad would you love to see die off?
JR: Overly skinny jeans. I’m a grown man so I like my jeans to fit, but I don’t want them like spandex!
JJ: What sitcom intro song do you know every word to?
JR: Fresh Prince, I think we all know that one!
JJ: What was your worst childhood punishment?
JR: Well, I got away with a lot when I was young so this is more of an embarrassment than a punishment, but my grandpops was a tyrant! He didn’t play that! He told me to be somewhere and do something one time and I wasn’t there and he pulled up on me on the block and got me good!
JJ: Have you ever done an interview and not gotten a 50 Cent related question? When was the last time that happened?
JR: The last one I did with FOX News; they didn’t mention him.
JJ: Ah man, I broke the streak!
JR: (Laughs) I know, see I thought I was gonna be able to say, “With you!” but I just can’t now.
JJ: Ah man! OK no follow-up! Unfortunately you’ve found yourself in the Witness Protection Program what would your cover name be?
JR: (Laughs) Well, first off let me just say I’d never be in the Witness Protection Program, ever. OK, but just for the fun of the question…
JJ: All of my rappers tell me that.
JR: (Laughs) They might tell you that, but they’re lying to you! Some of them might actually be in the Witness Protection Program right now disguised as a rapper!
JJ: Wow, so like we thought that was their stage name but it’s actually their cover name.
JR: (Laughs) Ex-act-ly! I’d probably go with the name Seldom Seen.
JJ: Nice. What random fact can you just tell me right now?
JR: It takes seven twists to open a bottle of champagne.
JJ: Oh that’s extremely random. Blindfolded can you tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke?
JR: Absolutely; Coke is sweeter.
JJ: Now I had Charlie Wilson on a while back and he said anyone who says yes to that question is full of it.
JR: (Laughs) Uncle Charlie! I absolutely, positively can tell. At the next barbecue, Uncle Charlie, I’ll show you!
JJ: There it is! You’ve got the new show Follow the Rules on MTV premiering tonight at 10 p.m. EST, talk about the show and what fans can expect.
JR: Absolutely, thanks a lot Jason this was a lot of fun. The show is very, very fun. I want everyone to know something about my show and I’m gonna bring up that oversaturated slang word we talked about earlier; my show is not ratchet at all! (Laughs) It’s a break from the way we’re used to seeing black people portrayed on TV. It’s about me and my family’s life and the things that we go through. I’m very happy that MTV allowed me to showcase my family in such a positive manner. I want parents and kids to watch and learn how to become closer. I want parents to learn how to get closer to their kids without being their “friend”, because you’ve still gotta discipline them. Sometimes those lines get blurred, but I think we do it well. My style of parenting is very different. I really do believe in giving the kids a little rope; not too much! I do give them the rope and let them grow. I think this is a show that everyone will be able to relate to and I feel like people are gonna really love it.
Check out Ja Rule’s new show Follow the Rules.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY