HOLLYWOOD It feels like Ja Rule is just starting to make his mark on hip-hop, but the husky-voiced MC is already talking about calling it quits.
"I'm going to retire after two more albums," Ja said at Tuesday's BET Awards press conference (see "Aaliyah Leads BET Awards Nominees, Followed By Keys, B2K"), where at least a few reporters thought he was joking. "I'm serious!" he insisted.
The "Always on Time" rapper said he'll deliver The Last Temptation (see "Ja Rule Taking It Back To The Streets On The Last Temptation") and then a fifth and final album before leaving music to "do a lot of films."
Minutes later, however, Ja revealed that one of his biggest inspirations is basketball legend Michael Jordan, who "retired" twice before returning to the game, so perhaps his declaration isn't so set in stone.
Before Ja Rule releases the follow-up to his third album, Pain Is Love, the rapper will appear on a Murder Inc. compilation in June. He's also recording an album with his group, CMC (formerly Cash Money Click), which includes 0-1 and Chris Black, who both appear on the Pain Is Love track "Smokin and Ridin" (see "Ja Rule Re-Teams With Cash Money Click For LP"). Due November 26, according to Ja, the album is titled CMC EST Since '93.
"When you do the group thing, everybody kind of snarls at you, 'He has this budding solo career. Why would he go and do a group thing or do something outside of that?' " Ja explained. "I think sometimes artists do it for the wrong reasons. Or they have the right intentions but they just do it the wrong way."
Not Ja Rule.
"These guys are like my family," he said. "This was my original group. We started together, and when we got in the studio and started working again it was a magical thing. It just clicked all over again. We be banging out some records that I honestly didn't think would come out this crazy. I didn't think we'd be this focused."
Ja said the CMC album would have some special guests, but he wouldn't reveal their identities. "I'm going to let that be quiet," he said. "I don't like to pump up my records too much. I just like to put 'em out and let the people speak for it."
Although he's still recording in rapid abundance, Ja hasn't set acting aside entirely. He recently filmed the action flick "Half Past Dead" with Steven Seagal and Morris Chestnut, and he's in negotiations to star in a "Fast and the Furious" sequel, which contrary to early reports will not feature Vin Diesel (see "Ja Rule & Vin Diesel Hollywood's Next Dynamic Duo?").
"They kind of want me to take over the whole lead of the movie, to make my character the whole basis of the movie," Ja said. "Right now I'm thinking about it. I'm not in love with the idea yet. I liked the idea of me and Vin coming back, but I do realize a lot of people came to see me. Maybe I will explore that idea."
Although his acting résumé is so far made up of supporting roles, the rapper feels he can carry a movie on his own.
"I'm a confident person," he explained. "Anything I put my mind to, I can do it. I got that self-motivation theory from Michael Jordan. He's the greatest self-motivator, and I feel I'm right behind him. I have this little saying: Success is obtained when opportunity meets preparation. You'd better be prepared when the opportunity comes."