US rap star Ja Rule has agreed to go to prison for two years in a gun case, becoming the second platinum-selling rapper set to do time after arrests in the aftermath of a star-studded hip-hop concert in July 2007.
The rapper-actor – whose gravelly voice, thuggish tough talk and duets with R&B divas made him one of rap’s stars in the early 2000s – pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon.
Superstar Lil Wayne was arrested separately the same night and later pleaded guilty to the same charge.
Speaking in a low voice, Ja Rule said nothing beyond “guilty” and “yes” to a Manhattan judge’s questions as he admitted to a charge that involved attempting to have a loaded gun outside one’s home or workplace. Police said they found a loaded .40-calibre semi-automatic gun in a rear door of his car after it was stopped for speeding.
His plea deal promises the 34-year-old rapper a two-year prison term compared to the 15-year stint he could have faced if convicted of the original gun charges. He remains free until his sentencing.
“This isn’t a good day,” Ja Rule said as he headed to a waiting vehicle, waving to some fans who recognised him behind his dark sunglasses. His lawyer, Stacey Richman, declined to comment.
He’s due in court on February 9 to set a date for his sentencing.
“Because of your guilty plea here today, you’ll have a record of having committed a violent felony. This is a very serious matter,” Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Richard Carruthers told him.
Ja Rule is the latest in a series of big-name rappers poised for incarceration, a line-up that has raised questions about the line between art and reality in a genre rife with tales of gang life. Hip-hop stars including Tupac Shakur, Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Shyne, Mystikal, Gucci Mane and TI have been in prison for periods ranging from months to years. Lil Wayne spent eight months in a New York City jail earlier this year.
He and Ja Rule were stopped, separately, after leaving the Beacon Theatre on July 22, 2007. Lil Wayne had just headlined a show there featuring other rappers including Ja Rule; the two had recently joined forces on a single called Uh Oh. About an hour after Ja Rule’s car was pulled over, Lil Wayne’s tour bus was stopped about a mile away. He admitted last year that he had a loaded semi-automatic .40-calibre gun on the bus.