Hailing from Hollis, Queens, Ja Rule made his debut in 1999 with his first studio album Venni Vetti Vecci lead by the single "Holla Holla." From 1999 to 2005, Ja Rule would reign as one of the top-selling hip-hop artists.
Ashanti was discovered as a teenager and signed to Murder Inc. in 2001. After generating buzz following her appearance on Big Pun's "How We Roll," she teamed up with Fat Joe and Ja Rule for the hit single, What's Luv?" In 2002, Ashanti released her self-titled album, Ashanti. The album sold over half a million copies within the first week.
In 2001, Ja Rule released his third studio album Pain Is Love. He teamed up with Caddillac Tah, Black Child, and Ashanti on the track "The Inc." While the album had some hit singles, "The Inc." fell short in creating the vibe of a gangsta crew that they were going for.
After the success of Ashanti's first self-titled album in 2002, she didn't wait long to release a follow-up album. Chapter II was released in 2003 and the hit singles, "Rain on Me," "Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)," and "Breakup 2 Makeup" were all on this album.
In 2002, Murder Inc. Records was a force to be reckoned with; the label was producing hit albums and singles under the direction of CEO Irv Gotti. Gotti released the compilation album Irv Gotti Presents: The Inc. The album featured songs from all the artists on the label. "Down 4 You," was the first single off the record and featured Ja Rule, Ashanti, Vita and Charlie Baltimore.
Ja released the remix to "The Pledge" featuring the Queens rapper, Ashanti, and Tupac Shakur. As usual, Ashanti was on the hook adding her vocals to make the song catchy, and fans ate it up.
When "Always On Time" hit radio airwaves in 2001 it was an instant hit. The song paired with the video introduced fans to Ja Rule and Ashanti as a dynamic duo. The single was Ja Rule's first number 1 hit to top the Billboard Hot 100.