February 23, 2018

Judas by Ja Rule is a Feud Story

Born and bred in New York City, hip-hop recording artist Ja Rule started life as Jeffrey Atkins in 1976. This popular performer was raised in the Jehovah’s Witness faith, so it’s interesting that his song, Judas, is named after Christ’s notorious betrayer. Although Ja Rule no longer practices the faith of his childhood, and in fact condemns the religion, he was probably exposed to many biblical stories during his hardscrabble Hollis, Queens, upbringing.

Members of Jehovah’s Witness congregations learn the story of the 12 Apostles, just as churchgoers from more traditional Christian faiths do. The themes and meanings of the Ja Rule Judas song are underscored by the rapper’s own feelings of being “betrayed” by his former religion.

“Being a Jehovah’s Witness, it’s a very strict religion and they have something called “disfellowshipping” or “disassociating” if you do something outside their beliefs. And they have a lot of beliefs that are hard on kids, hard on human beings.” 

A Jehovah’s Witness congregation rejected Ja Rule’s mother; he watched her suffer as she was shunned by former friends (and even family members). Eschewing the religion that hurt his mom, he went on to live a more glamorous, moneyed lifestyle. His success in the hip-hop milieu led to collaborations with hot new artists, such as Ashanti.

Ja Rule has admitted he wrote the Ja Rule Judas lyrics about a feud with Ashanti, who seemed to move on to other partnerships as her fame increased… he felt he had been used and left behind. Here, he talks about Ashanti and why he expressed his hurt feelings through his song:

“Ashanti’s still the Princess, that’s still my sister, I still love her. Its just certain things that went on in that time, it was kind of hurtful to me so I expressed it through song.”

The lyrics of the song he describes as a “tough love” anthem are pretty straightforward:

After all that we’ve been through (I never thought it’d be you)
Just the one I thought I know (Guess I didn’t know Judas)
Tell the lies to hide the truth (Should have know they wasn’t true)
Who would ever think that you (Turn out to be a Judas)

For an artist with Ja Rule’s religious background, relating the “diss” of a close friend to Judas’ epic betrayal of Jesus probably came very naturally. In fact, although the artist no longer practices the JV faith, he is still very spiritual and does believe in God:

Dear Judas or should I say Judai?
I wanna say I miss you, but that might be a lie
And I can’t lie to myself
Too much self-pride,
I can lie to anyone else
At times, even God…

Obviously, Ja Rule still struggles to reconcile his choices and his relationships through his faith; he sees his own problems and defects of character as well. Although the song feels mean-spirited in some ways, it also shows some heart. Clearly, Ja Rule loves Ashanti in his own way, and he is scarred by her “betrayal” of him. He even promises to pray for her… however, ultimately, he lacks Christ’s legendary forgiveness:

You’ll never be the same since I saw you as Judas…

Feuds are nothing new in the world of hip-hop and R & B – however, they are not usually between performers of the opposite sex. Ja Rule’s Judas is spiced with sexual tension, jealousy, and the idea that Ashanti and Ja Rule have a hidden history and lots of secrets. While the Judas lyrics are a straightforward condemnation of Ashanti’s behavior, the listener can’t help but feel there is plenty we don’t know about both sides of the relationship between these two superstars.