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Best New Player

Ja Rule

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AGE 25 MOMENT OF ARRIVAL The diminutive rapper (born Jeffrey Atkins) is primed to become the biggest crossover star out of Hollis, Queens, since LL Cool J. His third and latest album, Pain Is Love, is already platinum; he hooked up with J. Lo and scored a hit with the single ”I’m Real (Murder Remix)”; and his forays into acting — including a role in The Fast and the Furious — have netted him a truckload of offers. WHEN HE KNEW HE’D MADE IT ”I guess when Pain Is Love hit No. 1 [on the pop charts]. That made two No. 1 albums for me in the span of one year.” FIRST JOB ”This is funny. I’ve never had a job in my life other than music. I started making records when I was 17, fresh outta high school and my momma’s house.” WHAT FAME HAS BROUGHT ”The ability to feed my family and send my children to good schools,” says Rule, who, with his wife, Aisha, has two children, Britney, 5, and Jeffrey Jr., 1. ”That’s the most important thing to me.” DREAM ROLE ”I’d like to act in something people wouldn’t expect me to, like a love story. I’ve got a sensitive side, too.” WHAT’S NEXT Look for him in the upcoming Steven Seagal prison film Half Past Dead; he’ll likely tour with his old buddy Jay-Z.