Ja Rule was signed to Def Jam Records in 1998, and made his radio debut as a featured artist on Jay-Z's single "Can I Get A...," during the same year. The heavily promoted single started to gather a buzz around the raspy-voiced rapper. The following year, Ja Rule released his debut album, Venni Vetti Vecci, with Murder Inc. Records, a label started by Irv Gotti under Def Jam Records. Venni Vetti Vecci was also the first album released under the newly founded label.
The album, while not domiating the charts, still made an impressive showing for the debut artist. Ja Rule's album debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, selling more than 184,000 copies in its first week. His ranking proved even more impressive when compared to other popular artists that released their debut albums on the same day, including Jennifer Lopez and Blink-182, who debuted at No. 8 and No. 9, respectively.
The success of his debut album was only the start of Ja Rule's ascension in the music industry. From his debut in 1999 to 2004, Ja Rule released a new album every year—Rule 3:36 (2000), Pain Is Love (2001), The Last Temptation (2002), Blood in My Eye (2003) and R.U.L.E. (2004). Each album found moderate success, and his singles featuring pop/R&B artists such as Ashanti and Jennifer Lopez were particularly popular. Ja Rule's second single from Pain is Love, "Always on Time," featured R&B singer Ashanti, and was the rapper's first No. 1 single on the Billboard Top 100.