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Ja Rule to be jailed for up to five years on weapons and tax evasion convictions

March 23, 2011 |  8:35 am

Though he made his name hollering "it's murda," Queens-born rapper Ja Rule now faces up to five years in prison for weapons possession and tax evasion.

On Tuesday, the rapper born Jeffrey Atkins pleaded guilty in a New Jersey Federal Court to two counts of tax evasion, each carrying a maximum one-year sentence.

Agreeing to fork over $1.1 million in back taxes and penalties, the rapper is currently free on $500,000 bail pending sentencing June 13. A week before that, he's scheduled to report to jail to begin serving a three-year sentence for a weapons possession conviction stemming from a 2007 arrest.

According to court reports, the rapper had failed to file tax returns from 2004 to 2008, despite significant revenues from royalty and touring. 2004 was the last year the formerly multiplatinum recording artist had an album of new material in stores. That year's "R.U.L.E." managed to go gold, an impressive feat in today's attenuated record industry, but a minor blip in that more robust era.

Shortly after releasing the album, the combination of withering attacks from rival 50 Cent and an inability to land a single on the charts precipitated Rule's steep fall from the limelight. Yet at one point in the late '90s and early 2000s, there was no more commercially viable rapper than the Murder Inc.-signed Rule. 2001's "Pain is Love" debuted at No. 1 and sold a reported 12 million copies worldwide. Rule was nominated for four Grammy's and even was named GQ's 2002 Man of the Year for musicians.

But rap careers are notoriously evanescent and success soon dried up. A film career never panned out and numerous attempts to reboot his career stalled almost immediately (though I still maintain that "Uh-Oh," Rule's 2007 Lil Wayne collaboration wasn't half bad).

The moral of the story is that it's probably unwise to go up against 50 Cent at any point in your life. Also, remember to pay your taxes next month.

-- Jeff Weiss