Aliya S. King’s True Hip-Hop Stories: That Time I Asked Ja Rule’s Wife About His Affair With Karrine Steffans » VSB

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Aliya S. King’s True Hip-Hop Stories: That Time I Asked Ja Rule’s Wife About His Affair With Karrine Steffans


In 2000, I wrote a cover story on Ja Rule for The Source. Ja Rule and his then-girlfriend Aisha, high school sweethearts who had already been together for ten years, lived about ten minutes away from me in Jersey so I was able to hang out at their home the day before we all left for Los Angeles for the American Music Awards, where Ja was presenting an award.

Aisha didn’t speak to me during my first interview with Ja Rule in Jersey. She didn’t ignore me and she wasn’t the least bit hostile. I interviewed Ja at their dining room table and she offered me water and checked on us occasionally to see if we needed anything. Aisha was crisp and formal—no eye contact and few words.

I was struck by how young she seemed. She looked like a teenager but carried herself like a seasoned political wife on the campaign trail: polished but reserved.

When I met up with them the next day in Los Angeles at the American Music Awards, I trailed them both as they made their way down the red carpet. Aisha acknowledged my presence with a slight nod. And later, over dinner, we exchanged please and thank-yous when necessary. There was no sustained conversation and it was abundantly clear that I would NOT be pointing my tape-recorder anywhere in her direction.

On our last night in Los Angeles, we all went to Mr. Chow’s: Ja Rule, Aisha, producer Irv Gotti, his wife Deb and a large entourage. After dinner was over, a driver pulled up and Deb and Aisha came out of the restaurant and made a beeline to the car.

I stood on the sidewalk, waiting for someone to tell me the next step. As folks began to decide who was taking which car, I was ushered into the car with Deb and Aisha.

Aisha moved her legs so I could climb over her and then she scooted back close to the door, her head turned away. I got the message and moved as close to the other side of the car as possible. Directly across from me, Deb Gotti sat with one slim leg over the other. Her eyes and half her face were obscure by oversized shades. Her hair, bone straight, fell over the other side of her face. Her hands were folded over her knee. On her ring finger was the largest diamond ring I’d ever seen up close. I flicked my eyes to the left to glance at Aisha’s ring—also large but nothing like the rock Deb was sporting.

Outside on the street, Ja Rule and Irv Gotti and their entourage were going on about something and being loud and rowdy. Aisha stared at them from the window. Deb looked straight ahead. For twenty minutes, neither of those women uttered a single word. And in those twenty minutes, through eye blinks, sighs, throat-clears, skirt-straightens, nostril flaring and leg shaking…I learned everything I needed to know about what it meant to be a real housewife in love and hip-hop.

Fifteen years ago, women married to rappers were largely invisible. You might see a glimpse of them on the red carpet or in a paparazzi shot. But you definitely didn’t see them on reality television. Most of the time, you didn’t even know the name of a rapper’s wife or girlfriend. It’s hard to imagine now. But rappers’ wives kept their mouths shut and kept their circle very small.

I was haunted by what I saw in that limo with Aisha and Deb. Beyond looking bored and uncomfortable, they seemed like they were in a very beautiful prison, sitting across from each other in a luxury car with a driver, not saying a word while their husbands were loud and rowdy just a few inches away. They were dead silent as we waited for their men to decide it was time to go.

It was so hard for me to relate to those women. We were all the same age. But my life was so radically different. I was still years away from marriage and babies. I was a nosy reporter who traveled the world, sticking a microphone in the face of people like Ja and Irv Gotti, who understood and respected the power my recorder held. I earned my own money and had lived on my own for years. And unlike those women, I had no idea what it would be like to not live paycheck-to-paycheck.

My boyfriend at the time was also in the entertainment industry. I couldn’t imagine sitting in the back seat of a car while he was laughing it up. I’d be right next to him, throwing back drinks and talking shit. Poised and proper I was not.

So, I wrote my story on Ja Rule, (including an exclusive, about his fight with an up-and-coming rapper named 50 Cent), and then I kept it moving. But I never forgot those tense moments in the car with Aisha and Deb.

The Source- Ja Rule Cover

A few years later, I was asked to write a story about women married to rappers for VIBE. I instantly thought about that night with Deb and Aisha and I quickly accepted.

I reached out to Tashera Simmons, Kim Mathers, Shante Broadus, Simone Smith, Claudinette Jean, (wives of DMX, Eminem, Snoop Dog, LL Cool J and Wyclef Jean), and a host of other wives. I only wanted to interview women who were there when their husbands had absolutely nothing. What happens when your man makes it big and you have more money than you can spend in a lifetime?

Of course, I also tried to interview Deb and Aisha. I was relentless, using every source I had to track down the women and get them on the phone. I sent letters. (Handwritten. With stamps. Remember those?) I sent emails. I made calls. I left numerous voices. I may or may not have sent fruit baskets with notes inside. I sent two-way pages from my boyfriend’s two-way pager since I didn’t have my own.

Most of the wives ignored me. Or flat out said no. Some had their husband’s reps call me and tell me to step off. This continued for months.

One of the reasons I couldn’t get any of the wives to talk to me was because of a book that had just been published. Confessions of a Video Vixen, written by Karrine “Superhead” Steffans, had exploded, ripping the curtains back on the misogyny and careless sexual escapades in the hip-hop and urban entertainment community.

Many of the men Karrine outed in the book, like Ja Rule, Dr. Dre, Bobby Brown, DMX, Shaquille O’Neal and Method Man, were married, most were with their day-one women, the ones who were there when the money wasn’t.

Ja Rule, according to Steffans’ book, actually gave her the nickname Superhead, borrowed from a line in a Jadakiss song.

And while some she didn’t name, others, again, like Ja Rule, she put fully on blast, including photos. She said she and Ja took Ecstasy together and had multiple threesomes—all while Aisha was home raising their children. And she claimed that Irv Gotti forced her to perform a sexual act—and then passed her around to his friends, all while his wife Deb was home raising their children.

I had done enough investigative reporting to know—there was NO way Steffans could have published that book without lawyers heavily checking her facts. If it made the book, I knew Steffans had receipts to back up all her stories.

It was no wonder I couldn’t get Aisha, Deb or any of the wives to agree to an interview.

One day, I was watching Run’s House on MTV.  I saw Aisha and Ja Rule’s daughter Brittany playing with Run’s children. I hadn’t seen the little girl since I’d interviewed Ja back in their condo. I smiled. Brittany and her little brother had grown up to be absolutely adorable. Then my smile faded when I heard someone say something about how Ja and Run were neighbors.

I looked at the notebook of possible addresses I had for Aisha and Ja. One of the addresses listed was located in the Bergen County town that I knew for sure Rev Run lived in.  So there, I was, sitting in my apartment, realizing that I had the right address for Aisha. And it was a fifty-minute ride from my sofa.

I did ninety miles an hour on the Garden State Parkway and got to the house in thirty minutes. The house, a monstrous property set back from the street, was gated. I pulled up and rang the doorbell.

“Who is it?”

“This is Aliya King. From Vibe. I’m here to talk to Aisha Atkins.”

“Who? From where?”

“Aliya. From Vibe.

There was silence from the intercom. But the gates began to slide open. I walked down the pathway and waited at the front door. It opened and a woman who looked like Aisha’s twin sister stood there staring at me.

“What do you want?”

“I’m writing a story and I wanted to interview Aisha,” I said, my hands shaking and my heart pounding. “I sent her a few letters but I didn’t hear back from her.”

“Well she’s not here. She’s picking up the kids from school. You want to leave a card?”

“Yes,” I said, digging out a business card. “I’ll be in the area for the next few hours if she wants to give me a— ”

“Well never mind, here she comes now,” said the woman. I turned around and saw Aisha coming down the driveway in a white Benz. I could see the kids bouncing around in the backseat. I could also see Aisha’s face. It was the same steely face I saw in that limo five years before. She pulled up to the door. The kids began to get out of the car and she sharply ordered them to stay put. She closed the door and locked it.

“Who are you?”

“My name is Aliya. From Vibe. I—

“Did you send me a fruit basket?”

“Oh. Um. Yeah. So you did get it…”

Aisha twisted her lips.

“Yeah. I got it.”

“Can I interview you? It’s a story on—



“Why should I?”

I don’t remember what I said here. It was something about setting the record straight and having her voice heard. All I know is, I begged.

Aisha just stared at me. At one point, she instructed her sister, who was still standing at the door, to get the kids out of the car and into the house. I could see the kids running around, throwing their backpacks down and taking off their shoes.

When I was done begging, Aisha rolled her eyes and looked up at the sky. She whispered something under her breath and then looked at me and shook her head. Finally, she pushed her back against the front door until it opened completely.

“Come inside,” she said. “Have a seat in the kitchen.”

I sat. Took out my notebook and my recorder. Aisha moved around the kitchen, distributing snacks to the kids and making tea. Finally, she sat across from me at the table with her cup of tea. Aisha gestured to the recorder and made a motion for me to turn it on. I pressed record.

“Well?” she asked. “What do you want to know?”

Vibe-Wives of Famous Rappers 1

Aliya S. King

Aliya S. King is the author of two novels and three nonfiction books, including the New York Times bestseller Keep the Faith, written with recording artist Faith Evans. Right here, she wants to add something pithy and quirky about pancakes or something like in Damon’s bio. But she’s just not that witty. It would feel forced.

  • I am almost certain i read the article in Vibe back then. I feel like i just met a celebrity now lol

  • TheCollinB

    King literally left ya’ll with the cup of “tea”. Layers.

    The intro to Ja’s “Venni Vitti Vicci” may have been the best Def Jam album intro of all time btw

    • Brass Tacks

      I always wanted somebody to take that loop, and make it the chorus for some other track.

      • TheCollinB

        Lord can we get a break (lord can we get a break)
        We ain’t really happy here (we ain’t really happy here)

        It would be fitting for the political climate right now.

    • StillSuga

      I had to log in just to upvote this

  • Dee Squared

    Aliya, I swear you are gonna make me lose my good job!!! You write about a time in my life that was absolutely AMAZING…I remember when Superhead’s book hit the scene…I remember her infamous interview with Starr & Buckwild. I remember it all…

    *** ‘Can it be all so simple’ started playing in my head***

    I also remember when Wendy Williams outted Wyclef and Lauren regarding their relationship (I was at the hair salon and can I tell you…NOBODY got a cut n curl while that interview was being conducted …bae-bae)

    I always wondered how those women(the wives) dealt with the constant infidelity; the cheating, the recklessness, the public, the questions, just the life. That life! I agree with you, it’s a ‘beautiful prison!’

    • TeeChantel

      “I also remember when Wendy Williams outted Wyclef and Lauren regarding their relationship (I was at the hair salon and can I tell you…NOBODY got a cut n curl while that interview was being conducted …bae-bae)”

      Real talk, Claudinette attended my alma mater (Montclair State University). From what I remember, she used to get harassed on the daily re: Wyclef and Lauren’s relationship. I don’t exactly recall what came of it because I graduated by then. Messy times.

    • TheCollinB

      Elliot Wilson had a story about being a young writer and having it bad for L Hill. He ran up on her while she and Clef were in the middle of an argument about their situationship but he was too aloof at the time to realize they were fighting lovers. Also a good read.

    • RewindingtonMaximus

      That Starr & Buckwild interview tho…NY was so frozen for that.

      • Dee Squared

        Yes sir…. Frozen was an understatement! Starr and Buck….how I miss that show! I remember when Karrine mentioned she was now(at that time, dating Bill Maher), I thought Starr was gonna lose it….he was screaming does she feel validated now…blah, blah blah. Ah…the original reality tv nonsense!

        • RewindingtonMaximus

          And then Bill dropped her like a bad habit, because he had no idea how deep in the game she was. She fooled mad people working her way up to that circle.

          • fxd8424

            I remember her saying this about Bill Maher:

            “Bill wants someone he can put down in an argument, tell you how ghetto you are, how big your butt is, and that you’re an idiot. That’s why you never see him with a white girl or an intellectual. I might as well have been a Muslim woman with my head wrapped, walking 10 paces behind my man. [But] I couldn’t be Bill Maher’s girlfriend’ any more – not when I’m Karrine Steffans.”

            • RewindingtonMaximus

              Given how he acts on his show…I can definitely see that. But by hiding her situation, she also set herself for him to go shots fired crazy on that a$$

            • Asiyah

              Exactly why I can’t stand his dumba$$.

              • fxd8424

                I don’t care for him either.

            • exactly. bill dropped her? Please, seems to me she stay with some man in her face regardless of her past.

      • KB

        Is this interview on youtube?

        • Dee Squared

          I hope that linked worked..

          • Quirlygirly

            Man yall dropping jewels on this post! Thank you

          • KB


          • Val

            Wow, I’m not a Karrine Steffans fan at all but dude totally seemed like he had an axe to grind in this interview. Actually calling this an interview is inaccurate, this was more of an attack than an interview.

            • Quirlygirly

              Star always seemed hostile and disrespectful to women when he was on the radio. I think she handled it well considering..

              • Star was a savage with no couth.

                • Quirlygirly

                  +1 for no couth

                  I was ok with him being a savage because I think Charlemagne is a bit of a savage but he doing the most for no reason and in the end he got ousted.

                  • Charlemagne be speaking truth sometimes, but he’s too abrasive for many people to take him seriously. I just want to know where he got his bleaching cream from so I can get these scars off my knees. (pause)

                    • Quirlygirly

                      LOL!! Nope!!! not today Pinks, not today..

          • FarbissinaPunim

            Wow, this just made me so mad.I’m not here for Karrine, but sad that ninja was on some extra a s s holery type ish.

        • RewindingtonMaximus

          Might not be but there has to be an audio file of it somewhere, so I’d say try it

      • Quirlygirly

        I remember that show..Why did they leave NY radio?

        • TeeChantel

          They caught a lot of heat for the Aaliyah broadcast.

          • Quirlygirly

            That’s right!!! I forgot all about that!!

          • Val

            I don’t even want to know what they said about Aaliyah.

            • They played crash sounds while saying her name. Disgusting.

        • RewindingtonMaximus

          Because Starr was an a$$hole and kept playing radio politics that got them banned

          • orchid921

            I was actually good friends with a guy who worked on that show … he had stories for days! And yeah, Star was a legendary a-hole. In fact, Hot 97 morning show hosts in general were known for that. Remember when Miss Jones got fired for calling West Indians “coconuts” and refused to back down? Crazy, crazy days …

            • RewindingtonMaximus

              That’s the funny thing about Hot 97..too many people were feeling themselves hard body just because it was a NY radio station, but always forgot no one knew their names outside of the Tri-State area, but if they ended up in the news they’d be looking foolish to the whole country.

        • Big Daddy Suede

          He got fired…said he would go R. Kelly on DJ Envy’s kid

          • Quirlygirly

            He deserved it then. That was too far

    • shopping! lol So glad I was raised to be independent.

  • MissMiamiHeatNation


  • Jennifer

    *slow clap* You, my dear, are a great storyteller.


    • Aly


    • Lea Thrace


    • LOLOL! Just rude!

    • Savage

    • Brina Payne


  • OH.MY.GAWD….

    I totally remember this article! I had subscription to Vibe, Essence and Ebony – living on my own. #Memorie Allaofda feels!

    But you aint have to leave us hanging here for the next tea time. My crumpets & my english breakfast tea will be ready!!!!

  • Ari

    The bawls to knock on the Rule’s front door. My God. *Goes to read Vibe article*

    • I think we’ve learned that Aliya S. King will show up at ya mama’s mama’s house.

      • Ari

        I’m so inspired. She does whatever it takes.

      • #Threat

        • KMN

          #PROMISE lolol

      • aliyasking

        I did just that. Ask Faith Evans. Went right up to mama’s mama’s house. Mama’s Mama wasn’t home. She was teaching bible study at church. Went right up to Bible Study. (!!!!) Knocked on the door and then introduced myself. Turn that recorder on real quick:
        “What did you think when Fatih come home with Big and told you they were married?”

        • Mama’s mama’s bible study, though!? You are an unstoppable force. Salute.

          • orchid921

            That’s some real reporter ish right there. You have to be fearless!

    • porqpai

      The requirement for exactly that size cajones to get ahead in journalism especially for a black woman at the time is precisely why I quit. That is very much at odds with my personality.

      • LeeLee


  • TheCollinB

    King, as an unmarried woman at the time what settled with you the most after completing the article?

    • aliyasking

      That I wasn’t going to marry anyone famous.

  • After the first few lines, I got up from my desk, walked down the hall to read in private. Nostrils flaring and all, I didn’t want anyone to think I was on an angry conference call, lol
    Your “adventures” would make outstanding page turners just because of the visuals you burn into or heads.

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