Three weeks ago, Irv Gotti took a page from Suge Knight and changed his record label's violent name. Just as Knight had dropped the Death from Death Row, renaming his label simply Tha Row, Gotti decided to drop the ''Murder'' from Murder Inc., which is now simply The Inc. On Wednesday, he and Inc. stars Ja Rule and Ashanti held a press conference in New York to explain the name change.
Gotti recounted that he came up with the name after watching a TV documentary about the original Murder Inc., the 1930s gang of hit men. The name struck a chord with the aspiring mogul, who also wanted to make hits. (He has said that the double entendre was also behind the signature shout ''It's Murder!'' that appears on his artists' hit records.) ''It was a shocking name, but I liked that,'' he said, according to the New York Times. ''I knew people would remember it.''
Now, however, he wants people to forget it. For the past year, the label has been mired in controversy. Federal investigators have been probing the label's finances, suspecting that it has financial ties to convicted drug kingpin Kenneth ''Supreme'' McGriff, a Gotti friend. (Gotti and McGriff have both denied the allegations.) And the long-running feud between Ja Rule and 50 Cent has tainted the label with the association of real-life violence. (The rapper didn't comment on the feud at Wednesday's press conference, though Gotti said, ''Everything with 50 is quiet. Maybe it could die down,'' according to MTV News.) That's why he dropped the ''Murder,'' Gotti said. ''My sole purpose is that everyone will focus on our talent and not our name,'' he said.
The first ''The Inc.'' release was ''Ashanti's Christmas,'' which arrived in stores Nov. 18. Still, there's a little murder left at The Inc. The label has maintained the murderincrecords.com website, where the artists are still referred to as ''murderers'' and appear on ''Wanted'' posters. Also, Gotti said, the artists will still shout ''It's Murder.'' And he has no plans to go back to his own original name, Irving Lorenzo.