I'm Real is a song recorded by Jennifer Lopez.
The original version is featured on her second studio album J.Lo and the "Murder Remix" version (featuring rapper Ja Rule) is featured on Jennifer's remix album "J to tha L–O!: The Remixes" & Ja Rule's 2001 album "Pain is Love."
The original version was released as the album's fourth single and was well received by music critics who complimented the '80s style while the remix version received mixed reviews for the lyrics.
However, both versions of the song have been appreciated for the use of the samples.
Ja Rule had been brought in after the moderate U.S. performance of "Play" the second single from J.Lo.
Singer Ashanti (also on The Inc.) provided backing vocals on the Murder Remix.
The "Murder Remix" topped the Billboard Hot 100 for five non-consecutive weeks, beginning September 8, 2001 and also topped the Hot 100 Airplay chart.
The two songs are essentially different songs with the same title and much controversy followed the song after its release.
Two music videos were made for the track with the first depicting Jennifer driving a motorcycle throughout the highway and featuring a dance-break while the second video features Ja Rule and Irv Gotti.
Song Background & Release
The original version of "I'm Real" was recorded by Lopez for her second studio album J.Lo which had 14 other tracks.
Released on January 23, 2001, J.Lo debuted at the summit of the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 272,000 copies and was a commercial success.
On July 24, 2001 (on Jennifer's thirty-second birthday) the album was re-issued with a Murder Remix version of "I'm Real" written by Ja Rule included as a new track.
The new version, which was also a single from the album, allowed the album to propel from the 90th position of the Billboard 200 back to the top ten according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Following the release of "I'm Real (Murder Remix)," Jennifer's personal sound had shifted away from a pure pop or R&B to more of a hip hop sound.
Ja Rule praised Lopez while working with her on the track, stating:
"She's mad cool. She goes in, knocks the sh-- out, no problem [...] I love artists like that," and also said that her audience now wanted a different sound from her, "It's J.Lo now because of 'I'm Real' [...] It's gonna put her in another zone. After this one, they gonna be expecting hot crossover R&B joints from J.Lo. They ain't gonna want the pop version of J.Lo no more, they gonna want the 'I'm Real' version."
Ja Rule stated that he enjoyed working with Jennifer and that it was a "real collaboration" by saying:
"Sometimes when you do a collaboration with an artist it's not real collaborations [...] 'Send me a reel here. I'll fly it back here.' Me and J. Lo's record was a real collaboration."
Composition & Lyrics
The original version of "I'm Real" was written by Jennifer Lopez, Troy Oliver, Cory Rooney and Leshan David Lewis with production being handled by Oliver & Rooney.
The "Murder Remix" received additional lyrics by Ja Rule, Irv Gotti and Rick James while production was done by Gotti and 7 Aurelius.
The song is a pop and R&B song, also considered a "retro pop" and synthpop track.
Lyrically, in "I'm Real," Jennifer offers voluptuous good times as long as you "don't ask me where I've been."
While she brags that she's made you fall in love, a male voice chants She's a bad, bad bitch."
Original Version Video
The original video for "I'm Real" begins with Jennifer driving down a highway on a motorcycle, passing various smiling children, who stop what they are doing and run after her.
Jennifer is also seen at a gas station where she stops and proceeds to walk into the town.
Several more people gaze at her as she walks through the town. Jennifer is later seen eating ice cream with children until she gets back onto her motorcycle and drives back down the highway.
A string of children are running after her, and the music stops as she steps up onto a stage set on a hillside where she goes into a dance break. These scenes feature Jennifer's second husband, Cris Judd as a back-up dancer.
For the rest of the video, Jennifer continues to sing, dance and entertain the crowd on stage as the crowd watch in pleasure. The video also features a cameo appearance by Ja Rule.
"Murder Remix" Video
A separate video clip was shot for the "Murder Remix" of "I'm Real" featuring Ja Rule.
The video opens with Jennifer leaning on a gate of a suburban house and singing in front of a red backdrop along with Ja Rule, who is also seen walking the streets with a basketball.
Males and females are then seen in various locations such as a park and swimming pool.
Jennifer and Ja Rule are then seen together in a basketball court in the chorus of the song.
These locations are shown for a prominent part of the video until both of them are later at a party and sitting together at a park watching children play.
The song received mostly positive reviews from music critics.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic picked the song as one of his "track picks" noting that the song has " hook, but it needs a couple of spins before its catch holds."
While saying that the song "sound like it's straight out of 1986," Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine called it "a retro pop track reminiscent of Janet Jackson's Control era."
Tom Sinclair of Entertainment Weekly called it "a chirpy little synth pop number" while CJB of UKMix called it "a commercial R&B tune for the dancefloors."
Marvin van der Weyde also of UKMix named it "a very funky R&B/pop tune, and just as catchy as the remix version."
Bill Lamb of About.com observed the track has "a truly engaging light, sexy touch."
The "Murder Remix" also received favorable reviews from music critics.
William Ruhlmann of Allmusic picked the song as one of the best from the album while Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine called it "edgy, often sexy remix" naming it "a significant departure from the retro-hued album version."
Ian Wade of Yahoo! Music wrote that:
"Only the Ja Rule assisted 'I'm Real' and 'Ain't It Funny" that makes something vaguely special out of the original versions, Jen'd be better off just hooking up with him for good and they could become a Cristal-sipping, foulmouthed and bling-blinging Sonny & Cher."
Marvin van der Weyde of UK Mix noted that "you won't be able to get it out of your head. It's incredibly catchy, with great raps from Ja Rule and a fantastic beat."
While reviewing Ja Rule's 'Pain is Love' album, Soren Baker of Los Angeles Times noted that:
"I'm Real is "one of the album's stronger songs as Rule's rough voice and Lopez's sugary tones make a surprisingly appealing blend."
Jennifer and Ja Rule performed the murder remix version of the song at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards.
The song (original version) was included on the set list for her series of "Let's Get Loud" concerts in 2001 and later appeared on the "Let's Get Loud Concert" DVD.
She sang the original version of the song on NBC's Today in the middle of the Rockefeller Plaza.
Despite the success of "I'm Real", there was controversy over the use of the single's sample and the structure of the song.
The song contains an uncredited sample from Yellow Magic Orchestra's 1978 hit song "Firecracker" (which is an electronic synthpop cover of Martin Denny's 1959 melody of the same name) while the remix officially interpolates the Mary Jane Girls' 1983 song "All Night Long" as well as borrowing the melody from Rick James's song "Mary Jane".
There have been reports that the "Firecracker" sample was originally planned to be used for Mariah Carey's song "Loverboy."
According to the music publisher of "Firecracker", Mariah called to license a sample of the song which had never been sampled months before Jennifer called to do the same.
Mariah felt that her former husband and music executive at Sony Music (Columbia Records), Tommy Mottola was interfering with her career by arranging for the sample to go to Jennifer.
Upset by the conduct of Jennifer and her ex-husband, Mariah featured a reference to the song on her single "Loverboy," her first single released by her record company at the time, Virgin Records.
The verse can be heard in Da Brat's rap section where she sings: "Hate on me much as you want to / You can't do what the fuck I do / Bitches be emulating me daily" over the melody of "Firecracker."
Irv Gotti (who produced the remix of "I'm Real" featuring Ja Rule) openly admitted during an interview with XXL magazine that Mottola contacted him with instructions to create a song that sounded exactly like a song he had made with Mariah for the Glitter soundtrack entitled "If We" also featuring Ja Rule.
Furthermore, some in the African American community were outraged by Jennifer's use of the word "nigga" in the Murder Remix.
In response to this, Jennifer said in between performances:
"For anyone to think or suggest that I'm racist is really absurd and hateful to me. The use of the word in the song — it was actually written by Ja Rule. It was not meant to be hurtful to anybody."
Ja Rule also responded to this, defending Jennifer by stating: "I think it's silly [...] I think the whole thing, like everything else, is being blown out of proportion."
Ja Rule said that Jennifer was not the first Latino to use the word in a song and that it hadn't been in an issue previously, adding it was something to let people get a chance to "poke her."
The song was certified Gold in New Zealand with sales of 7,500. In Australia, it was certified Platinum with sales of 70,000.
In France, the song was certified Silver with sales of 171,000.