Discography Check: Ruff Ryders Entertainment

By @TrueGodImmortal

There are some movements in hip hop history that had such a mega impact in a short window of time. While Roc-A-Fella, Cash Money, Def Jam, and numerous others have maintained over the years through ups and downs, the label that had all of the momentum in the world and watched it fizzle out fast was Ruff Ryders. Backed by Dee and Waah Dean, and production mostly by Swizz Beatz, their movement took over for a few years and set the world on fire. DMX was at the forefront and probably the biggest reason for the success, but the supporting cast would be stars in their own right, or at least on the verge. The heyday of Ruff Ryders was from 1998 til about 2002 or so, but today we discuss the entire discography of albums released on Ruff Ryders officially. Let's get into it.

*DMX- It's Dark And Hell Is Hot (1998)

-The beginning. I was unaware of what the Ruff Ryders were and what they represented. This album was like the crown jewel and the perfect introduction to the gravel voiced MC Earl Simmons, better known as DMX. This album to me is a certified classic and it would become the highest selling album to be released on Ruff Ryders, as it sits at 7 million copies sold in the US. This album would showcase the Lox, who were recently released from their Bad Boy contracts to be on Ruff Ryders, but most of all, it gave us our first look at the mind of DMX. Songs such as "Damien", "Niggas Done Started Something", "Get At Me Dog", and many other tracks gave us an in depth look at his lyricism, his aggression, and his style. For me, a song like "How's It Going Down" showcased the range in emotion for DMX, even with him playing the role that's entailed in the song. Overall, DMX created something timeless and I think this is still his greatest album and achievement. There could never be another DMX, and I don't think any rapper today could make an album quite like It's Dark And Hell Is Hot.

*DMX- Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood (1998)

-After dropping his first classic, DMX came back with yet another dope album, one that I'd also consider a classic. There are times that I'm partial to this album over his first, and there are times where I'm partial to his first over this one, but all that seems to signify to me is that both of those albums are damn good. This album has classics like "No Love for Me", "Slippin", "Blackout", and countless other bangers. I think what sticks out about this album versus the first one is that there seems to be a more tortured vibe on some of the songs and a more reckless DMX, which also means a less focused album, but it works. Probably the 2nd or 3rd best release from the Ruff Ryders label, and easily the 2nd best album in the catalog of DMX.

*Ruff Ryders- Ryde or Die Vol. 1 (1999)

-A personal favorite for me. I love this album. It's easily the best release from Ruff Ryders as far as the label compilations go, and there's nothing but anthems and hits on this one. Who could forget the classic "Jigga My Nigga" by Jay-Z that took over the airwaves during the summer of 99? Or Eve and hit "What Ya Want" that also tore up the charts and airwaves? Nothing however could compare to the legendary anthem that is "Down Bottom" by Drag-On and Juvenile. This is the essential Ruff Ryders song and the call and response hook is one of my all time favorites. With appearances from Big Pun, Jermaine Dupri, Beanie Sigel, and Ma$e, this album had everything for the hip hop fan. If I had to say so, I would call this a classic.

*DMX- And Then There Was X (1999)

-I'm always in the middle about this album. I love it at times and there's much I also dislike about it. When following up back to back classics, one should try to make a different type of album on the third go round, but the DMX formula has always been "if it's not broke, why fix it" essentially. This album isn't bad, but it's nothing as spectacular as his first two, and while I enjoy the classics like "What These Bitches Want", "D-X-L", and "One More Road To Cross", I could do without "Party Up" (I know it's a classic but I hate the song), "More 2 A Song", and a few other tracks. This isn't his worst album by far, and it's his 4th best project overall, but it just misses the mark on some parts. It was however tremendously successful sales wise albums became the first album from X to get certified 5X platinum, though his first two would match those sales and eventually exceed them based on legacy.

*Eve- Let There Be Eve... Ruff Ryders First Lady (1999)

-Porsha covered this album already so I'll keep my thoughts brief here. I enjoyed the music on this album and I think Eve delivered a strong project. Was it one of my favorite releases on the label? No, not really, but tracks like "Love Is Blind", "Let's Talk About", and "Scenario 2000" made this album worth the listen. My only complaint is that Eve never had much depth in her lyrical content, but otherwise this was a solid effort and a good addition to the Ruff Ryders dominance, as Eve brought somewhat of a different perspective at least from those of Lil Kim and Foxy Brown.

*The Lox- We Are The Streets (2000)

-I think this album could have been so much more than what it really turned out to be. While some would call it a street classic, I think the album itself is middle of the road. While there are some bangers on this album like "Blood Pressure", the commercial hit "Ryde or Die Bitch", and "Recognize", I think this album would have been better with less production from Swizz Beatz. Letting Swizz produce so much of the Ruff Ryders music started to come back to haunt them and this was the album for sure that showcased that issue. Jada, Styles, and Sheek lyrically do their thing however.

*Drag-On- Opposite of H20 (2000)

-The most forgotten member of the Ruff Ryders collective came with some fire on this debut album, but his rhymes tend to teeter on elementary in some times. The title track, "Niggas Die 4 Me", "Get It Right", and "Ready For War" are all dope, but there is a lack of cohesion on this particular project. Luckily, it went gold and was able to hit the top 10 of the Billboard 200, but this was when the Ruff Ryders dominance began to dwindle a little bit.

*Ruff Ryders- Ryde or Die Vol 2 (2000)

-I remember going to buy this album and being excited about it and I wasn't disappointed. These compilations are always dope, and while this didn't compare to the first one, the skits were funny, songs like "WW III", "Fright Night", "My Name Is Kiss", "Twisted Heat", and "Go Head" were extremely solid, and there was a nice flow to the project overall. What stuck out the most to me on this project was the newer generation of Ruff Ryders to come like Yung Wun, Cassidy, and a few others. I didn't really see big potential in any of them, but maybe I'd be wrong? At the time however, I felt they had the worst song on the album. That hasn't changed.

*Eve- Scorpion (2001)

-When Eve was preparing her second album, it felt like she was going to the well one too many times, as evidenced by her very familiar sounding "Who's That Girl" single. It was very similar to "What Ya Want" in a way and didn't excite fans so to speak. What did get her more attention and love was the Gwen Stefani assisted "Let Me Blow Your Mind", as it would become a big hit. Other songs on this album that were dope are "Scream Double R", "That's What It Is", and "Thug In the Street". The music on the rest of the album seemed to pale in comparison however, I think this was a bit disappointing and lacking in substance, and of course, depth. A decent album, but a step down from her debut.

*Jadakiss- Kiss Tha Game Goodbye (2001)

-This album is my favorite Jadakiss album. It's also a fairly good album with too much filler and clutter. Is that negative? Not really. I respect the talent of Jadakiss, and I think this album displays him at his best in that regard, but he lacked some cohesion here and stacked this album with far too many songs. However, classic songs like "Show Discipline", "We Gonna Make It", "Knock Yourself Out", "None of Y'all Betta", and "It's Time I See You" push this album into good territory, but as Speed referenced in his WIRTB on the album, it's the forced tracks that don't do it any justice, like the Timbaland produced "Nasty Girl", or the silly "Fuckin or What?" track. A good album that would have been great if it was trimmed down by 7 or 8 songs.

*DMX- The Great Depression (2001)

-This is the 3rd best DMX album. It's also his most slept on. After a middle of the road third album, his 4th release was truly underrated. It was a bit darker than his 3rd album, but featured anthems, aggression, and an in depth perspective on a number of things in X's life for sure. Songs like "Who We Be", "We Right Here", "I Miss You", "Trina Moe", "I'ma Bang", and more definitely made this a solid project, and when you couple that with the lack of actual features on this and the production, this is truly an album of DMX. Alone. In his own zone.

*Ruff Ryders- Ryde or Die Vol 3: In the R We Trust (2001)

-This is a very odd project to me in some way. The new generation of Ruff Ryders was coming in right when X was falling out of prime, Jada had slowly tried to take the top spot in the crew, Eve had disappointed but sold well and had a hit, and it looked like this was an attempt to restore the brand, but this didn't work. The project was a bit sloppy in execution, the focus on the newer rappers was a good thing in general, but they didn't measure up to the regular crew and there isn't a real standout song on this one besides the Jada and Bubba Sparxxx track "They Ain't Ready", and Eve's "U, Me, and She". The rest falls a bit flat.

*Styles P- A Gangster And A Gentleman (2002)

-This isn't a classic, but it's a damn good album. One of my favorite Double R releases and it is what cemented Styles as one of the best in the crew. Styles made a better debut solo album than Jada and I definitely didn't expect it to go that route. Songs like "Good Times" and "The Life" were hits, while the title track, "Black Magic", "My Brother" and more showed his depth, and tracks like "Y'all Don't Wanna Fuck" and "Lick Shots" held the streets down. It was certainly well balanced and dope, something that Ruff Ryders albums lacked in prior releases.

*Eve- Eve-Olution (2002)

-This album was actually better than her second release. I didn't like at first, but upon review, it's solid. While I still don't like "Gangsta Lovin", it's definitely got status as one of Eve's biggest hits and I think Alicia Keys delivers an infectious hook. Tracks like "Double R What", "Satisfaction", "Neckbones", "Ryde Away", and What!" are all solid listens. Good effort by Eve, and though this didn't see the commercial success of her previous two, it's still a solid album.

*DMX- Grand Champ (2003)

-The 5th album from X. I loved this album when I first got it. I was clamoring for a DMX comeback of epic proportions, and while he definitely was on the verge of one with his film and soundtrack to Cradle To The Grave, but this album didn't deliver as much as I thought it would. "Dogs Out", "Shot Down", "We Go Hard", and a few other tracks make this a decent listen, but it lacks something that I can't honestly put my finger on. Not the worst DMX release, as that's yet to come in this article, but this is definitely disappointing and has too much filler and clutter. A shorter album would have been much better.

*Cassidy- Split Personality (2004)

-I wasn't sold on Cassidy as an artist, but as a battle rapper, I thought he was amazing. After watching him release the single "Hotel" with R. Kelly, I got excited for his album and figured he could make a good album as an artist. I wasn't too disappointed in this, as it's a pretty good debut, it just lacks in the areas where most Ruff Ryders albums lack: depth. "Tha Problem", "Can I Talk To You", and "Real Talk" are all dope songs and what it lacks in depth, it makes up for somewhat in lyricism and aggression.

*Drag-On- Hell and Back (2004)

-I listened to this album once, and I think it's a departure and regression from his first, which wasn't really anything special either, so that tells you all you need to know there. Generic topics and lyricism made this album falter, but there are a few decent tracks here like "Respect My Gangsta" and "Tell Your Friends". Unfortunately, without Jada or Styles to lyrically push him, this album goes down a notch.

*Jadakiss- Kiss Of Death (2004)

-The consensus is that this album is Jada's strongest. It's not. It's lyrically weaker than his debut, the production is not as good, and Jada has a lot of cringe worthy lines on this album. Sure, the dope single "Why" was great for the political climate then, and the title track was great, but songs like "Hot Sauce To Go" were stupid (the lyrics are horrible also), and the Eminem assisted "Welcome To D-Block" was poorly executed. Overall, it was another middle of the road release, and Jada didn't necessarily deliver this go round.

*Jin- The Rest Is History (2004)

-In the midst of his "Learn Chinese" frenzy, and his battle rap fame, Jin the MC would sign to Ruff Ryders and release this album. While Jin was talented, this album suffered from the same thing most Ruff Ryders albums suffered from and that's being complacent. It can get a pass when it's Jada or DMX spinning street tales and such because it's believable and real, but the contrived music of Jin here just doesn't work.

*Ruff Ryders- Vol 4: The Redemption (2005)

-I vaguely remember this project. When I went back to revisit it, I was terribly disappointed. I didn't enjoy any of this album aside from two tracks, and those were "If It's Beef" and "Aim For the Head". Not even the DMX and Jadakiss assisted "Get Wild" was good to me. This project was another attempt to revive the brand. It didn't work.

*Styles P- Time Is Money (2006)

-Styles does it again with another solid release, though I prefer his mixtapes and his debut over this one. Some bad choices song wise here, but the majority of this album is dope. Songs like "I'm Black", "How We Live", "Fire and Pain", and "Leave A Message" are all super dope tracks that make this beyond an enjoyable listen.

*DMX- Year Of the Dog.... Again (2006)

-And here we arrive at the worst release from DMX on Ruff Ryders. As he left Def Jam to go to Columbia Records, X seemed to have lost his way musically. This is a sloppy album, and lyrically this is X at his worst. The drugs and the stress seemed to take a toll on me and while I enjoyed the Styles and Jada assisted "It's Personal", "Life Be My Song", and maybe one or two more tracks, the truth is, this album is standard X, but on a lower level and it doesn't work here. His stubbornness and lack of progression probably limited this album's potential, but there's always a few tracks on any X album worth listening to.

*Styles P- Super Gangster/ Extraordinary Gentleman (2007)

-In what felt like a sequel to his debut, Styles put out an album via Ruff Ryders and Koch, and the result is honestly another dope project. Styles doesn't miss with his albums or mixtapes usually and this was another victory for him. "All I Know Is Pain", "Star of the State", and countless other tracks on this project round out a solid album. There are a few fillers and songs I can do without, but there's more than enough dope music to enjoy here.

*Jadakiss- The Last Kiss (2009)

-This was honestly an album I had low expectations for. While I enjoyed some of this, there was a lot of confirmation in this album that Jada just moves with the times musically for better or worse, and this time it was for the worse. "One More Step", "Cartel Gathering", and "Deatb Wish", and "What If" are my favorite tracks here and while I consider this a small step up from Kiss of Death, it's when Jada goes into his commercial or party track mode that he completely loses me and throws his entire momentum on the album off. That's the biggest gripe about this album. His momentum is off on this project and of course, lack of cohesion, despite some dope tracks sprinkled throughout.

*Ruff Ryders: Past, Present, Future (2011)

-This is the last official release from the label before it went through big changes. DMX is here. Styles is here. New signee Murda Mook (battle rap legend) is here. Swizz is here. Jada is here. Cassidy is here. Shella is here. Eve is here. The mix of new Double R and old Double R actually isn't too bad and the project has a lot of good moments, but it's bittersweet. The posse track "World's Greatest" brings back late 90's memories, "Hip Hop" does the same, and "You Know" is a solid track, as is "Beat and A Microphone". What is bittersweet about it is that it's a final reminder of the potential that was lost and the dominance that used to be. Not a bad project, but a fitting end to the saga of Double R.

This was a rather negative discography check it would seem, but as dominant as Ruff Ryders were, they lacked in album releases. The music was there, it just wasn't executed properly. The talent was there, the lyricists were there, it just fell to the wayside once they reached a certain level honestly. Regardless, Ruff Ryders made a huge mark on the game and we still remember their legacy, and always will. Double R forever.



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