DAR Hip Hop: The 10 Greatest Albums From Ruff Ryders

By @TrueGodImmortal

The truth about hip hop in the 90's is that it was more than just music. It was about crews, it was about image, it was about aggression, and perhaps there is no crew that embodies everything that hip hop was about more than Ruff Ryders. With a core group of artists that could bring you different perspectives yet maintain the crew's hardcore image, Ruff Ryders was destined to be successful. Through the late 90's and early 2000s, DMX, Drag-On, The LOX, Swizz Beatz, and Eve navigated their way through the world of hip hop and gave us great music during their run. Today, I wanted to take a look at and rank the 10 greatest albums to come from this crew. Which albums make (and don't make) the list? Let's get into it.

10. DMX- The Great Depression (2001)

-While this album wasn't the classic that the first three X albums were, this was still a solid project and the 4th best project in the DMX catalog. The mood on this album is a bit more despondent and darker, as evidenced by the title, but X manages to stray away from some of his earlier horrorcore style rhymes that made him so popular in the late 90's. Instead, he went with more personal and darker rhymes, which worked well, but did lack a bit of the life that his previous albums had. Still, backed by production from Swizz Beatz, Just Blaze, Black Key, and of course, Dame Grease, X would craft some gems on this project like "We Right Here", "Who We Be", "Shorty Was Da Bomb", "I Miss You", and "Trina Moe". While not in the upper echelon of the DMX or Ruff Ryders catalog, this album is still a good listen, thus it makes the list, but just barely.

9. Ruff Ryders- Ryde Or Die Vol. 2 (2000)

-While many people didn't support this project like they did the first one, this was still an enjoyable and successful compilation that was a bit more diverse than the first one. For me, what made this project stick out was that it didn't follow the format or formula that made the first one so great. With a good amount of the production handled by Swizz Beatz, and guest appearances from Scarface, Snoop Dogg, Method Man, Redman, Twista, and Busta Rhymes, this project delivers in a major way. My favorite tracks here are "WWIII", "Fright Night", "My Name Is Kiss", and "Twisted Heat". This isn't a classic or even a real top tier project, but it is pretty good and I think this is a perfect spot to rank it.

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

-I just talked about this album and consider it one of the better female rap albums of all time, so by design, of course this would make the list. Eve was the X-Factor in many ways for Ruff Ryders, as she added an entirely different element outside of Drag-On, The LOX, and DMX. With Swizz Beatz handling most of the production here, Eve would spit her best over the beats and give us solid tracks like the classic single "Love Is Blind", "Gotta Man", and of course, "Scenario 2000". This album is one of the better albums from a female rapper and honestly, it registers pretty high on the Ruff Ryders list, clearly above Eve's other albums.

7. Jadakiss- Kiss The Game Goodbye (2001)

-It is sad to say.... but Jada doesn't have any classic albums and there isn't one that comes close to it. Some liked his Kiss Of Death album in 2004, but I've always felt that album was boring for the most part. However, his debut solo album was anything but boring... it just was a bit too much of everything and slightly overzealous for a Jadakiss album. Make no mistake about it, Jada pulled out all the stops with this one, pulling out an All Star cast of producers and guest appearances, but it might have been overkill. For a rapper like Jada, less is more and honestly, that would have worked here. Backed by production from Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, Just Blaze, The Neptunes, DJ Premier, The Alchemist, and more, Jada delivers on a number of tracks here. His guest feature list is pretty long as well, as Nate Dogg, DMX, Nas, Styles P, Carl Thomas, Snoop Dogg, and more help Jada craft his first opus. Make no mistake about it, with tracks like "Show Discipline", "Feel Me", "Uh-Hunh", "We Gonna Make It", and "Knock Yourself Out", there's no denying this album as one of the more solid releases from Ruff Ryders. It's still the best Jada project ever released.

6. The LOX- We Are The Streets (2000)

-A piece of me wants to admit that I don't find this album as amazing as some of the people I've come in contact with over the years. Now, don't get me wrong. This is a really good album and exactly what you expected and wanted from The LOX after their long winded issue with Bad Boy Records, but this isn't an earth shattering or game changing album like the top 5. Still, it is better than the other albums on the list, and it highlights Styles and Sheek just as much as Jada and that would open even more doors for Styles and Sheek as solo artists. With production from DJ Premier and Timbaland, as well as Swizz Beatz, the trio didn't disappoint at all, crafting street anthems like "Ryde Or Die Bitch", "If You Know", "Scream L.O.X.", and "Wild Out". This is far from a perfect album, but it has so many highlights that won't be forgotten for sure.

5. DMX- And Then There Was X (1999)

-I used to be indifferent on this album when it first dropped, but revisiting it showed me just how good of a listen this is. I always had my favorites on this project, but for the most part, I hadn't really had the time to truly appreciate this album from beginning to end. With production from Irv Gotti, Nokio, and of course, Swizz Beatz, DMX delivers a very concise album that gives you a balance of hit songs and honest and raw tracks. While many were huge fans of singles like "What's My Name" and "Party Up (Up In Here)", my favorite tracks here are the Sisqo assisted "What These Bitches Want", The LOX and Drag-On featured "D-X-L (Hard White), and the anthem like "One More Road To Cross". Simply put, while this album wasn't a flawless classic, it was close to reaching that level at one point because of the amazing tracks that we would play over and over. And Then There Was X is one of the better Ruff Ryders albums easily.

4. Ruff Ryders- Ryde Or Die Vol. 1 (1999)

-As a younger True, I was a huge fan of this album and I still listen to it periodically. This wasn't really a Ruff Ryders album, but more so an actual compilation, but it worked perfectly for what the label wanted to accomplish. After the releases from DMX, this project would help set up the future of the Double R brand, by showcasing Eve, Drag-On, The LOX, and a ton of amazing guest appearances. For me, the best songs are the classic Juvenile and Drag-On track "Down Bottom", the solid Eve track "What Ya Want", the booming Jay-Z track "Jigga My Nigga", and of course, the legendary Big Pun and Sheek Louch collab "Pina Colada". All in all, Ryde Or Die Vol. 1 is a great listen and every time I hear it, it takes me back to the heyday of Double R and the prime Ruff Ryders years.

3. Styles P- A Gangster And A Gentleman (2002)

-It's funny when you think of the Ruff Ryders brand because I feel like the most popular artists besides DMX are Eve and Jadakiss. Even with that however, it seems as if the best artist on that label was actually Styles P (besides X), at least in terms in creating an album. His debut solo project is the best solo project from the Ruff Ryders crew outside of X. A Gangster And A Gentleman lived up to its title by providing a mix of solid hardcore lyricism with thought provoking and honest tracks as well. It showcased the duality of Styles and what he represents, and with production from The Alchemist, Ayatollah, Swizz Beatz, and more, the sound of the album was in good hands. The features include the rest of the LOX, Angie Stone, Pharoahe Monch, Eve, and M.O.P., making for a solid cast of guest appearances. Overall, this is just a really strong album. The best tracks? I would have to rank "The Life", "We Thugs (My Niggas)", "Lick Shots", "Good Times", and "Black Magic" as the top 5 here. All in all, A Gangster And A Gentleman is a near classic album that showcases Styles as perhaps the best artist in The LOX.

2. DMX- Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood (1998)

-It was tough to rank this album. I think in some way that it could be better than his debut, but then again... it's hard to rank anything above the groundbreaking debut from DMX. However, the sophomore project from X is still one of his most concise albums and quite possibly a classic. Released right at the end of 1998, this album showcases DMX in a slightly more aggressive vibe than his debut, while being a bit more reflective as well. Unlike his debut however, the sound is mostly handled by Swizz Beatz, which might be why I can't place it above his debut. The production is solid, to say the least, but it pales in comparison to his first album all around. The lack of Dame Grease tracks seem to take the album down a small notch, but X makes up for it by demolishing every track on the album anyways. With features from The LOX, Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z, and surprisingly, Marilyn Manson, X pulls out all the stops for this album. My favorite tracks are the classic "Slippin", "No Love 4 Me", "Blackout", "Ain't No Way", and "We Don't Give A Fuck", all of which are some of the best songs of X's career. Flesh of My Flesh is more than a suitable follow up to DMX's debut, it's almost on par with it. Almost.

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

-This is one of the greatest hip hop albums of the 90's and one of the greatest game changers in hip hop history. DMX arrived in the game with an aggression that hadn't been heard in quite some time. After his guest verses brought him in and put him on the forefront of the music, his album would continue his success through the years, as we had heard nothing quite like this before. With a growl and gravel voice, DMX took the world by storm instantly, delivering out the gate with two classic singles in "Get At Me Dog" and "Stop Being Greedy". Those two Dame Grease produced tracks would be the basis of his album essentially, as PK and Dame Grease handle a majority of the album's sound. Swizz Beatz would contribute one track, and that track might be the most important of the album, as "Ruff Ryders Anthem" is one of the most memorable singles in the entire Ruff Ryders catalog, if not THE most memorable. Other classic tracks on this album like the posse cut "Niggaz Done Started Something", the iconic "Damien", the surprisingly smooth "How's It Goin' Down", and many more make this album one of the greatest and easily the greatest Ruff Ryders release. 



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