January 11, 2017

Son Raw ordered the Lox’s Wild Out on The Box a number of times.

With the benefit of hindsight, the rap world didn’t appreciate Ruff Ryders while we had them. That’s probably because at their peak, they didn’t need the kind of nerdy fandom that kept the lights on at the underground imprints like Rawkus—they were too busy spending absurd amounts of money on dirt bikes, platinum chains, and Hype Williams videos.

It’s counterintuitive, but dig behind the clever marketing strategy that positioned Ruff Ryders as a gritty, authentic, alternative to Bad Boy’s shiny suits, and you’ll find a label whose sonic identity didn’t just shine, it positively sparkled thanks to Swizz Beats’ 1000 watt, Triton-made productions.

Until Swizz emerged—and his New Orleans counterpart, Mannie Fresh—rap had always kept a foot in the past thanks to its sample sources and reverence for classic funk, so tracks like “Ruff Ryders Anthem” and “Down Bottom” were positively shocking in 98 – angering purists and exciting a whole new generation of fans hungry for something to call their own. Almost (word to electro) completely divorced from black musical history, ruthlessly capitalistic and fiercely aligned to the streets, it was perfect music for a teenager looking for proxy toughness and to piss off anyone even slightly out of his age group. An example: me circa 1999.

Local Action’s Tom Lea understands this well, delivering a loving 2 hour radio mix full of Double R classics for Radar Radio (the other Double R) last week. It covers both essentials and deep cuts, and wisely sticks to the golden years of 98-02, when those 1 finger melodies and pentatonic chords rang loudest. Clearly a labor of love, it’s undoubtedly a better proposition the new Lox album, and you even get a cut by underrated R&B group Parlé.