The Ruff Ryders have solidified their legacy in hip-hop thanks to the mainstream success of members like DMX, Eve, Swizz Beatz, The LOX, Jadakiss, Styles P, Drag-On and more. After making their stamp on pop culture—from their rugged flows to the classic motorcycle-filled videos—the crew will be coming together for a special 20th anniversary reunion show at Brooklyn's Barclays Center on April 21.
Fuse is excited to exclusively announce their new compilation album, Ruff Ryders: Past, Present and Future, will be released right after the concert. It will feature tunes like DMX's "Get Your Money Up" to newly signed artist Drew James' "Paper Chase." Click here to pre-order the record before its official premiere. Ahead of the show, we spoke to Ruff Ryders Entertainment CEO Joaquin Dean about what fans can expect as well as the future of the Yonkers, NY-based record label.
FUSE: There are so many great songs that the Ruff Ryders crew have released over the years, so what was your process of choosing
the right ones for this compilation?
Dean: This album is a little bit different because we asked the older artists to give us a small selection of songs and we picked the best ones out of the two or three. And for the new artists, they did the recordings and we had a listening [session] to narrow down the top two songs out of like 15. From our internal A&R to the artists, each person will listen and give their notes on which to pick and give constructive criticism.
How does it feel to remain such an established label after 20 years?
It feels good to be in a place where you can maintain your identity and be self-contained without being controlled by a system that’s controlled by another system. Ruff Ryders is a family-based business where we have hardcore values about our hip-hop culture and family culture. We won’t compromise our decisions for any money or anything that has to do with selling our souls. We prefer to make sure the community and the family come first.
Describe the biggest hardship you and the label faced throughout this music business journey?
Our struggle was different because we came off the street corners and went from hustling in the streets to music, not knowing the industry at all. That was our biggest hardship because we were learning the business as we were earning the business. So we made a lot of mistakes, but our mistakes were our successes because we were so fearless.
What would you say has been your biggest accomplishment with the label?
There’s so many! But being with a group of people who never really worked together to be able to come together and have success. That was great to see that happen. Just to have them come from all walks of life to work to sounding greater than just themselves.
Hip-hop has changed so much over the last few
years, especially music coming out of New York. Do you
still looking for that authentic homegrown sound when it comes to artists?
We mix it up because we have a new generation coming up, and we also stay true to where our essence comes from and respect the culture of where hip-hop started. So we bridge the gap and make it a win-win situation. We know the music has changed over time and this generation is more single-driven. Anybody can come out of the woodworks to make a hit and get away with it. But our craft is a little bit different. You have to be able to put in that work on a different lyrical level and your producers have to be super tight. And you have to have street credibility to go with it…the whole package. So it’s just a new marketing tool where we have to get our word out a lot quicker and better.
Do you have advice for those
trying to create their own record label?
First what you do is find an artist you believe in and make hits. Then the industry will come to you. Make sure you have a good, strong team to help you build these great artists. You have to get a dope producer, A&R, road managers and social media people. So a small team that understands your vision and they got the eye of the tiger. And never lose sight of your dream and make sure you have faith in what you’re doing even when nobody else does.
What is in the future for Ruff Ryders Indy?
We’re gonna be doing showcases in the near future, and also educational workshops in the community through our Ruff Ryders to the Rescue program. And also discovering new talent while we’re doing the promo run for the compilation album and officially launching Ruff Ryder Radio soon. We’ll be doing things real intimately to give these artists a platform. We want to be able to give the youth the outlet and have a direct connection to us and our relationships to help them get to where they gotta go.
The reunion show is in just a few days! Are you feeling nervous?
I’m jetlagged! [laughs] But I’m relaxed, nervous about what? The thing about my artists is that they never left the stage. 20 years later, all of them are still working somewhere in the world. It’s a celebration for us to really each other all together. We’re on Ruff Ryder time. We do everything under pressure and we rise to the top as a unit. We’re not nervous or anything, because we live this. We’re just looking forward to having fun and giving the people a good show, and let them see that black people can come together no matter what they go through and still make things happen.
Next up, listen to Fuse's Back of the Class podcast discuss DMX's major return to music: