Along with DMX, Eve and The L.O.X., the self-proclaimed “Fireman” of the Ruff Ryders camp helped turn the “Double R” into one of Hip Hop’s most powerful brands at the dawn of the 21st century, and now Drag-On is rejoining his once powerhouse recording family for the forthcoming release of the Bronx-born fire-breather’s third full-length, My Life, My Legacy, My Melody.
“I had started my own label called Hood Environment, and Ruff Ryders started really seeing me do that…and really started taking me serious with the respect that I needed,” Drag-On replied when asked recently by HipHopDX why he decided to re-up with the Double R after a few years of recording on his own. “[Ruff Ryders co-founders] Dee and Waah, they both just came back to the table with me. We all sat down and made it make sense. So this next album is gon’ be a Ruff Ryders/Hood Environment [release].”
That Hood Environment release will be notably distributed by the newly formed Ruff Ryders Indy branch of the Double R label (along with Fontana/Universal Records) as Drag further explained, “It’s not like Ruff Ryders is putting out a Drag-On album, no. Me and Ruff Ryders is putting out this album [together]. It’s a 50/50 deal split down the middle. I’m definitely trying to step my status up, as far as I’m definitely trying to wear that CEO cap. I got other artists that’s signed to my record label that I do have [an] obligation to, so I’m definitely trying to make sure [this deal] makes sense for the overall picture.”
Drag revealed to DX that the decision to launch his own label in 2007 was motivated by the exodus of most of the Ruff Ryders’ original lineup by the mid-‘00s.
“Ya know, I got lonely over there,” said Drag. “I was like the only one over there. So, I had to start a whole new movement, with whole new soldiers. But my soldiers at Hood Environment is real militant right now, so I mean, we good.”
Drag elaborated on the lonely environment at Ruff Ryders that spawned his Hood Environment endeavor and explained that, “Eve left [to do television], and then…X was going through his little [personal] situation, L.O.X. was going through they whole situation [with Interscope]… But at the end of the day, it never was no beef [between me and Ruff Ryders] or nothing like that, it was just business. Like a lot of things came up on the plate, and everybody just – We all had to take care of our situations. So, I started my own movement, got it poppin’ in the streets...[and] we just been rockin’. [After that] everybody came back to the table, with Swizz [Beatz] and everybody, and we sat down and we made it make sense [to join forces for another album]. But we all still family at the end of the day. I was just on the radio with Sheek Louch the other day…I was with X last month.”
The success of the handful of Hood Environment mixtapes released, beginning with the DJ L-helmed Say Hello To The Bad Guys in the spring of ’07, led to an offer first from Swizz Beatz to sign Drag to his Full Surface label.
“Me and Swizz, we was going over the paperwork [to sign me to his label],” explained Drag, “but then I had got this other deal situation [with Ruff Ryders put] on the table too that I wanna hurry up and finish and drop this last album with the Ruff Ryders. So I went back just to do that, but then after that [me and Swizz can] definitely get it poppin’.”
Drag-On’s renewed career momentum comes after five years of setbacks initiated by some legal drama that began shortly after the release of his sophomore full-length in 2004, the what proved to be prematurely-titled Hell And Back.
“I had caught a lawsuit,” he revealed, “and I had got sued for like a million dollars. And I ain’t Jay-Z or nothing like that, I ain’t never went platinum, so I ain’t have no million dollars. But, I had to get a whole bunch of lawyers and get that stuff squared away. Like I’m still dealing with that now, but everything is looking [good with that] right now.”
That million-dollar legal entanglement was initiated by the usually uneventful street scrap as Drag explained, “It was some dude, he was a little taller than me [and] he probably felt as though he [had] a little advantage [over me], which he really didn’t. And I showed him that he didn’t have the advantage, and then he sued me.”
Ready to finally put the past behind him, the man who started off the ‘00s by going gold with his debut, Opposite Of H2O, is ready to kick off a new decade with what he hopes will be an equally well-received effort in My Life, My Legacy, My Melody.
“The ‘My Life’ part in my album, I’m definitely breaking down a few things, just what I been doing since I – I haven’t really left the game, I just been kickin’ out music [on] a smaller scale,” began Drag, breaking down the meaning behind the unique title of his new offering. “And also too [the album addresses] what was going on with my personal life, as far as with me having a daughter…I know a lot of people wanna know that [stuff]. I’m also aware that it’s a whole new audience that’s out there too right now, so a lot of people might not fully know my legacy until I really come back with this new movement… And then ‘My Melody’ is just my music, my new sound that I’m bringing. When I first came in the game I was like 18, 17 [years old], now I’m 29 [and] I got a business frame of mind more now, and also my music is just a lot more bigger. I [got] a lot of beats that’s gon’ make me feel good on stage. I did a lot of stadium music on this joint… And then also too I dedicate this album to my daughter, which is my first and only child, and her name is Melody. And the reason why I named her Melody is because my real name is Mel and I deal with music… So that’s the whole breakdown of the album [title].”
Tentatively set for a March/April release date, led by the buzz cut, “Money” , Drag’s new album’s stadium sound is provided courtesy of longtime Ruff Ryders trackmaster Neo Da Matrix, Full Surface in-house producer Avenue (who recently crafted Maino’s “Million Bucks” and the aforementioned “Money” for Drag), Buckwild, Heatmakerz, and maybe, or maybe not, Swizz Beatz, as Drag revealed, “So far he got one joint [on the album]. I don’t know if it’s gonna make it though… But the album is so crazy, man, [and] we all putting our input into it.”
Follwing a new mixtape titled simply 2010 tentatively due in mid-January (sporting all new non-album cuts save for “Money”) and his new album’s release trailing that sometime in the spring, it’s been recently announced that Drag and the entire Ruff Ryders camp will be reuniting for the release of the label’s fifth compilation, Ruff Ryders Evolution: Generation I.
“We haven’t really discussed that part yet,” Drag replied when asked how much of the compilation fans should expect to hear him on. “I just been focusing on my album right now. I think the Ruff Ryders definitely started putting it together… I haven’t did my part on there yet [though], but I definitely heard that it’s definitely in the making.”
One collaboration that appears to unfortunately not be in the making currently is a union of Drag-On and the Ruff Ryders seminal star, DMX. But having, as he revealed, just recently been with the perennially troubled talent, Drag was asked by DX for an update on how the dog is doing in the wake of his seemingly ceaseless legal drama and certainly senseless announcement of his subsequently rescinded plans to participate in a professional MMA match.
“A UFC fight?!,” Drag exclaimed when the above bout was mentioned. “[Laughs] I ain’t even hear about that. Aww man, that’s crazy though. [Laughs] But he good though; he chillin’. He in Arizona right now… He in the studio; he working. So I mean everything is good as far as with the dog. He gon’ always go through his trials and tribulations, that’s just X. People gotta realize, that’s just him. That’s just his life. It’s been like that before he was on too. That’s not changed. He actually did more time before he was a rapper. [But] he good.”
While DMX won’t be appearing on Drag’s new album, he did still manage to get the dog included on his latest collection.
“For my album I did a mean dedication [to him],” Drag revealed. “We might be working on something [together in the future], but I did…a whole song where I’m just talking about DMX. And it’s real crazy. When he first heard it he started crying and all that. He really felt that joint. I did that just for him. That song right there is just for him to listen to, but I [also] put it on my album for the world to listen to. But I only had him in mind [when I was making the song], because he definitely looked out for me... [The song] is more the story of what X did for me. I had to do that.”
And even though this will mark Drag’s final release under the Ruff Ryders banner, he insisted during his discussion with DX that the love for DMX described above, as well as his loyalty to all of the Double R camp, remains in tact.
“We still family,” Drag reiterated. “I’m still gonna be reppin’ it and all that. You still gonna hear me say that R and all that, it’s just gon’ be lesser [and] that just is what it is.”
My Life, My Legacy, My Melody is due online and in stores spring 2010 from Hood Environment/Ruff Ryders Indy Records.