Surprise! The fourth volume of Ruff Ryders' something-for-everyone, multi-genre, everybody-Ruff Ryder-and-their-brother series is uneven, but hardly as uneven as usual. The collective/production team has dropped the Ryde or Die title for this one, going instead with Redemption. Maybe it's a reference to the collective's three-year absence from the scene, a long time when you consider the first three volumes all came out within a year of each other. With more than their fair share of highlights, the first three volumes built a momentum other series couldn't, but take three years off in hip-hop and you might as well start at zero. Utilizing new blood and new genres, Redemption sort of does start at square one, but familiar names like DMX and Swizz Beatz bring reminders of the Double-R in their heyday, as does the urgent spirit and shoulder-rockin' beats. DMX and Jadakiss give "Get Wild" their best, but it's newcomer Flashy who breathes new life into the collective. The Ryders will go twice as far betting on Flashy than they did betting on Jin, "Stay Down" being the proof. As he's proved before, Akon can't go wrong when he plays it plaintive, but Flashy is the one to make the track come alive. His poignant discussion of the urban struggle should appeal to the most discerning backpacker, and it balances the album's numerous reckless moments. Reggae ("Ghetto Children") and reggaeton ("Dame Reggaeton") flavors broaden the sounds nicely, but the Lil Jon copping on "What They Want" sounds like a desperate and forced play for the Dirty South audience. It's the only whack track on the otherwise tight album, and if that ain't enough, there's some drama to talk about too. G-Unit/Aftermath associate Green Lantern handles "Keep the Gunz Cocked," and while it's not his greatest beat ever, that someone from 50 Cent and Tony Yayo's posse is on a rival's record should give the message boards plenty to discuss. The rest of the record gives you plenty to ride to, slide to, and pump your fist to, so much so you won't even notice superstar and Ruff Ryders regular Eve is MIA.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
feat: The LOX
feat: Aja Smith