Ruff Ryders

Ryde or Die, Vol. 1

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Ruff Ryders, the production team behind DMX's first two platinum-plus albums, made their bid for superstardom with Ryde or Die, Vol. 1. The trio appeared to be following the blueprint of No Limit's Master P: they've formed their own label, assembled a cast of wide-ranging acts under its umbrella, and surrounded them with a variety of productions by Ruff Ryders associates like Swizz Beatz and DJ Clue? Ryde or Die, Vol. 1 features tracks from established names like the LOX, Jay-Z, Jermaine Dupri, Big Pun, Mase, and DMX himself, plus new signees to the label like Eve and Drag-On. Though several of the track productions are excellent (including the New Orleans horns of "Down Bottom," featuring native-born Juvenile, and the salsa rhythms on "What Ya Want"), the album suffers elsewhere by trying to be everything to everyone. It's got a few hardcore tracks, a few bounce tracks, and a few midtempo R&B tracks, but it's far too scattershot and never jells as it should (two complaints often lodged against No Limit albums). The team saves their best productions for DMX spotlights: the minute-long "Bugout" and the title track.

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