by Yohance Kyles (@HUEYmixwitRILEY)
The Ruff Ryders, led by Darrin “Dee” Dean and Joaquin “Waah” Dean, was dominating the charts and the radio with Top 10 albums like DMX’s It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, Eve’s Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryders’ First Lady, The Lox’s We Are the Streets, and Drag’s Opposite of H2O.
Drag-On especially separated himself from the pack with the Juvenile assisted “Down Bottom” off the Ruff Ryders’ Ryde or Die compilation. He would eventually drop another LP, Hell and Back, under the imprint and later the independent project Hood Environment. Soon after that release, Drag signed a deal with fellow original Ruff Ryder member Swizz Beatz’s Full Surface Records which ultimately ended as well.
It has been 8 years since Drag-On’s last official studio album, but the 36-year-old head of the Hood Entertainment record label is ready to return to the music scene in a major way. After keeping his fans fed in recent years with a series of mixtapes, 2015 has seen Drag put in work with the autobiographical cut “Say Something” and the rapid-fire single “NRG.”
In an exclusive interview with AllHipHop.com, Drag-On discusses his new music, his departure from his old camp, and which emcees are providing him with inspiration to compete in the game.
What have you learned about the industry since first breaking on the scene as a teenager?
The first thing I learned is that this is a competitive industry, and you definitely have to be on you’re A-game at all times.
On “Say Something” you talked about having to get out of your contract. How were you able to part ways with your label?
We all just established that no matter what we would be family. I just had to leave because I wasn’t dropping as many albums as I wanted to. I was just trying to make the best decisions for me. But it actually took a couple of years for me to get out of the contract.
You also talked about your current relationships with Swizz, DMX, and Eve. How often do you speak with them? Do you still have a working relationship with the members of Ruff Ryders?
I don’t see them as much as I would like to. We are all busy working, but we still speak to each other. I just spoke to Swizz not too long ago, and he hit me up on IG. I was there in ATL when Jadakiss had his show last summer. Everybody is still family.
You appeared on the 2008 song “Stand Up” which was a tribute to Sean Bell. There have been several high-profile killings of black men by police officers over the last year. What is your take on the situations surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice? And what are your thoughts on the Hip Hop community’s reaction to those police killings?
It’s crazy. Honestly, there is only so much we can do. Cops get a pass no matter the crime, and civilians – well if you do the crime you do the time. People that have authority don’t believe in the law. If another man kills a black man he gets time. If a cop kills a black man, he may not even lose his job. It’s sad how law officials don’t believe in the law.
When can we expect the release of your next album or mixtape? Have you lined up any guest features?
I am going to be doing a song with DMX and trying to get a joint in with Jeezy. I just dropped my first single “NRG,” and I am dropping my second single soon. I want to warm up everybody with a couple of singles first and then drop a mixtape. Be on the lookout for the “NRG” video.
It has been quite a while since your last album. The public’s attention span seems to get shorter every year. How do you plan to grab the attention of today’s music fans?
When I came in the game I was ahead of my time. I’ve noticed in today’s music a lot of people are using the flow that I already had. Right now my job is to show the world, my fans and even those who are not my fans how that flow is really supposed to sound.
Along with tracks like Mase/8 Ball & MJG’s “The Player Way”, OutKast/Raekwon’s “Skew It On The Bar-B”, and Jay Z/UGK’s “Big Pimpin'”, your song “Down Bottom” helped bridge the gap between East Coast and Southern Hip Hop near the end of the 1990’s. How did that collaboration with Juvenile come together? Were there any objections about including him on the record?
Yes. I got a lot of flack for that song. A lot of labels told me it wouldn’t be a hit, but it was a hot song. That’s why it took me so long to come up with the video. When it came out, the label didn’t even want Juvenile in the video. They didn’t want the song to maintain success. In all reality, it was still a success, but it should have been even better especially with a Juvenile collab.
For the most part, the South has been the most commercially successful region since that time. But some New York rappers have made waves in recent years. Do you think the East Coast Hip Hop scene is in a healthy place at the moment?
Yes, we are still strong. However, I would not say we are healthy. There are a lot of people in power on the East Coast that shouldn’t be. Jay Z, 50 Cent, French Montana are all talented artists, and they make the East Coast scene strong. But the people in power make it unhealthy.
You’ve said Eminem’s “Rap God” inspired your new single “NRG”. Are there any other artists out now that are making music that inspires you?
Ace Hood, Kendrick Lamar, Young Jeezy, Yo Gotti, and Fabulous. Of course Jay Z still inspires me. A lot of people inspire me. I am inspired by Hip Hop.
What do you want the public to know about Drag-On the artist in 2015?
I am much more business minded. I know what the game is really about. It’s so much deeper than music. “NRG” is the first single, the video is coming soon, and after that I am going to keep hitting them. My music is my passion. It’s only one thing I love more than music and that is my daughter.