Hell and Back

Artist: Drag-OnTitle: Hell and BackRating: 2 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Ra'Chelle Rogers

Ryde or die is a tough commitment.

Take it from the crew who pledged it first. Loyalty is the main ingredient in keeping a family together. A few summers ago no other kinship of like minds represented this better than the Ruff Ryders. Complete with matching double R imprinted apparel and menacing pit bull companions, the Ruff Ryder family was tight like one hundred ni99as on motorcycles riding down 125th Street. Literally. With DMX and the Lox leading the pack, the Double R had the streets at their mercy. Unfortunately, the ride became a bit too rough for some. While first lady Eve and frontman DMX launched promising acting careers and clothing lines, X protege Drag-On was left behind like that last rider trying to catch up. After a lukewarm reception for his solo debut, Opposite of H2O, Drag-On tries to re-ignite the fire in his career with his sophomore release, Hell and Back.

The problem with comebacks is that what worked for an artist in the past may not necessarily work in the present. Drag-On suffers from this tremendously on this album as he makes weak attempts to hype up a party with clichéd songs like “Put Your Drinks Down” and the Rockwilder produced “Let’s Get Crazy” featuring DMX. Instead he is more heartfelt on the introductory “Feel the Pain,” where he breaks three years worth of silence and pent up frustrations against Tuneheadz’s dramatic horn spiked production. Eve and Jadakiss try to offer some mediocre crew love, but Drag’s ryding abilities are more convincing on the Cash Money collaboration “I’m a Ryder”. In fact, his rapid tongue delivery and raspy stop and go flow is better attuned with Southern artists and bounce tracks like the catchy “Dirty Funk.”

Every ride has its own road but the young gun of the Ruff Ryders may need to reconsider his direction. Home may always be where the heart is, but before his career really dies, Drag needs to consider easing off substantiating his street cred and focus on getting some more crunkified production to match his flow.