So when did you discover X? Was it It’s Dark and Hell is Hot or Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood?
A common question murmured among various groups of concert-goers as they spilled through the arena doors in preparation of the night. It was obvious. Just minutes before the show, the only thing more strikingly evident than the smell of marijuana and Hennessy rising to the decks of Barclays was the sense of anticipation from fans awaiting to see rap royalty once again.
And the night was here. April 21st. In the belly of Brooklyn’s borough—’Double R’ was back together once again.
The Ruff Ryders, Hip Hop’s game-changing east coast collective, which embodied the essence of Hip Hop’s rugged street culture was in BK for a one-night only main event. This first ever reunion show was a live lesson in ‘Rap 101’, a full-length college lecture of sorts headlined by the main event himself—DMX.
To think, there was a brief time in rap history when Ruff Ryders was considered ‘dysfunctional’. From Eve breaking off, heading overseas, to DMX’s occasional run-ins with the law; not to mention the various solo trips inside the camp. It seemed this day wasn’t ever in the future.
But boy were we wrong.
The dysfunctional narrative that once plagued the group was nowhere to be found, as various members of the camp set the tone for the night. The camaraderie among the artists looked contagious. The energy from the stage felt like a bolt of lighting, shocking each individual in attendance. From Swizz Beatz running through his gauntlet of classics which demanded ‘oohs and aahs’ from the crowd with every base drop, to Eve scoring high praise with hits like “Who’s That Girl?” and “Tambourine”—this night was making out to be a match made in Hip Hop heaven. But it didn’t stop there.
A plethora of guest artists tore down the stage and managed to turn back the hands of time and unravel classics that fans new and old could reminisce and dance too. From Philadelphia spitta’ Cassidy taking us back and dropping “I’m A Husta”, “Hotel” and “My Drink N’ My 2 Step to M.O.P ringing off their moshpit classic “Ante Up”, the present mix of artists set the tone for this immaculate reunion:
Anything is possible.
And it happened. ‘Darkman X’, waltzed on stage. Donned in an all-black Ruff Ryders Jersey with his staple chain link swinging to the beat of his step. Backed by a dozen men drenched in Ruff Ryders gear on stage, “This is what it all boils down to, baby”, he said. This night seemed more of a pinnacle moment in his late career for him then a mere concert for us fans. He was relaxed, at ease and most of all tapping into his zen. Throughout the night he would abruptly veer left and weave in and out of rants and prayers. Most would say he ruined the show—but that’s far from the case. This night was his way to get out what transgression and frustrations he was festering all these years. The stage was his therapy session, and we were the ones providing the lending ears.
As the night continued, he would perform hit after hit—with each one seeming more and more mesmerized at how much fans knew verbatim. But for those in the crowd, watching DMX along with the rest of the crew performing their street and club anthems was proof that there wasn’t a city better than New York.
To some not in touch with New York’s rising talent, the city’s essence may seem at odds. It would seem other area’s are perhaps more influential on rap, but for one night at least, New York City proved to be where culture starts and ends. Whether you could run down every word on X’s first album or only knew hit records of the guest artists, the fact remained that New York City creates the wave and everyone else follows. And that wasn’t ever more obvious as the night came to an end. Those in attendance were put through a warp machine, and shown that most of today’s music, style and overall appreciation started with this group of individuals—and they can never be replaced. This reunion was living proof that good music lives on, but more importantly, that the Ruff Ryders impact on Hip Hop will forever be cherished.
Photos by Tylik Hill (Vocab Entertainment)