Interview: Ex-Ruff Ryder Drag-On Is Still Evolving With The Times

New York, NY – When one listens to Drag-On’s bars, there’s no denying that this man has lived the hard-knock life. Providing a glimpse into the trials and tribulations of his native Bronx, the rapper’s lyrics invoke brutality and concern, giving him a larger-than-life presence behind the mic, and making it clear to the world that he's the furthest factor from a “studio gangsta.”

Which is why it’s stunning — in a slightly nice approach — that, when talking to the person born Mel Jason Smalls, his soft-spoken phrases are considerate, modulated, and remarkably nice.

But don’t get it twisted — Drag-On says that whereas he is probably not gangbanging anymore, he’s nonetheless out within the streets. “I nonetheless fuck with the homies I grew up with,” he informed us in an unique cellphone interview, including that he’s calmed down, considerably, since his halcyon days with the Ruff Ryders.

Calming down is a perform of his age, to make certain — nevertheless it’s additionally a results of his experiences, each good and unhealthy.

“There’s lots of people which have left me, over time,” he mentioned. “But, now that I’m alone, it leaves me in an ideal place to place out an even bigger physique of labor.”

That greater physique of labor consists of his newest mixtape, Barz on Fire three. Featuring manufacturing by Merc Beats, CuddyOnTheBeats, and CrazeOnTheBeatz, Barz on Fire three has the help of Back In The Game Entertainment and the rapper’s personal Hood Environment file label. Brooklyn MC Maino and Hartford, CT soul man Ru Williams are additionally featured on the mixtape, and its first single, “Icon,” received the work trending on DatPiff. (As of press time, the tape has greater than 65,000 distinctive listens and greater than 100,000 distinctive views.)

But the success of the providing doesn’t shock the trade veteran — and he’s nonetheless humbled by its capacity to assist him attain a complete new era of Hip Hop followers. “Mixtapes get handled like albums immediately,” he mentioned. “In the appropriate arms, they act like calling playing cards. They can launch a whole profession.”

Drag-On’s capacity to make use of trendy expertise to his benefit makes him distinctive amongst the so-called “previous heads” of Hip Hop, preferring to make use of extra conventional routes of their advertising efforts. And whereas the MC remains to be comparatively younger, he’s nonetheless practically 20 years faraway from his debut work, Opposite of H20.

The then-19-year-old loved a rocket trip to stardom because the album debuted at quantity 5 on the US Billboard 200 chart. Eventually, Opposite of H2O bought over 500,000 copies and earned a gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

But he wasn’t content material with resting on his laurels — and, he says, veterans who achieve this typically discover themselves drawing the ire of the youthful, extra tech-savvy up-and-coming MCs.

When requested about this disconnect between older and youthful generations — a phenomenon unique to Hip Hop, as different musical genres like rock’n’roll characteristic youthful artists venerating their elders — Drag-On waxes a bit poetic. “You know, respect is a two-way avenue,” he mentioned. “Now, I used to be introduced up with respect, so I give it, and I anticipate to obtain it in return. But, when the youthful rappers had been developing, the older era didn’t actually present them love like that. Maybe as a result of they didn’t get respect from the labels like that? And they received taken benefit of? I don’t know. What I do know is, the younger ones try to get within the recreation, and the older ones aren’t passing down the torch as a result of they need ‘respect.’ But how will you anticipate a younger man to respect you when you, because the elder, don’t respect him too?”

Drag-On mentioned that he’s in a novel place to work with individuals based mostly on their “power” — whether or not they work properly with him within the studio or not — and never based mostly on their age. What’s extra, he says, doing so has given him an opportunity to broaden his creativity into different artistic efforts. When the Tables Will Turn, a movie he shot final yr in Las Vegas, will probably be dropping in April, and he’ll be heading to Detroit to shoot one other movie with Baltimore Snoop.

And his success is all due to his begin in rap music. Regardless of the ups and downs, Drag-On says he, finally, appears like he, and others, are successful on the recreation.

“I really like the state of Hip Hop proper now,” he mentioned. “Artists are being empowered like by no means earlier than. They have extra avenues, and extra autonomy, which provides them the chance to earn more money. I see all this, and actually, I don’t have too many complaints.”

Follow Drag-On’s newest exploits on Instagram at @abbutler914 and @drag_on1.