Friday, August 10, 2012

DMX -- "Ruff Ryders Anthem" (1998)

Another unsolved mystery
It's goin' down in history  

Do you remember the original Unsolved Mysteries TV series?  It first aired on NBC in 1987, and was hoisted by good ol' Robert Stack.  Well, it's back on the air.  Dennis Farina now hosts the show on Lifetime.  

Dennis Farina is one of my favorite character actors.  He was a real-life Chicago police officer before director Michael Mann hired him as a consultant, and he ended up starring in Mann's Crime Story TV series.  He also appeared in Miami Vice and the original Hannibal Lecter movie, Manhunter (also directed by Mann).

Farina has a nice comic touch -- he was excellent in Get Shorty and Out of Sight (two movies based on Elmore Leonard novels) and perfect in Guy Ritchie's crazy caper movie, Snatch.  I understand he was stellar in the short-lived HBO horse racing series, Luck.

Here's Farina with Gene Hackman and Jon Gries in Get Shorty:

But I digress.  This is "Hip Hop 101," not a film studies class, so let's turn our attention to the rap song of the day: DMX's "Ruff Ryders' Anthem."

At the dawn of the new millennium, a new generation of rappers -- most notably, Eminem and a wave of hip-hop artists who hailed from the South -- began to dominate the rap charts.

But before "Hip Hop 101" says farewell to the rap stars of the nineties, let's listen to one last East Coast gangsta rap track from that decade before we head to Atlanta to meet a new wave of rappers with a very different style and sensibility.

DMX (who was born Earl Simmons) released his first major-label album, It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, in 1998.  It debuted at #1 on the Billboard album chart and eventually sold over five million copies.

"Ruff Ryders' Anthem," the fourth single from that album, is actually far from its most violent track -- but I think it is plenty violent for most peoples' tastes.  DMX has a major chip on his shoulder in this song, and heaven help you if you and your crew get crossways with the Ruff Ryders.  Even just looking at DMX the wrong way can lead to big trouble.

What was that look for?
When I walked in the door
Oh, you thought you was raw
BOOM! Not anymore!
You may think you are "raw" -- tough, hardcore -- but when DMX's .44 goes BOOM, you'll be sorry you ever messed with the man.  (DMX's spoken "BOOM" is accompanied by the recording of a gunshot -- 2 or 3 lines always appreciates a little dramatic verisimilitude.)
'Cause now you on the floor
Wishin' you never saw
Me walk through that door
With that four-four

It's days like these that make a gangsta wish he had studied a little harder in school, maybe gone to college. 

Now it's time for bed
Two more to the head
Got the floor red
Yeah, that n*gga's dead

A .44 Magnum revolver
After two shots to the head with a .44, not much doubt about that.

Look what you done started
Asked for it, you got it
Had it, should have shot it 
Now you're dearly departed

So what's the lesson to be learned from all this, boys and girls?  When you start something with DMX, you'd better not be hesitant to pull your gun and use it -- because he certainly won't be hesitant to use his.  And when that happens, you'll be one of the "dearly departed."

As you can see, "Ruff Ryders' Anthem" does not rely on a fancy rhyme scheme or tricky wordplay.  It uses simple end rhymes (i.e., the rhymes come at the end of the lines), and the rhyme scheme is AAAA BBBB CCCC, etc. -- each four consecutive lines rhyme.  

Ordinarily, this all might sound a little sing-songy, but I think a more complex or cutesy rhyme scheme would undercut the seriousness and menace that DMX's character is supposed to exude.  Complicated internal rhymes, clever homophones, tricky enjambment, and other such poetic devices would just distract you from the fact that DMX is a really scary dude.

DMX has probably put the children of several criminal lawyers through college.  His rap sheet is as long as your arm:  he's spent time in jail for various driving offenses, drug possession, assault, theft, and animal cruelty.

DMX on his way to the poke
DMX violates laws all over the world, not just in the United States.  In 2003, he was arrested during a performance in Saint Kitts and Nevis for using indecent language.  He was released on $376 bail and presumably got the hell out of Saint Kitts and Nevis for good.

The rapper was a one-man crime wave at New York's Kennedy Airport in 2004, where he was arrested for cocaine possession, weapons possession, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and attempting to carjack a vehicle while barking and impersonating a federal agent.

He must have had the world's greatest lawyer, because he managed to plea bargain the whole shebang down to a 60-day sentence.

After that sentence, DMX's attorney said that the rapper was in good spirits.  "It's a somber situation.  He felt the reality of it and he's moving on.  The man's a class act."  (He took the words right out of my mouth.)

Here's the official music video for "Ruff Ryders' Anthem."  Kids, don't ride your motorcycles like the Ruff Ryders -- especially the guy at 2:45.  And, puh-LEEZE -- leave your four-four at home!

Use the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

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