The late DMX (real name Earl Simmons) was an unstoppable force in his prime who seemed able to make anthems with ease. From ‘What’s My Name?’ to ‘Where the Hood At?’, the New York rapper was an unparalleled hit-maker. However, although looking back at classic records can often make us remember just how much we love them, often, looking into how they were made is far more intriguing.
As listeners and consumers, we only see the final package, whether that be the perfectly structured song, the classic music video or the epic lyrics; often, we are blind to the creative process behind the music we love the most. That’s why, for a fan, it is so fascinating to see how a concept or small idea can lead to a song of legendary status. In this article, we’ll be looking at Behind the Mic to discover the story behind DMX’s 1999 hit ‘Ruff Ryders Anthem’ and bring you the lowdown on how this classic came to creation.
Arguably one of DMX’s most well-known songs, ‘Ruff Ryders Anthem’ was released in May 1998 but is so impactful it’s played in clubs to this day. Many know the song as an ode to the artist’s crew. However, the crew has a fascinating backstory of its own.
Ruff Ryders, the collective, took on the name from Ruff Ryders Entertainment, an artist management firm founded in the early 80s. DMX was, in fact, temporarily managed by the firm. Furthermore, the company tried to launch DMX in 1992 with the single ‘Born Loser,’ but distributed by Columbia Records, it went nowhere.
However, while under their management, Simmons met two young, talented producers the firm also managed. One would go on to produce his ‘Ruff Ryders Anthem’. Swizz Beatz.
To begin with, Simmons wasn’t interested in recording the Ruff Ryders beat. Still, after much grovelling, Swizz convinced him to do it, and it paid off, becoming the lead single off his debut album, which went to number one in America, selling over four million copies.
In an interview with GQ, Simmons disclosed that he wrote the lyrics in about 15 minutes after getting the instrumental from Swizz Beats but, after writing it, wasn’t feeling it, claiming “The beat was simple and repetitive”, telling the interviewer, “I had so many other songs with more substance. The song is like ABCs, like elementary.”
After the success of ‘Ruff Ryders Anthem’, Swizz Beats went on to make records with the likes of Beyoncé, Chris Brown and 50 Cent. However, ‘Ruff Ryders’ was undoubtedly the launch pad for his career.
With DMX being an avid rider, he sought to capture New York’s underground biker culture with the track’s video, so for ‘Ruff Ryders Anthem’, he wanted to take it to the street. The video was shot outside with Ruff Ryders members and their associates and featured them riding quads and dirtbikes.
So there we have it, some hidden nuggets of information about what was, and still is, the best DMX song ‘Ruff Ryders Anthem’.
You can listen to ‘Ruff Ryders Anthem’ by DMX below.