Ruff Ryders - Ryde Or Die Vol. II      
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written by Ant-One    
It's real easy to hate on the whole Ruff Ryders camp. You could claim that their subject matter is dumbed down to the point of no return, or they simply don't bring anything besides overblown crime stories to the table. On their 2nd compilation, they try to disprove this label placed upon them, and do a very good job of it. They attempt to advance their product by reaching out towards emcees from different corners of Hip Hop America to gain universal appeal.

This album will probably do better on the books than Volume 1 did, this product is simply more appealing than the first time around. Why the appeal? Star power! When you bring Snoop Dog, Scarface, and Busta Rhymes into the fold, how can you go wrong? They even reached down south to pair Trick Daddy with Ruff Ryder affiliate Yung Wun. The equation only leads to success, as you see the Ruff Ryders methods of thinking to pair outside emcees with affiliates, and of course give RR family members a chance to shine on their own.

The banger on this album is "2 Tears And A Bucket," laced by Redman and Method Man. Sheek blesses us with a fairly tight verse, but Redman obliterates him with his lyrical explosion. Method Man plays the role of closer, and brings the track to a close with his usual flair. Redman's verse will definitely be one of the most quoted this year, his swagger has been honed to perfection. The other standout is the solo Jadakiss joint. This member of the LOX is finally planning a solo album, and this track proves why this will be one of the most sought after debut albums of 2000.

Busta Rhymes teams with Swizz Beats for a heater. 'Fright Night,' provides a powerful backdrop for Busta to wild out to. Other Ruff Ryder's like Drag-On get their time in the spotlight, his solo track 'Weed, Hoes, Dough,' leaves much to be desired, but his hookup with Twista, 'Twisted Heat' will make you reach for the rewind button.

Swizz Beats handles all of the production duties, showing how much his style has matured over the course of these compilations. The beats aren't just the beeping and whirring they used to be, Swizz now forces us to include him on the roster of Hip Hop's top producers. That statement will make some of us grimace, but you can't deny the energy that Swizz can put down on wax.

The downfall here is the failure of some of these collaborations. Eve and Jadakiss strike out looking with 'Got it All,' also Snoop and Scarface strike out swinging with 'World War 3.' Some would say the production becomes monotonous along the way, that is a fair assessment, but the highs outnumber the lows. DMX drops by for only one track, 'The Great' and leaves much to be desired, wouldn't you think the head of the clique would lend more than one song?

Another downfall is the lack of big hits. It's unsure as to what the second single will be, there are no clear winners. A lot of solid tracks will not create a radio buzz, 'Wild Out' did that the last time around, it's unknown whether any of these joints will really catch on. Another disappointment is that one huge posse cut. Where is it? Nothing really comes close to the 'Ruff Ryders Anthem' type of track, as you unfortunately don't see the Lox paired with DMX and Drag-On to provide a true crew cut.

In closing, this 2nd trip up to bat doesn't provide a home run, but is a solid effort. The hits aren't here, but one thing that the previous compilation really didn't have was stability. Here, just about every track could be a single, not much filler is evident. Sophomore efforts are always hard to figure, for the most part, artists strike out the second time around. Here, the Ruff Ryders camp avoids that sophomore slump with a satisfying product.

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