Album

What Went Right With… Ruff, Rugged & Raw by Double X?

A review of Double X's 1995 album Ruff, Rugged & Raw

Two members of New Jersey rap-trio Double XX Posse returned three years after their debut album Put Ya Boots On with their follow-up LP Ruff, Rugged & Raw. With a shortened name, members Sugar Ray and B.K. came back strong; Double X’s second album was just as potent as their first and in my opinion, it was better. Put Ya Boots On was a mixture of braggadocio, pro-black, casually sexist, and street-centric rhymes and Ruff, Rugged & Raw was more of the same but with a hardcore sound indicative of the mid-nineties. The rap-duo brought fans what they loved but made their second offering rougher, rugged-er, raw-er and in many cases; catchier.

The album opens with the title track. “Ruff, Rugged & Raw” contains a straight-forward hook (“This is the rugged, the rough, the raw… yeah!”) which is delivered in a grouped yell (made famous by acts like Black Moon and Onyx). Along with a horn sample this is undoubtedly an impressive opener…

“Wreckin’ It” follows and it also contains a memorable chorus (which varies each time it’s repeated): “To all my niggas, and all my homies, all the bitches… to all the buddha smokers, and roughnecks, and rudeboys… to all the hustlers, all the players, and real G’s, niggas locked down… to all the gun-slingers, the slick talkers, brothers locked down”. Punctuated by another group-shouted “hey… hey… hey… ya-ya” this joint was the soundtrack of my summer back in the mid-nineties…

“Money Talks” is next and it’s the only track produced by an outsider. D.I.T.C.’s Lord Finesse mixes rock drums and jazz samples to create another classic. Like Apache and Black Moon before them, Double X use the line “make money money, make money money money” to great effect. The final verse by Sugar Ray is the one I remember the most:

“They say that m-o-n-e-y’s the root of all evil, but I can’t tell, I know this brother now that’s living swell. He’s got the finest women in the world you ever saw, riding all on is dick and damn near knocking down his door. I guess that goes along with having dough, and yo, it’s funny, ’cause no one never knew my man until he had some money. But now he drives a Lexus and he’s got more bacon than Michael Jordan, so people treat him like he’s important. And it’s good to see that, ’cause I believe that, a person getting lucci, gets the props he deserves without feedback. But dig; be smart about the way you choose to use it, and spend your money wisely, or you could lose it”

The single also had a Hype Williams directed music video…

“Stop That Playin’” is a slower-tempo, head-nodding track that sports a dirty piano sample. The song contains a few Jamaican-accented lines and an obligatory James Brown sample. There’s also the echoing call from Malcolm McLaren’s “Buffalo Gals” (also used by Gravediggaz a year earlier) making for a gritty and atmospheric sound. The hook is simple but very effective: “A yo a yo a yo (hey yo!) You know what I’m sayin’, you better stop that playin’”…

From this point in the album, we have a couple of forgettable songs, although I’ll admit that “He Asked For It” with its Sadat X sample and effective hook (Why did I have to do it? He Asked For It”) is superior to “Wicked & Wild” which is a much weaker song largely due to the unremarkable chorus. Thankfully, “Make Some Noise” with its rowdy hook “Let me hear you make some noise! Boo-yah!” puts the album back on track…

“Ghetto Life” contains an awfully muddled hook that lets the song down and “Knock It Off Will Ya” isn’t that distinctive and feels a little bit like filler. This is followed by “F.F.F.F.” (Find ’em, feel ’em, fuck ’em, and forget ’em) which is a variation of “Find ’em, fuck ’em and flee” by N.W.A. This song is sexist without the fun hook and narrative structure of “Not Gonna Be Able To Do It” or the upbeat catchiness of “Girls Be Frontin’” (both from their debut album). Unabashed sexism needs something to offset the bigotry, like the hilariously explicit “Who’s Dat Chick?” by The Edge. Unfortunately, this song has none of that.

After “Sunshine”, the album closes with a brilliant track “8 Bars Of Terror” featuring Strong People’s Coalition (Keek, Lo Cash, Sha Born, Trife, Warm Prince Shabazz) a mean posse cut with a very catchy hook (“Strong People… comin’ at cha!”). The song is so impressive that I was surprised there was never an S.P.C. Album. Similar to Heather B’s 54th Regiment, some of the most impressive album introductions led to nothing thanks to these deaf-arse mainstream labels.

Like any album there are a few issues minor here. There’s a few unneeded skits between some tracks (although the anti-going-R’n’B sentiment after “8 Bars Of Terror” is nice to hear). Like I’ve already stated: there are a few weak songs. Of course, when I say “weaker”, these tracks are still listenable, it’s just that the opening is so strong that the average songs simply can’t compete. The first four tracks on the album makes the first third of the LP a flawless listen, and in comparison tracks like “Wicked & Wild” featuring Tone The Butcher and “Ghetto Life” featuring Arnold Parker don’t compare.

I recall the singles “Wreckin’ It”, “Money Talks”, and “Stop That Playin’” playing all the time on underground Hip-Hop radio stations, so much so that they all left an indelible mark on my recollection of that era. This album received 3 and ½ mics from The Source which I think is underrating the LP; surely the inclusion of these and other classic songs outweigh the unexceptional ones around the mid-point?

The stand out tracks are the aforementioned “Ruff, Rugged & Raw”, “Wreckin’ It”, “Money Talks”, “Stop That Playin’”, as well as “Make Some Noise” and “8 Bars Of Terror” which is a decent amount of memorable songs in a 12-track album. All of these joints are hardcore street anthems and golden era classics. The production by B.K. throughout the LP (aside from Lord Finesse-produced “Money Talks”) is some of the best examples of mid-nineties East Coast Boom Bap; jazzy, head-nodding, bass-drum-and snare-hit rhythms with B.K.’s mean vocals and the raspier voice of Sugar Ray.

Like many Hip-Hop classics, unfortunately, both of Double X’s albums are slept on to this day. Ruff, Rugged & Raw contained six classic tracks from the golden age of rap and yet this album is rarely mentioned when people speak about that period of Hip-Hop history. Double X (and their earlier incarnation Double XX Posse) shouldn’t be ignored, their contribution to the greatest era of Hip-Hop is just as important as the Onyx’s and the Wu-Tang’s. This Jersey City, Illtown, or Killtown duo made some of the best songs from the early-to-mid-nineties East Coast scene and their albums have stood the test of time. Every time I play Ruff,  Rugged & Raw I’m instantly transported to a sunny walk back from school with my Walkman back in the nine-pound.

Pure Raw.

Beats: 9/10

Rhymes: 8/10

Overall: 8/10

3 replies »

  1. Dang. Will be hoping to see K-Rino, Tonedeff, GZA, DOOM, and many more I can’t list off the top of my head right now in your list whenever you write it.

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