DMX’s “Ruff Ryder’s Anthem” Remix Is A “Swagged-Out Air-Raid Signal”
Producer Ken “DURO” Ifill remembers the making of 1998’s biggest remix
Here’s the story of an iconic hip-hop single, its remix, and how that led to a mixtape becoming a platinum-selling album. Or rather, how incredibly successful DMX was in 1998.
From Grandmaster Flash blending David Mancuso’s Loft favorites to Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia debuting Nas or 50 Cent teaching hardcore rap fanatics “How To Rob,” street mixtapes have played an integral role in hip-hop. For aspiring artists, paying a DJ to compile your best underground singles with freestyle raps over industry-known beats was a surefire way — in the pre-internet age — to build a fanbase.
By 1998, all things hip-hop culture were crossing over into the mainstream with significant success. That acclaim necessitated an even deeper dig into the culture’s roots for intriguing content. Enter DJ Clue. While also serving as Jay-Z’s tour DJ, Clue had co-founded Desert Storm Records, his own label distributed via Elektra and Atlantic Records. Furthermore, while experiencing this appeal for his curatorial work, he was asked to create a mainstream version of a street-ready mixtape. Ken “DURO” Ifill, a Grammy-award winning engineer, current senior vice president of A&R at Republic Records, and then co-founder of Desert Storm, remembers Jay came to Clue and said, “You can make — this — amount of money on the streets selling these mixtapes, or you can make it legit, and make a lot more. It wasn’t a hard decision for him to make.”
With appearances from MCs like Nas, Cam’ron, Missy Elliott, The Def Squad, M.O.P., a then-still-underground Fabolous, and more, The Professional was also set to feature a Ruff Ryders posse cut. But it was Steve Stoute — Former Interscope and Sony Music president — who secured the rights to create the remix of DMX’s “Ruff Ryders Anthem.” “We had another track called ‘The Ruff Ryders’ that we wanted on there, but the decision was made to switch that for the remix,” DURO says.