Whether Houston-based trailblazers Rap-A-Lot Records or New Orleans hit factory Cash Money or powerhouse Memphis imprint Hypnotize Minds, the most influential record labels in the history of Southern hip hop have built their brands from the ground up. By laying down their foundations on the local scene and spreading the music across the country and eventually the world, these grassroots movements have birthed some of the most successful artists, producers and entrepreneurs the rap world has ever known.
Following in the same footsteps as these thriving independently run million-dollar empires is Baton Rouge-based Ruff-N-Rugged Entertainment. For more than eight years and counting, this up and coming imprint has steadily fed the Gulf Coast streets with a firestorm of hit singles, highly praised mixtapes and breakthrough albums. Boasting a stable of artists that includes: Hollowtip, Lil Buck and, Young Soulja, Ruff-N-Rugged Entertainment has become the most rapidly expanding label to come out of the South in years.
Launched in 2004 in the small South Louisiana town of Geismar by young entrepreneur and label CEO Wood, the label shook up the region within a few months with its debut release, Hollowtip’s well-received mixtape Play It How I Say It. Shortly after, Wood relocated the label just a few miles away to Baton Rouge. And a barrage of hit singles followed.
“I saw these guys in my community who were involved in rap music,” Wood explains. “They had talent but didn’t have any direction. So I took it upon myself to learn the game, put them under my wing and we all took the steps to learn the game together and make a movement in rap music.”
And a movement is exactly what they created. Over the next handful of years, classics like Lil Buck’s “Do the Fool,” Young Soulja’s “Big Wheels” and Hollowtip’s “Black Shades” became staples from the bayous to the bricks.
“We put out a lot of hood classics that the people have been feeling,” says Wood. “We’ve been getting a lot of good responses, good support from the people. It’s been all positive. The fans will help us make it to the top.”
On that ascension to the top of the pile, Ruff-N-Rugged Entertainment recently released Lil Buck’s newest single “3D” and highly visible YouTube.com video. Even though the label has solidified itself as a musical mainstay rapidly on the rise, Ruff-N-Rugged Entertainment is readying for the July 9 release of Buck’s album 3D, Hollowtip’s forthcoming masterpiece mixtape Back At It and Young Soulja’s as-yet-untitled mixtape.
“We bring a different sound to the music,” says Wood. “A lot of our artists are coming from the streets so we keep it gangster but at the same time we like to party and have fun. It’s hard to label us because our music is not just one thing. There are many elements to it.”