Various Ruffhouse Records Greatest Hits

The recent announcement that Joe “The Butcher” Nicolo and Chris Schwartz were closing Ruffhouse Records to new artists invites more attention to this compilation. While the label hardly ingrained itself into the public consciousness like a Bad Boy or a Def Jam, Ruffhouse did bring distinctive and influential artists to the fore. Cypress Hill’s tracks remind you how the label’s first success left hip-hop forever blunted, and Nas’s landmark first single “Halftime” is also here in the form of an unfortunately inferior mix. Tim Dog’s “F*** Compton” captures an early, brutally comic salvo in the East-West war of words and while their artistic contributions can be seriously scrutinised, Kris Kross heralded the arrival of a slew of kiddie groups. The label’s discovery of new groups had slowed of late, explaining the overwhelming connection of the Fugees to six of the album’s 15 tracks including John Forte and New Jersey associate Pace Won who delivers his underground banger “I Declare War.” Newer acts are less distinctive. Sporty Theivz have since managed to parlay the self-proclaimed stinginess of “Cheapskate,” which is included here, into their niche market with “No Pigeons,” their answer record to TLC’s “No Scrubs.” Amusing as it may be, innovative it is not. Given that the label managed to rid themselves of the superior Mountain Brothers in favour of the one-note Sporty Theivz, maybe Schwartz and Nicolo made the right decision to preserve their very respectable track record. (Ruffhouse)