drag-on.jpgAfter almost a decade-long run with one of the most successful crews in hip-hop, Drag-On recently decided it was time to part ways with the Ruff Ryders. Frustrated with the fact that he only released two albums during his stint with the Double R, the gruff voiced lyricist is now in the process of finalizing his release from the label. Introduced to the world on “For My Dogs” off DMX’s 1998 disc, It’s Dark and Hell is Hot, Drag saw his career catch fire a year later when he released “Down Bottom,” a collaboration with Juvenile that appeared on the Ruff Ryders’ Ryde or Die, Vol. 1. In 2000, the Bronx born MC released his debut album, Opposite of H2O, which earned a gold plaque due in part to hit singles like “Spit These Bars” and “Niggas Die 4 Me.” But Drag’s success would be short lived. Over the next few years, fellow Ruff Ryders like DMX, Eve and the LOX began to focus on other opportunities and the crew’s momentum dwindled considerably. As a result, Drag-On’s 2004 follow-up, Hell and Back, barely cracked the 132,000 mark. Although still contractually bound to Ruff Ryders, Drag took matters into his own hands and formed his own label, Hood Environment, in 2006. Shortly after, he released “Wallah,” a Lil Wayne diss track that claimed Weezy stole his Fireman alias. More recently, Drag dropped a new mixtape with DJ L entitled Return of the Bad Guy. XXLMag.com talks with Drag-On about his speech impediment, finally breaking free from Ruff Ryders and beefin’ with Lil Wayne.

Where are you at with getting out of your Ruff Ryders contract?
I’m not Ruff Ryders no more. I’m feeling so good about that. I been fighting them niggas for a year. They wouldn’t let me go. We’re still in transactions [but] I’m about to get my release papers in a minute. As far as contract wise, I’m out of the contract. No more Ruff Ryders. I’m not ruff ridin’. I’m not ridin’ or dyin’, or nothin’. [Laughs] But X, LOX, Eve, and everybody are still my peoples.

What made you leave the label?
It’s not really so much why I left, it’s why [haven’t] I been left. I’m the kind of dude that I spit on what I believe in. That’s why I stayed for so long. There are a lot of artists that left, too. I had a little bit of faith but everything runs out after a while. I’ve been signed to Ruff Ryders since ’97 and they only put out how many [of my] albums? Two albums? I don’t think so. That’s just crazy. My work ethic is 20, 30, 40, 50 times more than that. Even Swizz [Beatz] will tell you that.

You didn’t feel like they were pushing your projects?
They definitely weren’t pushing my projects. I didn’t go on no promo runs or radio tours. I sold my little 1.2 million with nothing—just me and my fans believing in me. I only put out two albums in 10 years. I dedicated 10 years to them and they only dedicated two years back to me. That’s not really good. It’s just business, nothing personal. They’re doing whatever they’re doing. But me, I got a lot more to show the world.

Was it a money issue?
If you ain’t droppin’ no album [and] you ain’t got no singles out, you already know the money ain’t gonna be right. I always had money because of all the albums I been on. I got a whole bunch of plaques on my wall just from me featuring on a whole bunch of albums. I’m still receiving checks. I only put out two albums, so I had to get my money elsewhere.

Last year, you released “Wallah,” a song dissing Lil Wayne for adopting, what you felt, was your “Fireman” name. Is that beef dead now?
Yeah, that’s my family. That’s why I was really buggin’ off that. I was shocked because Baby and me were kinda close. That’s my dude. I was in shock mode. If you look at that video [Lil Wayne’s “Fireman”] and then look at my video with DMX and the fire trucks [“Niggas Die 4 Me”], it’s actually the same thing. Remember the scene when I was on the bed pouring the wax on a girl? He even ripped the same thing. I’m just buggin’ because Cash Money is like my family. But it’s no beef or nothin’ like that. I was just setting the record straight. I didn’t even know how to take that. I thought niggas was coming for me. Why are niggas coming at my head? I ain’t have nothin’ hot right now. What they gonna do? Kick a nigga when he down? I’m not down ’cause of me, I’m down ’cause of them other niggas.

Have you spoken to Wayne or anybody at Cash Money since then?
Nah, I’m just now finding out they wanted to do a deal with me a couple years ago. I ain’t even get back at them. I didn’t know what was going on. It’s all love. Real recognize real. I don’t think that was a shocker to them. They should have known that was gonna happen.

A lot of people don’t realize you have a speech impediment. Was that something that you’ve struggled with throughout your career?
When I’m rappin’ or shootin’ a movie, you can’t probably tell I got a real bad speech impediment. I got that on both sides of my family, that’s why my [speech impediment] is a little bit up there. It don’t show when I’m rhymin’. As long as a beat is on, I’m good. I’ll roll some nigga all day. But my stuttering flared up not too long ago, so I can’t really do that on an acapella note.

You seem like you’re really focused and content with your position right now.
I’m just so focused right now. I’m realizing that this game is so grimy; you don’t even have a choice but to be focused. This game is made for people’s downfall. I’m aware of that. I been through a lot, I’ve actually been held back from doing what I do. Now I’m just going full fledge—no disrespect to nobody. I’m just happy to be here.