Ruthless' New Blood
Ruthless Records has had a significant role in shaping hip-hop music during the last 20 years.Ruthless Records has had a significant role in shaping hip-hop music during the last 20 years.
Founded by Eazy-E in 1987, the label is credited with pioneering the gangsta rap and G-funk movements of the West Coast in the late '80s and early '90s.
Its roster included such prominent acts as N.W.A., Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and the Black Eyed Peas—known then as Atban Klann—and Ruthless released celebrated hip-hop albums like Eazy-E's "Eazy-Duz-It" and N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton."
Eazy-E's widow, Tomica Woods-Wright, is now president/CEO of Ruthless, which is distributed by Sony Music, and the label has signed a number of new acts to continue its legacy.
For an 18-year-old, Agina Alvarez has a long history in entertainment. Born to a musically inclined family (her grandfather is a musician; her mother is a voice/piano teacher), the actress/singer first won a competition at Harlem's Apollo Theater at age 7. By 10, Alvarez was part of quintet Gimme 5 and by her early teens she'd landed a role on soap opera "The Young and the Restless." Discovered by Woods-Wright, Alvarez now is prepping the release of her as-yet-untitled pop/R&B/rock debut album, due later this year.
Production team Back Room produced the set, while Alvarez has co-writing credits on most songs. While a single hasn't been chosen, introductory track "Me" and breakup song "Today" are in contention. Alvarez also plans to release a Spanish version of the album this year. "Ultimately, I hope my music goes global and hits both Spanish- and English-speaking people all over the world," she says.
When you talk to 22-year-old Hopsin, he'll admit he wasn't the most popular kid growing up. But the MC bred in California's San Fernando Valley has found a home at Ruthless Records after a chance meeting with Woods-Wright. Born Marcus Hopson, Hopsin has been honing his craft since 2001. He is set to release his debut album, "Gazin' at the Moonlight," this summer.
The album includes such tracks as "Pans in the Kitchen," in which Hopsin uses actual pans from his kitchen to create the beat, and "Super Dooper Fly," which is under consideration as the first single. The set is produced by the rapper and doesn't feature any collaborations. "People made fun of me in school," Hopsin says. "But I tried not to let it bother me because I always knew in the end I'd have the last laugh."
As a child, Stevie Stone imagined he'd play professional basketball. But after an impromptu rap performance in 2001, the Columbia, Mo., native opted to ditch his hoop dreams for the mic. The offspring of another musical family (his parents both play the piano), the 26-year-old singer opened for Missouri native Tech9 at a local club after the scheduled act canceled. "Once I got done with the set, I knew it was what I wanted to do," Stone says. He continued to perform, opening for the likes of Snoop Dogg, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Murphy Lee, among others. In 2006, while at Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Conference, Stone met Woods-Wright. The following year, he signed with Ruthless. Stone is working on his debut, "New Kid Commin'," scheduled for a late-2008 release. The set features production from Frizz and Wishmaster, among others, and has guest appearances by George Clinton and Tech9. The first single is the reflective "Wait a Minute," which will be serviced to radio in the following months.
Growing up in Carson, Calif., Na'Shay always knew she'd be a singer. As a toddler, the now 18-year-old would sing along to the likes of Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Hi-Five. By age 12, she'd entered and won her first talent show. That same year, she landed her first recording deal with production company Monopoly Music. She spent the next few years recording her debut album and presented her finished work to Ruthless executives. "They said they loved me, my look and my sound and wanted to sign me and put me out as a solo artist," Na'Shay says of the initial meeting. She is due to release "R U Ready" later this year. First single "First to Fall" will be serviced to radio this month, and an accompanying video was filmed during the spring. The title track is set to be the follow-up single.
Street Runnaz Click
Street Runnaz Click may not be a household name—yet—but the Atlanta-based trio is growing an impressive fan base. Not only has the rap collective's MySpace page received more than 300,000 hits and close to 1 million plays so far, MySpace users chose the act as the No. 1 unsigned group in Atlanta for two consecutive years. As if that wasn't enough, Street Runnaz Click is now signed to Ruthless, which scouted the threesome online. The 19-year-old group members—Trillest Beatz, Free Sinatra and J-Riva—are prepping their debut album, "Laughing to the Bank," for release later this year. The set's first single, "Get Low," will be serviced to radio and online music sites this month. Other cuts on the album include summer song "Feel Good" and the title track, about the group's struggle to make it in the music industry. "We bring something totally different to the table," Trillest Beatz says. "People will be pleasantly surprised with what we have to offer."