Ruthless Records re-defined the boundaries of rap music, making them the 7th most important hip-hop record label of all time.

Before record labels were considered “the enemy” their brands actually meant something.  Artists dreamed of being on the same label as the MCs they grew up idolizing and some labels had such credibility fans would buy the record just because it was on that label.

Over the next several days we will look at the 20 most important hip-hop record labels of all time as determined by a host of factors including credibility, sales, enduring legacy and cultural impact.  And, the labels are:

#7 Ruthless Records

Ruthless Records, founded by Eric “Eazy-E” Wright and Jerry Heller, in 1987 re-defined rap music in several ways.  The label was the first to put the West Coast on the map as a force to be respected in hip-hop.  Before Ruthless, there were outliers like Ice-T, but Ruthless established the West Coast as a consistent voice with multiple artists.  Ruthless also completely upended the Billboard chart with the debut of NWA’s second album, Efil4zaggin (Niggaz4life) at #2.  The album had had virtually no radio airplay previously and was propelled solely through word of mouth.  Previously, the typical trajectory of an album was that it would debut low on the chart and gradually work its way up as it gained popularity.  NWA’s album made it clear that the Billboard chart, which had just changed from being calculated based on albums shipped to an automated system based on actual album sales called Soundscan (today’s industry standard), would never be the same.  Equally ground-breaking was  Eazy-E who was one of the very first self-proclaimed “street entrepreneurs” to cash in his chips and go legit by entering the music business.  He would serve as an example to hustlers like Birdman and Slim and Jay-Z going-forward.  Perhaps the biggest sign of how much Ruthless changed the cultural landscape was the fact that they were actually contacted by the FBI and cited as a threat by then Vice President Dan Quayle due to the incisive lyrics in NWA’s Fuck Tha Police.  Sadly, the last way in which Ruthless Records broke the boundaries in hip-hop was that it gave rap music its first major AIDS casualty with the death of Eazy-E in 1995.  His legacy lives on in the music of Ruthless Records.

Boyz ‘N Tha Hood – Eazy E

Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A.

Fuck Tha Police – N.W.A.

It’s Funky Enough – The D.O.C.

The Grand Finale – The D.O.C.

Alwayz Into Somethin’ – N.W.A.

Foe Tha Love of $ – Bone Thugs N Harmony

Tha Crossroads – Bone Thugs N Harmony

Previously:  #20 Rakwus Records, #19 Loud Records, #18 Select Records, #17 Rap-A-Lot Records, #16 No Limit Records, #15 Sleeping Bag Records, #14 Uptown Records, #13 Ruffhouse Records, #12 Cold Chillin’ Records, #11 Jive Records, #10 Aftermath Records, #9 Cash Money Records, #8 Roc-A-Fella Records

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4 Responses to Ruthless Records re-defined the boundaries of rap music, making them the 7th most important hip-hop record label of all time.

  1. Pingback: Hip-Hop may never have been anything more than a fad without Profile Records, the 6th most important hip-hop record label of all time. « Ambrosia For Heads

  2. Pingback: Tommy Boy kicks off the Top 5 as the 5th most important hip-hop record label of all time. « Ambrosia For Heads

  3. Pingback: Sugar Hill Records introduced hip-hop to most of the world. Nuff said. They are the 4th most important hip-hop record label of all time. « Ambrosia For Heads

  4. Pingback: Death Row Records was the most feared record label in the music industry. They are the 2nd most important hip-hop record label of all time. « Ambrosia For Heads

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