A native of the Bronx, Drag-On (born Mel Jason Smalls) overcame a tumultuous adolescence – including abandonment, drug-selling and homelessness – to find his way into the music industry as a teenage emcee.
In 2000 amid Ruff Ryders’ musical dominance in the streets, Drag-On released his first album, Opposite of H20. Boosted by the hit singles “Spit These Bars” (featuring Swizz Beatz) and “Niggaz Die 4 Me” (featuring DMX), Opposite of H2O was a success, selling 700,000 copies and peaking at #5 on the Billboard Top 200 and #2 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts.
As the young spitfire of the Ruff Ryders family, Drag-On became a mainstay on various double-R projects including numerous DMX albums, the Ruff Ryders compilation Ryde or Die Vol.1(1999), the L.O.X’s We Are the Streets (2000), Eve’s Let There Be Eve (1999) as well as D J Clue’s The Professional (1998).
On the heels of a successful musical debut, Drag-On launched a film career, landing co-starring roles alongside DMX and Steven Segal in Exit Wounds (2001) and Cradle 2 The Grave (2003) featuring DMX and Jet-li. He also appeared in The Hustle (2003), starring Ed Lover and Doctor Dre.
Drag’s second album, Hell and Back, came in 2004 and debuted at #5 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums charts. The CD depicted a darker side of the artist and included personal tales of his mother’s battle with throat cancer, street fights and losing unborn twins to a miscarriage. However, the momentum Hell and Back had built was halted suddenly in 2004, when Drag was slapped with a million dollar lawsuit stemming from a road rage incident that left an NYC motorist severely injured. The experience proved to be a personal and professional setback for the rapper for a few years.
But not for long. After four years away from music, Drag-On took his career into his own hands and established Hood Environment Records in 2008.
“I’m just trying to create another umbrella in this game and show the industry how it’s supposed to be done,” says Smalls of his label. “I don’t want to sound typical, but we really go hard for our artists.”
Drag credits the creation of Hood Environment and the birth of his daughter, Melody, with re-igniting his fire to get back in the studio. In 2008, he recorded the song “School of Hard Knocks,” produced by the Individualz and featuring Swizz Beatz. The track signaled his return to the industry and was followed up by several appearances on mixtapes from DJ Big Mike and DJ White Owl and a feature alongside Maino, Talib Kweli, Styles P, Cassidy and Swizz Beatz on the Sean Bell tribute song “Stand Up.”
A 2009 appearance on Jadakiss’ “Who’s Real” remix featuring Swizz, DMX, The Lox and Eve confirmed that Drag-On could still spit flames. Now the TK will make his official comeback with the spring 2010 release of his third album My Life, My Legacy, My Melody on Ruff Ryders Indy/Hood Environment/Fontana. My Life will be Drag’s last album on Ruff Ryders, but the artist insists there’s no beef.
“Ruff Ryders is family,” he says. “They were the first label to give me a chance in this game and I will forever love them for that. But, still, it’s my time to branch out and do my own thing.”
With production by the likes of Swizz Beatz, Neo da matrixx, Dame Grease, and Avery Chambliss of the Individualz, My Life, My Legacy, My Melody takes the listener through Drag-On’s musical history while displaying a new sound and a more mature artist. The album ranges from party-starting tracks like “Dance Over Here, Don’t Glance Over Here” to gritty, street anthems like “Metal Spray” to a touching tribute to DMX entitled “Thank You.”
“I’m giving people a breakdown of my life and what I’ve accomplished over the years,” says Drag. “This album will show how my lyrical content has stepped up from when I first got with the R to now.”
Guests on My Life include Cassidy, AR AB and Hood Environment artists Eyez B and Terror Da Dude. Drag-On maintains that his new sound and role as a CEO will shed new light on his abilities as an artist and businessman. And he plans on being around for a long time -- no matter what life throws at him.
“You can’t get rid of me. I live and breathe Hip-Hop, so it’s impossible for me to do anything else,” he explains. “Drag is back. Drag is here.”