Another emcee gone too soon: X has a long history of battling his demons, at least now he rests easy....and to us, left an amazing discography.
"See to live is to suffer, but to survive, well that's to find meaning in the suffering."
From the childhood violence, to the homelessness, issues with the police, prison and drugs, DMX was still an epic emcee during the late 1990's through the 2000's. Here we will be focusing on the light side of X, and my journey throughout his career.
My introduction to X came a few years into his career, after his introduction to Ready Ron, the beatboxing, Spellbound and his signing to Ruffhouse, "Born Loser" and "Make A Move." For me it was originally in the Unsigned Hype but musically it was my discovery of Mic Geronimo's debut album "The Natural" which included an early track that would include what would never end up becoming Murder Inc: Time to Build w/ Jay-Z, DMX, Ja Rule.
It was the next few features previous to his next single that people would start to learn X's name, and see his talent. LL Cool J's "4,3,2,1", Mase "24 Hours to Live" and the LOX "Money, Power & Respect."
Now in the late 90's Def Jam was on fire with a crazy amount of talent and for DMX, 1998 would be a year that Hip Hop has never seen before*, and a blueprint that would be adopted by various artists since. Amongst the hype of the previous few hard hitting features 1998 starts with the release of the Def Jam single "Get at me Dog." I remember this song coming out and the anticipation for the album "It's Dark and Hell is Hot."
It's Dark and Hell Is Hot
This album was very anticipated and delivered on that energy, if not more so. The second single from the album "Ruff Ryders Anthem." The album would do like 250,000 first week and go on to become multi-platinum. I remember a lot of people hating on this album, all the grunting, what!'s and dog barking, but right off the bat I was an X fan. I used to play through this album, think it sat in the car stereo for months, a classic with features from Mase, The LOX as well as the introduction of fellow Ruff Ryder members.
It would be here that the comparisons would start, "DMX trying to be the new 2Pac," and yes the comparisons are there; The variety of content in the music, the passionate demeanor, even visual similarities, but at the same time two completely different people. Then came the rumors, a second album and out of nowhere in December, just when you thought his first album had a title too long; "Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood," It was here that he continued his trend setting, the surprise album which in the first week out sold his debut album.
Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood
The artwork of the album and liner notes would grab your attention but for me, it would be the continuation of the Damien series "The Omen" that blow me away originally. This album would be a continuation of the one before with features from Ruff Ryders, LOX, Jay-Z and Irv Gotti. It would be the tracks like "Slippin", "Where I'm Comin From" and "Bring Your Whole Crew." that would further cement the Pac comparisons as X seems to gracefully walk the line between horrorcore, underground and the mainstream.
1998 would put DMX into the conversation of great artists, changing the game forever, and with this success Hip Hop would be introduced to the collective "The Ruff Ryders." Ryde or Die Vol. 1 would be the next to drop, showcasing the members of the collective and would include 3 features of DMX.
...And There was X
1999 would be a continuation for DMX, with his third and what would be his most popular album, one that would get him a Best Rap Album nomination at the Grammys. Though not my favorite album this would solidify DMX as a force to be reckoned with and show his versatility in his content and style of music. X's blueprint continues with this album with in house features, production and the very popular second single with Sisqo "What These Bitches Want." No Damien track on this album but X continues on with his Prayer tracks giving us "Prayer III."
There is a bit of a break here, some for legal reasons but also for 5 separate Ruff Ryder Collective releases that would include DMX features on most.
The Great Depression
Now for me, this album seemed like it took forever to come out, almost 2 years. The Hype other than it being another album from DMX, the initial 2 singles "We Right Here" and "Who We Be". It was interesting to see the features on this album (Faith Evans, Mashonda, Stephanie Mills, Dia), and none of the usual Ruff Ryder features. I was excited to see the continuation of the Prayer series and the return of Damien III.
Not only is this the 4th album of DMX's to debut at the top of Billboard, we start to see DMX's growth in both content but his transitioning into Production as well. I consider this album my second favorite of his.
The title for this album was a well thought out and well deserved one. Grand Champ, 5 wins, and this album debuting at the top of the charts yet again would get DMX another groundbreaking accolade. He would be the only musical artist in history to release 5 albums that debuted at number 1. Grand Champ would see the return on the Ruff Ryder camp features as well as a few new ones; 50 Cent and Patti LaBelle. And sticking to his roots and beliefs the fifth album comes with a fifth Prayer installment.
It was at this time a retirement was rumored generally speaking where things take a turn. On a new record label and various issues DMX will go on to release 3 more albums ( Year of The Dog...Again, Undisputed, and Redemption of the Beast).
I have so many good memories where DMX plays the soundtrack, many roadtrips, nights out with the boys, weekend house parties and just having it on while I draw.
The Blood Red and Bain Iz Back tracks with the interviews and statements has me waiting, and wishing for the Swizz Beats Produced secret album that is rumored and I secretly hope that there is some 2Pac like gold packed away on the Def Jam shelves.
"Give us the strength to just make it through just one more day..."
Do you have a favorite Album, Track or Story? Let me know below.