LListening to a DMX song from the late 1990s is like riding a wrecking ball through a gated community. The music video for Stop Being Greedy, one of the most contentious aspects of the rapper’s 1998 Def Jam debut It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot, shows DMX hunting a rich white man through a mansion, before finally feeding To the poor soul like a T-bone steak your pet pitbull; The rapper’s exciting, half-barked voice gave the impression that he wanted to eat the rich.
It’s a song about the poor who feel so ignored that they have no choice but to confront the ruling classes (“Ribs is moving so don’t keep me waiting / Fuck and I’m going to bite you and snatch the plate”) and smashed violently its rules, and its message reflected the drive by DMX, who died on Friday at the age of 50, to unleash a hip-hop culture that in 1998 had been too preoccupied with shiny costumes in tacky music videos filmed inside a Shiny Rubik’s Cube.
Stop Being Greedy was crude like Attitude from Bad Brains or God Save The Queen from Sex Pistols were crude. It was a moment of pure punk defiance that delivered CPR to hardcore rap, which was in stasis after the death of gangster rap bosses 2Pac and Notorious BIG. By including at least four other songs (Get At Me Dog, Ruff Ryders Anthem, Fuckin With D, ATF) that could qualify as Smells Like Teen Spirit rap moments in what was only his first studio album, X traversed the capitalism of the MTV era. with the precision of Candyman’s rusty hook (blood and horror were part of his job).
It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot and its sadistic but brilliant follow-up, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, both reached No. 1 in the US in the same year. With these powerful releases, DMX turned its attention back to those with nothing in their pockets. He appealed to the homeless and those who missed 2Pac’s frenzied and unapologetic energy, but also to suburban white kids who needed a soundtrack for their Mountain Dew-induced tantrums. His conversational fluency, often bitingly witty, turned from the stimulating talks of life coaches to grave threats to enemies (“pluck you like a headless chicken”). The music got bigger and more stadium-friendly as the DMX career progressed throughout the 2000s, with hot hits like Party Up, X Gon ‘Give It To Ya, and Where the Hood At, each one capable of starting a riot at a house party.
He also translated his male alpha magnetic energy into an underrated film and television acting career. Whether bragging about being “untouchable” in the cult gangster classic Belly, or tenderly delivering speeches about the beauty of growing orchids in the comedy Fresh Off the Boat, he always lit up the screen.
The reason he barked like a dog in his verses was because angry stray dogs became unusual friends during various periods of homelessness in adolescence; They also became the target of his frustration, with DMX winning convictions for animal cruelty. During his childhood, he told GQ that he was violently abused by his mother (“she knocked out two of my teeth with a broom”), and that he never really knew his father. In a 2020 podcast interview with rapper Talib Kweli, DMX cried when he recalled a mentor who tricked him into smoking a joint that was laced with crack cocaine at age 13.
In Damien’s best gothic trap fable, DMX, who struggled with mental health issues and addiction, switches between his own voice and a demonic monologue. His twisted alter ego represented the pain he carried from this childhood experience, showing a constant conflict between embracing the darkness of suicide and the light of life. His thunderous expression on the microphone sounded like that of a man venting and purging, and these brutally honest sermons gave his fans the strength to overcome their own personal traumas. (Today, this soul-cleansing energy continues in America. by rappers like Denzel Curry, Rico Nasty and Jpegmafia).
DMX trained his pit bull to impromptu bark at terrified rivals during freestyle battles, fathered 15 children, sold 23 million records, totaled sports car after sports car, became a sex symbol in muddy Timberland boots, made Jay- Z opened for him on tour, created a moshpit that looked bigger than a small country in Woodstock ’99, and topped the charts with each of his first five albums. He was a force of nature, an all-or-nothing character that could be profound but also self-destructive, in and out of prison for minor offenses. Recent studio videos suggested a man more at ease with himself, laid back and dancing to Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall between the final songs on a long-awaited new album. His verse on Lox’s 2020 single Bout Shit was also an undeniable return to form; That growl still drove you crazy
Before his tragically untimely death, DMX endured so many obstacles America threw at him, detailed in their lyrics: “Do you want to be me? This is what you do: you grow up neglected by both parents and still manage to get ahead. ” On Slippin, a warm and bluesy piece of self-motivation, DMX said: “To live is to suffer. But surviving, well, that is making sense of suffering. ” It’s a lyric that tells you everything you need to know about the discography of pain and power that Earl Simmons has left behind.