Artist Spotlight: DMX

By Braxton Randolph

Earl Simmons, otherwise known as DMX, was at one time one of the most menacing, prolific actor/rappers of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Looking back as a kid who was born in 1995 and didn’t get to experience his impact first-hand, 1998 seemed to be one of the best years for DMX in regards to the projects he released and was apart of. He released two number 1 albums, one being his debut, and also the movie Belly, which is widely considered a classic amongst my generation.

One of my favorite albums to revisit is DMX’s debut album, It’s Dark and Hell is Hot. This album starts off with one of the most epic intros ever. The beat can still be easily identified to this day, which is something to be said about X’s ability to make hits that still resonate today. Not all artists’ music have aged as well as DMX’s, and not all artists have made impacts on the industry that are still felt today. One of my favorite songs, from the album Damien, is an early encounter with the “split-personality” rap that artists such as Eminem and Tyler, the Creator have embraced. The song is basically DMX going back and forth with “Damien,” which is another name for the devil. Given X’s spiritual background, much of his music lies within this realm of battling demons and other vices by calling upon the Lord. However, outside of that realm, DMX was still able to thrive. “How’s it Goin’ Down” is another favorite amongst many from the album that was recently sampled by Drake on his latest album, Views From the 6. This is easily one of the most memorable songs of X’s career, based of how relevant it still is today.

One could imagine that such a solid debut album as It’s Dark and Hell is Hot could put too much pressure on an artist to follow up. However, we all know this was not the case with DMX. In late 1998, he released his second album, Flesh of my Flesh, Blood of my Blood. One of my favorite songs from the album, “Dogs for Life,” is a perfect example of X’s ability to intertwine rapping and storytelling. Contrary to many hip hop artists, DMX often incorporated this type of wordplay into his music with songs such as “The Omen” (ft. Marilyn Manson), which happens to be the follow up to Damien. He’s also known for his intricate slam poetry-style writings and prayers, which can be found on the last track, “Ready to Meet Him,” or in the beginning scene of the movie Belly, which, might I add, is one of the best opening scenes of all time! As somebody growing up in this different era of music, it’s nice to revisit the storytelling of 90’s hip hop, of which DMX was a pioneer.