The tragic death of legendary New York rapper DMX last month came at a time when the artist was primed to release new music. Not really a comeback, but rather a reclaiming of the throne, as it were. We’re finally set to hear Exodus, the first new album from X since 2012’s Undisputed, but sadly Earl Simmons won’t be around to give it to us himself.
Today, we get our first taste of DMX without DMX in the form of his first posthumous single, ‘Hood Blues’.
Kicking off with that familiar growl, ‘Hood Blues’ is vintage DMX: unpolished, gritty, aggressive, and supremely creative, laced with those singular vocal tics and interjections that couldn’t be mistaken for anyone else. Also unmistakable is the acknowledgement of his fragile mental state. X was never one to shy away from his inner demons, especially on record, and ‘Hood Blues’ is no different: “Sometimes I can’t manage all the shit in my head/I was promised the world but I got the dirt instead.”
Less noted, however, is the humour and wit that was also intrinsic to the DMX experience, which also gets a spot here: ‘I done punk’d more niggas than Ashton Kutcher’. Darkness followed X everywhere he went, but the most important element to his style was not letting that darkness fully engulf him.
Even at the height of his powers, X was always game to share the mic. Most notably in the form of the ‘Ruff Ryders’ Anthem’ remix featuring Judakiss, Styles P, Drag-On and Eve, but also on equally potent tracks like Mase’s ’24 Hrs. to Live’ with The Lox and Black Rob or Busta Rhymes’ ‘Touch It’ remix with a whole slew of superstars, including Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliot, and Lloyd Banks just to name a few.
‘Hood Blues’, whether intentionally or to flesh out the verses X didn’t get to finish, works in the same style, recruiting Westside Gunn, Benny The Butcher and Conway The Machine to drop their own verses next to X’s signature gruff delivery. Exodus will be loaded with guest verses since the album now works largely as a tribute to the legendary artist, but even if X were here, he would still unselfishly want to bring as many different voices as possible. That’s just the kind of artist he was.
Check out the audio for ‘Hood Blues’ down below. Exodus will be released on May 28.