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Early Entry: The ultimate beginner's guide to DMX

The death of DMX has seen the music industry unite in grief at yet another tragic premature loss of a character who lit up the world with his explosive material and extraordinary personality. The rapper was just 50-years-old when he passed away at White Sails Hospital in New York after falling into intensive care following a cardiac arrest on April 2nd, suffering a suspected drug overdose.

Like many iconic figures of hip-hop, DMX began rapping in the early 1990s before establishing himself as a leading figure of the growing genre when he released his debut album, It’s Dark, and Hell Is Hot, in 1998. The record propelled DMX to critical and commercial acclaim, selling no fewer than 251,000 copies within its first week of release, in turn, etching his name into the annals of hip hop history in the process.

From that moment on, DMX didn’t look back, forging a new path for hip-hop alongside his contemporaries. The rapper released eight studio albums, the most recent coming in the shape of the 2015 effort Redemption of the Beast.

The rapper had a special ability to radiate emotion and pain through his style in a way that few others have managed in hip hop, especially considering his aggressive style. When DMX was on the mic, you believed every single word on the track. Tragically, his battle with addiction would cut his life short, but DMX managed to leave a spectacular stamp on the world in his time here.

Here are the six songs which marked poignant moments across his glistening career.

DMX’s six definitive songs:

‘Ruff Ryders Anthem’ (1998)

‘Ruff Ryders Anthem’ was the third single from X’s debut albumIt’s Dark, and Hell Is Hot in 1998. The track was a perfect introduction to who he was as an artist, everything that the Ruff Ryders label stood for, and how they were here to change the game.

Remarkably, the track almost didn’t get X’s seal of approval. He initially wasn’t convinced by the now-iconic sounds of producer Swiss Beatz, who later recalled: “I made the ‘Ruff Ryders Anthem’ beat in Atlanta. It was me just bugging out, having my New York influence and having my Atlanta influence.

“That track was the perfect blend which was awkward and different at the time because nobody had ever heard anything like that. DMX didn’t want to do it. He was like, ‘Man, that sounds like some rock ‘n’ roll track, I need some hip-hop shit. I’m not doing that. It’s not hood enough.” 

‘Money, Cash and Hoes’ (1998)

1998 was firmly DMX’s year. Not only did his debut album get to number one in May, but he then delivered a follow up just seven months later, which also saw him get another chart-topping record. However, another key moment in his career arrived in 1998 when he and Jay-Z teamed up for the effervescent hit ‘Money, Cash and Hoes’.

The song represented a changing of hip-hop seasons as the two young kings of the genre collided and proved that they were now two of the most unstoppable forces in the game.

The styles of the two rappers contrast with each other to create a fierce clashing of sounds that represented a new dawn arriving, marking a key moment in X’s career and, in truth, hip-hop as a whole.

‘What’s My Name’ (1999)

After a year in the business, a 12-month stint that is up there with anybody’s in music history, DMX’s next move was imperative as the world watched on in awe. In October 1999, X returned with the first single from his third album, …And Then There Was X, with the deadly ‘What’s My Name’.

DMX poured every ounce of emotion in his body into the track and proved that he was still the most important rapper on the planet at that moment in time. ‘What’s My Name’ is filled with aggression and a searing venom as DMX delivers his verses like a man possessed.

‘What’s My Name’ lands like a violent exorcism of DMX’s inannte emotions. He allows the build up to explode forth, making a cracking tune along the way.

‘Party Up (Up In Here)’ (2000)

DMX followed up ‘What’s My Name’ in fierce style with the anthemic ‘Party Up (Up In Here)’, which arrived as the second single from his third record, and kept his unbelievable run of form going.

By now, we probably don’t need to say this, but the song is built on the foundation of X’s furious delivery. The track is confrontational and oozes energy, it’s a song tailor-made for the club.

‘Party Up (Up In Here)’ gave DMX the greatest chart hit of his career, and the success of this track led to a Grammy nomination for ‘Best Rap Solo Performance’, with X losing out to Eminem.

‘X Gon’ Give It To Ya’ (2002)

If one track epitomises the legacy of DMX, then it’s the visceral ‘X Gon’ Give It To Ya’. Despite the huge success that X had achieved over the years prior, the track ‘X Gon’ Give It To Ya’ proved that he was still the same artist that made ‘Ruff Ryders’ Anthem’. It was clear that fame hadn’t changed him.

“I got a huge weight on my shoulders,” he told GQ regarding the song. “I’m responsible for my music, and I don’t take that responsibility lightly.”

You can feel the sentiment from that comment on the track, where the rapper showed he was as hungry as he was heavy — there was still plenty of bite inside the dog. The song had a resurgence in 2016 following its use in Deadpool, which introduced the work of DMX to a whole new generation.

‘Where The Hood At?’ (2003)

For his 2003 album Grand Champ, X yet again gave the world a killer lead single with ‘Where The Hood At?’, which got the hype machine into full flow and landed the rapper with yet another number one album.

DMX self-produced the track with help from Irv Gotti, perhaps owing to the song’s visceral nature. The duo created one of the most delicious beats in existence which any rapper would walk over hot coals to spit over, with X delivering the goods on ‘Where The Hood At?’.

While DMX’s career started to follow a downward spiral after Grand Champ, this track shows what a rare talent X was and how he was the picture of authenticity.

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