Jay-Z and DMX were tight, they both taught each other valuable lessons, and there was one particular memory of the late rapper which stands out to Hov.
In 1999, they were two of the biggest rappers in the game following DMX’s wild breakthrough with his two chart-topping albums the previous year, and a new dan for hip-hop was firmly underway. Furthermore, they were both on the Def Jam roster, so they decided two was better than one and put their talents together.
Jay-Z was making the step up, and following the success of Hard Knock Life, he became an arena artist. The demand for tickets meant Hov had to start playing vast venues, and he needed to become a showman. His special guest for the tour was DMX, and having to better him every night improved Jay immeasurably as a performer.
Speaking to LeBron James on The Shop: Uninterrupted about his fallen friend, Jay reminisced about that tour and how it changed him as a live performer.
“My fondest memory of DMX is: he improved my stage show,” Jay revealed. ”X is about to go, and I’m like, I wanna see … And he goes [growls], and the fucking arena goes crazy. First of all, it’s deafening, and I’m like, ‘Ohhh shit.’ He has a thing, like an Alize and Hennessy mix, it looks like blood, like he’s drinking blood, and he’s running back and forth. Halfway through the show, he takes his shirt off, and the whole crowd goes wild. ‘Aaaaaah!’”
He continued: “He’s going nuts, right? And I’m like, ‘Shit.’ First the guys are going crazy, now the girls are going crazy. And then he gets to the end, and he starts a prayer. And now they’re crying, the whole arena is crying. And then [organizers] are like, ‘OK, now you go.’”
Seeing a whole arena in floods of tears at the support act is unprecedented and speaks volumes about the hot streak DMX was riding towards the end of the last century. While his time at the mountain top was limited, for a while, X left every other rapper quaking in their boots.