DMX was a 1990s legend, and his legacy lives on to this day. With his career beginnings rooted in the late-’80s, the rapper became one of the most prevalent and exciting rappers of the 1990s and 2000s. Born Earl Simmons, the rapper had a slow but exciting rise to fame and captured fans with his aggressive style and provocative lyrics. DMX was an unparalleled force in hip-hop during his heyday. With his menacing, gravelly delivery and unmatched energy, the Yonkers artist most certainly made an impact when he first arose in 1999.
Simmons was born in Mount Vernon but quickly relocated to the New York City suburb of Yonkers with his mother. Despite being in New York’s suburban peripheries, Yonkers still had its rundown parts. Due to his mother’s low income and drug addiction, the LOX act moved much of his childhood between group homes. Out of desperation, Simmons took to the streets. In need of money, the musician began with petty larceny but found his calling in music. DMX started as a DJ and beatbox performer. However, he later moved into rapping.
Akin to Biggie Smalls, DMX got his first break by being featured in The Source magazine’s Unsigned Hype column in 1991. After this exposure, Simmons signed with Ruff Ryders Entertainment, an artist management firm. With distribution from Columbia Records, in 1992, they released his debut single ‘Born Loser.’ However, it did not take off how he wanted it to, but one positive thing that came out of his time at Ruff Ryders was his introduction to Swizz Beatz, who produced the legendary ‘Ruff Ryders Anthem’.
‘Ruff Ryders Anthem’ became the lead single of his debut album, which went to number one in America, selling over four million copies. However, following the release of It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot in 1998, Simmons went on to release six more albums. In this article, we rank Simmons’ seven albums from worst to best.
Ranking the epic albums of DMX from worst to best:
7. Undisputed, (2012)
Released after a six-year hiatus, Undisputed saw DMX release an album that was aimed at his older, diehard fans and didn’t see Simmons attempt to enter the world of trap music or drill. The late artist released a free download pre-album EP entitled The Weigh-In to build up excitement around the album. Featuring artists such as Snoop Dogg and others, the EP undeniably saw Simmons call upon legends of a bygone era.
Released by LA-based music label Seven Arts Entertainment with distribution from Universal Music’s label Fontana, the album was released on September 11th, 2012 and all of the first-week sales money was donated to victims of the 9/11 attacks. The album had two singles, ‘I Don’t Dance’ featuring Machine Gun Kelly and ‘Head Up’.
6. Year Of The Dog…Again, (2006)
Year Of The Dog…Again saw Simmons continue his persistent release of music in spite of his previous commercial shortcomings. With more mainstream collaborations, the album saw guest verses from the likes of Busta Rhymes on the track ‘Come Thru (Move)’ as well as Jadakiss and Styles P on ‘It’s Personal’. The late Yonkers also worked with new producers such as Scott Storch.
Year Of The Dog…Again was DMX’s first project not to debut at number one on the Billboard 200, peaking at number two. Despite its initial chart position, the 2006 body of work did not manage to receive any certification from the RIAA, meaning the record failed to sell over one million units in the US. However, the album was somewhat controversial as its lead single ‘We In Here’ featured a diss towards Def Jam, his former label as well as Rihanna, who had just been signed in 2005, the year the album was recorded. In the third verse heard Simmons rap, “And for the record, what you gonna do to fill up my spot?/ I ain’t gon’ front, that Pon De Replay shit was kinda hot, not! How you gonna jack Will Smith for a beat, That’s like tryna jack me for the streets! It ain’t happenin’!”
5. Grand Champ, (2003)
Released in 2003, Grand Champ performed reasonably well, considering that DMX was waning in popularity and relevancy as an artist at its release time. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. However, unlike the rapper’s previous projects, it slipped down fairly quickly, dropping to number seven after one week. The project’s lead single, ‘Where the Hood At?’ peaked at number 68 on the Billboard Hot 100 and, unlike the Yonkers native’s debut, just managed to to achieve platinum as opposed to five times platinum.
Strangely, the album was the first DMX album to ever debut within the top 10 of the UK Albums Chart. However, in the US, many highlighted that Simmons had shown no evolution from the 1990s. The 2003 project was a reasonable effort from the rapper. However, the project did not receive any acclaim.
4. The Great Depression, (2001)
The Great Depression, for the first time, saw DMX release a project to mixed reviews. Although the album still debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, its lead single, ‘We Right Here’ failed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 and was instead left to sit on the Bubbling Under the Hot 100 chart. There are a variety of factors that could have contributed to the poor performance of the album relative to his previous releases.
One important factor is the rise of Eminem, who very much had a hold on hip-hop at the time. Furthermore, the album, saw very little collaboration with other prominent rappers and (outside of Swizz Beatz) no use of the era’s certified hit beatmakers such as Timbaland, The Neptunes, Dr Dre and Scott Storch. The latter is arguably the most likely factor that contributed to the album’s limited success. However, irrespective of whether or not it was critically acclaimed, the project does have amazing songs such as ‘Who We Be’ and ‘I Miss You’
3. Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, (1998)
DMX’s second album was released in the same year as his debut project, this made DMX the first artist to ever have two albums debut at number one on the Billboard 200 in the same year. When the body of work stayed there for three whole weeks selling over half a million units in the first week alone. With only two singles, Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood saw Simmons show off his versatility with more conscious rap lyrics, and some R’n’B-infused tracks also.
With features from Mary J. Blige, Jay Z and the rock artist Marilyn Manson the album had emotional yet aggressive tracks on it. Speaking on the project, DMX’s fellow LOX counterpart Styles P stated, “It brought the f*ckin’ dog to the rap game. It brought a lot of energy, a lot of raw shit, and a lot of pain.” The album went on to get certified three times platinum by the RIAA.
2. It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, (1998)
Simmons’ debut album, this project, put DMX on the map. The 1998 body of work had four singles, all of which have gotten better over time. The album’s lead single ‘Get At Me Dog’ debuted at number 39 on the charts and is the rapper’s third hight-highest charting single. Big Pun even covered the track in 2000.
It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and has been certified four times platinum by the RIAA. The project kickstarted a new era for New York hip-hop and vastly changed the sound of East Coast rap music going into the new millennium. Before its release, Diddy’s Bad Boy Entertainment had set New York on a path towards more lush production and a greater focus on luxury. However, Simmons’ rugged, raw beats and lyrical belligerence trumped Diddy’s contrived ‘ghetto opulence’. This album undeniably shifted the landscape of New York hip-hop and with its unapologetic rawness, undermined the silky sonics of Bad Boy.
1. … And Then There Was X, (1999
Simmons’ third studio album, released in 1999, …And Then There Was X, was put out when the Yonkers rapper was at an all-time high. The project, which was certified five times platinum by the RIAA, spawned several hip-hop anthems and saw the rapper competing with Jay-Z and Dr Dre for the year’s best hip-hop album. The album’s second single, ‘Party Up (Up in Here)’, was a big hit for the rapper. Produced by the legendary Swizz Beatz, the album cut peaked at number 27 on the Billboard Hot 100, getting certified two times platinum.
Released through Ruff Ryders and Def Jam Recordings, …And Then There Was X debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and earned Simmons a Grammy nomination in the category of ‘Best Rap Album’. The album sold over five million copies in the US alone and sold over half a million in its first week truly a legendary album.