On his latest journey into hell, And Then There Was X, DMX pitches
grimy rap to the stop-and-go computerized beats, choppy basslines,
orchestral strings and spirited keyboard melodies of Ruff Ryders' in-house
producers. His latest single, "What's My Name," is a heated response to
Kurupt's dis "Callin' Out Names." On another track, "Party Up," DMX is heard
warning naysayers, "Y'all gonna make me act a fool up in here."
This is DMX's third album in two years. It's Dark and Hell is Hot and
Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, both released in 1998,
attracted attention for their radio-friendly sound, hardcore lyrics and
DMX's throaty, sinister delivery. With And Then There Was X, the
rapper doesn't miss a beat in continuing on his gangsta rampage. There are
sinister street narratives about robbing stores ("One More Road to Cross" (RealAudio excerpt))
and getting rid of back-stabbers ("The Professional"). And on the solemn
"Here We Go Again" (RealAudio excerpt), DMX assumes the character of a "fatherly" outlaw who
describes his thoughts about ending a young drug dealer's life. "More 2 A
Song" (RealAudio excerpt) is a critique of the notion that flashy jewelry and clothes will win
love and respect on the streets. Lines such as "Niggas walk around frontin',
talkin' about jewels/ How much y'all bust tools/ Y'all sound like fools"
might demonstrate that DMX isn't obsessed with becoming a glitzy hardcore
rapper and would rather embrace his ghetto-centric values (Hey Puff Daddy,
are you listening?). Then again, who knows, he could just be frontin'.
On "Angel," DMX demonstrates his understanding of an important motto from
rapper Rakim ("It ain't where you're from, it's where you're at"), as he
refuses to accept the notion that, once you've left the ghetto, you'll
forget where you came from. In this song he speaks to God about his
struggles with such feelings. Much of what DMX raps about on this album
appears to be heartfelt, though he does run out of steam toward the end of
the disc. Nevertheless, DMX's chronicle of his trek through hell and back
is likely to satisfy fans.