I didn't know much about DMX, but my father was and still is a big fan of his. Growing up in Brooklyn, my dad rocked in the same environment as a lot of the hip-hop gurus of today. My dad had the pleasure to rock with DMX’s entourage for a couple of shows and even had some personal conversations with the man himself. It also goes without saying that thanks to my pops (I never call him that by the way), I learned and came to appreciate almost every detail about East Coast rap. It was through my dad that I learned that DMX was one of the untouchable gurus that helped pioneer and decide what East Coast Rap was really all about.
DMX, or Earl Simmons as his family called him, passed away April 9th, 2021 of a fatal drug overdose. In the month following his passing, a posthumous album was released. Out of respect, I will review said album without a score or top three songs.
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Earl Simmons otherwise known by his stage name DMX, had his posthumous eighth studio album “Exodus” drop this past Friday. The album has a star-studded roster including names such as Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Nas, Swizz Beats, Lil Wayne, Cross, Snoop Dogg and The Lox just to name a few. The name of the album is derived from the the name of DMX’s 15th child, whose name he also had tatted on the front of the neck along with “1:7” representing both the name of his child and a verse from the Bible, the holy text of Christianity of which DMX has been a believer and follower of since birth. The album name, songs, cover and credits was completed before DMX’s unfortunate death back in April. The album features many features on it which is highly rare for DMX and might cause people to think the album is a tribute but this truly isn't the case. Per Swizz Beats, only one song on the album was changed after DMX’s passing and as the producer, Beats was given authority by DMX to get as many music artists on the album that that Beats thought would help make the album sound great. According to Beats, DMX just got to a place where he said, “You know what Swizz? I’m okay with letting people celebrate with me this time around.”
~ Every song takes on its own path and with the passing of DMX, each song has that path it takes amplified into a newer understanding. ~
Overall the album is great and signals the return of one of the best to ever do it back to the vocal waves. DMX hasn't dropped an album since 2012’s “Undisputed” which is about twelve years ago. Every song takes on its own path and with the passing of DMX, each song has that path it takes amplified into a newer understanding. I myself found myself having to listen to the album multiple times to separate the possible meaning of each song away from the fact the rapper passed.
The album starts off with an appearance of music group The Lox which has been a signature staple appearance on every album of DMX’s except for 2001’s, “The Great Depression”. The album has the signature aggressiveness of which DMX is known for and features the signature growl that DMX is also know for as well too. Songs like “That’s My Dog”, “Bath Salts”, “Dogs Out”, “Money Money Money” and “Hood Blues” really builds on this aggressiveness. The track “Bath Salts” actually features DMX along with two other East Coast untouchable's, Nas and Jay-Z for what functions as a rambunctious hood anthem. The song was originally met to appear Nas’ 2012 album “Life is Good” but didn't make the touch. “Money Money Money” was originally supposed to feature vocals from Pop Smoke but the verse was used by a different artist for a different project and Swizz Beats switched it to Moneybagg Yo, to be the only song changed posthumously.
Despite the aggressive minded nature of DMX’s raps the album is also still with its soft spots too. Songs such as “Hold Me Down”, “Take Control”, “Walking in The Rain” and “Letter To My Son (Call Your Father)” try their best to balance the tone of the album. “Hold Me Down” features the soft spoken R&B voice of Alicia Keys where she beautifully contrasts her vocals with the deep aggressive tone of DMX to create a medium of dynamic equilibrium all within one song. The heavenly sounding “Walking In The Rain” provides a subliminal message about perseverance and moving on even when alone and has DMX assisted with vocals of his son Exodus along with Nas and rapper/singer Denaun formerly of hip hop group D12. “Letter To My Son (Call Your Father)” features R&B singer Usher and violinist Brain King Joseph in a prominent piano and violin symphony. It was also one of the only two songs that was announced to be on the album by DMX before he unfortunately passed. “Letter To My Son (Call Your Father)” is a song dedicated to DMX’s oldest child, Xavier Simmons.
The last song on the album isn't a song at all but rather a prayer (thus the song title “Prayer”. It’s a sample of a prayer that DMX gave at at Kanye Wests’ Sunday Service. According to Swizz Beats they chose between a rapping prayer or the more subtle one which they ended up choosing.
The album is star studded, and may this be the last works we get from DMX in his posthumous discography, DMX fans should be more than pleased with the offering. The album overall is as raw and authentic as the man DMX himself. He will and already is greatly missed as one of the greatest mentor, icon and guru to ever exist in the realm of East Coast Rap.