White Suburban Kid Reviews Classic Hip-Hop Albums

Dark Man X. Earl Simmons. DMX. Whatever moniker you’ve chosen to give your favorite rapper/actor/lunatic/drug addict/autobiographer/reality show contestant, the fact remains, he’s been a fun guy to pay attention to the last 15 or so years. Of course, most of that enjoyment has come in packages other than hit singles.

Like, say, this Christmas treat.

Or, this.

Or, that.

I could keep going, but I think you get the point. So, without further ado…

…And Then There Was X

Right off the bat, you’ve gotta love two things about this album: it’s title and it’s cover. Like many in his catalog, this one is both oddly religious and blatantly boring (though, I personally feel “Year of the Dog… Again” is the best title of his, for many of reasons, not the least of which is that there never was a first “Year of the Dog” necessitating an again.)

Let’s get to a few of the facts… this album was his biggest selling album (then and to-date), it spawned three of his biggest hits, and ultimately the biggest hit of his career, “Party Up”.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of Earl’s music. I’ve enjoyed his hit singles (admittedly sometimes not ironically) but outside of that, he’s never been a guy that produces CDs where I think, “No, I should listen to more than just the stuff on the radio.” I’m convinced, largely, that the best we’ve ever seen from DMX is what we’ve heard on radio. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

In that vein, we’re going to investigate those three hit songs. For no reason other than logic, we’ll do it in order of appearance on the CD.

Party Up (Up In Here) – Well, for starters, what’s with the parenthetical information? It’s like D’Angelo’s “Untitled” for some reason feeling the need to have a (How Does It Feel). Actually, it’s not quite as stupid as that.* But, it’s close and it’s equally unnecessary. The party couldn’t be going on anywhere else than in here, that would have been illogical to think otherwise Earl. Tsk, tsk.

The song itself is produced by Swizz Beatz, one of his first few enormous hits (the others being “Jigga My N*gga”, “Ruff Ryders Anthem” and “Gotta Man”).  Verse one starts off in classic Earl fashion, dropping the beautifully crafted warning to potential foes:

If I gotsta bring it to you cowards then it’s gonna be quick, aight
All your mens up in the jail before, suck my dick

Well, then.

Moving on, we get the incredible rhyming of “nine one one shit… dumb shit… some shit”.  Pure, genius.

General theme of the song: He’s fairly angry at everyone (namely, other rappers). And he’s about to lose his cool, up in here (specifically, everywhere).

What These Bitches Want (feat Sisqo) – I want to apologize. If you clicked on the previous link, you went to “What They Really Want”, the edited version of the song we all know and love. I couldn’t find the unedited version, but in some ways, watching this video achieves the same humorous goals and then some.

I have so many things to say about this song and video, I’m just going to do it list style.

  1. This is my second favorite DMX song (in terms of pure enjoyment), just behind “How’s It Going Down”.
  2. This is my favorite DMX song (in terms of humor).
  3. Sisqo’s robotic dance moves, coupled with his denim (maybe?) pants, are priceless.
  4. This was the first time, I believe, I’d ever seen under-boob (Veronica, at the 1:46 mark).
  5. That second verse, where he straight-up lists 46 women is absolutely epic (that includes “About Three Kims”, which frankly is a hotly contested point of debate. Did he mean that he had sex with three different women named Kim? Is he joking about how there’s been so many women, one Kim felt like three? If he is telling the truth, how good are his approximation skills?). After he lists them all, he’s even bold/crazy enough to claim that “they were all treated fairly”. Indeed, Earl. Indeed.
  6. This video is clearly happening during the summer, and yet Earl refuses, in the street scenes, to be in anything other than a (seemingly) velour jumpsuit. Granted, no t-shirt but come on. Ditch the tough guy, for once.
  7. This is one of the many songs in DMX’s rhetorical, question-based genre. (“How’s It Going Down”, “Where My Dogs At”, the next song in this list…)

General takeaway: Earl, if you’re question is, “What do these ladies want from me?”, I can say with a fair degree of certainty that the answer is to not be having random intercourse with at least 45 other women at the same time, regardless of your touring schedule.

What’s My Name – This song is hopelessly idiotic. It could’ve very well been a 27 second song. That’s how long it takes for him to answer his own question, one I’m sure no one was asking. You know, honey, I bought this CD but the artist’s name is no where to be found on the packaging, CD art, or tracklisting. If only there was a whole four minute song dedicated to solving this conundrum…

You see, to me, Earl Simmons missed his true calling. Sure, he did fine in the music game, but what he should’ve been doing was voice work, reading books on tape. His voice, along with Christoph Waltz and Christopher Walken, turns just about anything into a more enjoyable anything (See above: Red Nose Reindeer, Rudolph the).

DMX is like Dave Chappelle, in that everything that he says, no matter what the intention, is almost always humorous. The difference, of course, is that Chappelle is a comedian and Simmons is not. But, I can’t help but wonder if this whole thing, this whole career is some sort of Andy Kauffman-esque rouse. That, in fact, Earl Simmons, is just a nice boy from Mount Vernon, NY who wanted to be in show business but didn’t have the chops for it. So, instead of trying the endless, often fruitless cycle of busing tables and hustling to auditions, he decided he’d create a persona that would allow him to live his life as a never-ending drama played out in front of the world.

Or, maybe he’s just Dark Man X.

*The only people that benefited from D’Angelo’s parenthetical title were deaf people, I’m convinced.

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