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I'm not a nice person! DMX snarls on his 1999 hit, "What's My Name?" and we're not about to disagree. The Yonkers rapper continues: "I mean I'll smack the blood out you twice, dog/ And that's before I start cursin'." There's hardcore rap and then there's DMX. The gravel-throated MC burst out of the New York scene in the late '90s, in spitting distance of Puff Daddy's "Mo' Money Mo' Problems" -- style pop-rap but very consciously a world apart. Even those weaned on the gritty street noir of the Queensbridge rhymers or, on the other coast, the foreboding Compton anthems, could see that something fiercer blazed inside this Earl Simmons fellow.
And there was the central distinction. While the other hardcore grinders frightened us with the streets, the young DMX frightened us with DMX. But was he really such a pitbull, or did he know what he could do with that image? On tracks like the aforementioned "Name," which saw first release on his third album, And Then There Was X, and re-appears on this new greatest hits outing, the rapper seems to deliberately work himself into a mad lather. What flirting is to R. Kelly, anger is to DMX: an aesthetic frame in which he can do his best work.
Gathered into greatest hits format, DMX's tracks prove this point. Remarkably consistent in production and motifs (haunted, Eastern-influenced keyboard riffs; hard, scudding drum machines; and the whistles and barks of some omnipresent dog kennel mark seemingly every track), The Definition of X hypnotizes us more than it scares us with its teeth. Or maybe we just see the MC's gruffness in context: he, or the character he has invented, is an epically tragic figure.
Consider the classic "Ruff Ryders Anthem." It's at once a nasty shoutfest, a lulling singalong as addictive as any pop song and a testament to a damaged soul. "All I know is pain/ All I feel is rain," DMX growls in one of his simpler and more pointed metaphors. It's a strange line to chant in a club, but the famed beat -- a taut brew of wizened synths and harsh drum chops -- doesn't leave us much choice. Are we supposed to dance, sulk, or talk to a psychiatrist? Probably all three.
"Party Up (Up in Here)" is equally counterintuitive: a self-stated party tune that continuously threatens the partygoer. Ridiculing our devotion to our baby mama, reminding us that his crew has "been through the mud" and is "quicker to slaughter," he then offers the final dig: we're enjoying the abuse. "X has got y'all bouncin' again," he claims, and the whistle-driven beat surely does. Why the masochism? Because we know this is venting raised to the point of art. Nothing personal -- he's playing the bad guy because he can do it so well.
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|Number of Discs:||1|
|Shipping Weight (in pounds):||0.2|
|Product in Inches (L x W x H):||0.4 x 4.95 x 5.61|
|2.||Ruff Ryders' Anthem|
|3.||Get at Me Dog|
|4.||Stop Being Greedy|
|5.||How's It Going Down|
|6.||What You Want|
|8.||What's My Name?|
|9.||Where the Hood At|
|10.||Party Up (Up in Here)|
|11.||X Gon' Give It to Ya|
|12.||It's All Good|
|13.||Who We Be|
|15.||Here We Go Again|
|16.||No Love 4 Me|
|17.||We Right Here|
|18.||One More Road to Cross|
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