DMX exists in five different ways in my brain. 1) as the “you will not take this from me, baby!” sound on Tik Tok (edit: it’s actually pulled from “My Niggas” from this album), 2) this orchid scene (and its accompanying stills) from Fresh off the Boat, 3) “Drake’s” rendition of “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” from this cartoon parody FILNOBEP made in 2012 that led me to know the whole first verse of “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” because I watched the video so much, 4) as a preacher-figure on IDK’s “The “E” in Blue” from Is He Real? (2019) (edit: made from a sample from “Ready to Meet Him” on this project), and 5) general rap icon. I almost listened to It’s Dark and Hell is Hot (1998) for the Week Fulla 90s East Coast Hip Hop last month, but I decided against it since it’s a little on the longer side. However, after hearing about DMX’s heart attack last Friday, I’ve been slightly obsessed with learning as much about him as I can in hopes that I can lend some good vibes to his health and build him up better in my brain. And that includes listening to some of his music. Starting with Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood (1998).
(edit: this is a little disjointed LOL, my apologies in advance. I had a lot of thought that meshed together)
Photo Credit (via)
1998: Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood
I really really enjoyed this project. All of the ways DMX has existed in my brain were visible on this album, with the gritty and raw lines that DMX is known for taking center stage (represented by the “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” DMX in my brain lol). The majority of the songs on this project play like a 90s hood film (I’m very aggravated that DMX wasn’t given the job of scoring an entire movie because he would have been perfect for the job), fit with several “if I see this nigga, Imma kill him” skits and lines about loyalty, honor, and various vices. I was nervous about DMX’s signature yell-rapping being a little too overwhelming to listen to in an entire project, but he consistently switches his pace and flow on here, and it makes for a really interesting listen.
The most unexpected parts of this project for me were the more personal moments that DMX offers here. I was listening to Flesh of My Flesh while on a walk earlier today, and one of my first thoughts, when the album began, was how DMX exists differently in hip hop (to me) than other hip hop icons. There are two buckets that (Black, hip hop) music icons typically fall in: the “forever revered” and the folks who typically get thought of in meme form. There are folks like Jay-Z and Lil Wayne who have had moments where they’ve been (and will continue to be) made fun of on the internet (we can never forget the “Jay-Z just wants to go home” memes) but will never lose their places as the patron saints of hip hop music. It’s all fun and games until you say their “music is trash,” and then all the hip hop heads come out of hiding bearing pitchforks. Then there are folks like DMX who are memes first and legends second. He lives in our contemporary collective memories more as his rendition of “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” etc. than his contributions to hip hop. And this is in addition to him just generally not receiving his flowers, in the same way, as Jay or Wayne.
But the inclusion of X’s personal moments on here reminds us of his complexities and why he deserves the title of “legend.” Songs like “Slippin’,” “Coming From,” and “Ready to Meet Him” see X confronting some of his most difficult moments. On “Slippin’,” he talks about his time living in group homes as a child and his fraught relationship with both of his parents growing up; on “Coming From” he says, “I feel the ghost from within, comin’ back to haunt me / Stay lovin’ my peoples, even though they don’t want me / When I was bad, I was forgotten like I was dead and rotten / Should’ve been gettin’ love.” And WOW. If that doesn’t move you…seek help rn! And on several other places on the album, he talks about wanting to do better for his children…see them in ways that his parents didn’t see him growing up. (edit: While listening to these songs – in particular – I kept thinking about a clip I saw on TV a couple of nights ago where DMX was talking about how one of his first introductions to drugs was as a minor with a mentor who laced a blunt with crack – and he didn’t find that out until years later. And the pain in his voice was so agonizing while he was telling the story. Truly heartbreaking.) Those are only a few of the deeply intimate looks at DMX’s past we get on here. DMX is a full and fleshed-out individual on this project in a way I’ve never had the pleasure to experience him, and I’m so happy I could finally have the chance (despite how heavy some of the moments on this album are).
I have some favorite songs. I loved the production on “It’s All Good,” even though it was the unhinged misogynistic moment of the album. “The Omen” was amazing and at the top of my fave list. I LOVED how DMX played two different characters on this song and changed the pitch and inflections of his voice to play the second of the two. I’m not a big fan of Marilyn Manson’s chorus, but everything else about the song is so good that I can ignore it. “Slippin'” was another favorite – super personal, super vulnerable. And “Dogs for Life” is the song I’m taking with me to my Spotify library. The production on the track is CHEF’S KISS. Special shout out to “Blackout,” too. I didn’t know there was a Jay-Z feature on here before listening to it, and I’m glad the two of them have a song together on here (apparently they have a couple). Ooh, “Ready to Meet Him” is another easy and obvious favorite.
I hope DMX makes it through the difficult situation he’s in right now. Hearing that he’s tried to get help with his dependence on drugs in the recent past makes this even more of a tragic moment. And I hate that it took this to happen for me to finally give an album of his a listen. Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood is a great album. His rapping is fresh and crisp (every bark comes with a hefty bite), and he show’s himself to be an amazing storyteller very early in his career.
More than anything, he shows how complex and nuanced he is and how complex and nuanced the human experience is. We’re all dealing with things that haunt us – some of us have more ghosts than others – and it’s not easy. We fall and fall and fall again until it feels like we have no strength left. But when you have such a strong will like DMX, when you’ve experienced (and survived) the things in life that he’s had to endure, the universe has a way of pulling you through.
More than anything, he shows how complex and nuanced he is and how complex and nuanced the human experience is. We’re all dealing with things that haunt us – some of us have more ghosts than others – and it’s not easy. We fall and fall and fall again until it feels like we have no strength left. But when you have such a strong will like DMX, when you’ve experienced (and survived) the things in life that he’s had to endure, the universe has a way of pulling you through.I’m planning to do a Bite-Sized Album Review on It’s Dark and Hell is Hot later in the week; I’m hoping we have some good news about his health by then.
Featured Image via The Fader
(listen to Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood on Spotify by clicking the image below)
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