Bite-sized Album Review #24: DMX’s ‘It’s Dark and Hell is Hot’

It’s been a few days since I did the First Listen on DMX’s Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood (1998), and he hasn’t gotten significantly better since then. From what I’ve read, he’s still essentially doing the same as he was then. I’ve added “check on DMX” to my morning phone routine, so I’ve been trying to keep up with how he’s been. A day or so ago, I got around to listening to X’s debut album, It’s Dark and Hell is Hot (1998). All in all, It’s Dark is a great project and very similar to Flesh of My Flesh, though it has a sort of “this is the beginning of the story” feeling to it. The album works as the introduction to some of the characters and themes that X continues to explore on Flesh of My Flesh, and he’s just as crisp and sharp with his lines and rhymes on here as he is on that album.

Thematic Cohesion

The themes on this album are essentially the same as the ones on Flesh of my Flesh. I don’t know if there’s a rap genre called murder music yet (maybe there’s a reason for that, but if it does exist Ja Rule probably makes up the majority of it……….sorry 😦 ) but that’s what I’d classify this album as. A lot of the songs center on death: death onto others, other people wishing death onto DMX, conversations between DMX and a character named “Damien” who is actually the Devil in disguise (we meet him again on “The Omen” on Flesh of My Flesh), etc. But there are also some moments – like on Flesh – where X takes some time out to reflect on life.

Sonic Cohesion

Again, just like the themes, It’s Dark is very similar (sonically) to Flesh of My Flesh. But I do feel like the production has a little bit more range on this project. There are a couple of moments that seem to be inspired by the G-funk sound that had been popularized by folks like Dr. Dre a few years prior to It’s Dark‘s release. There were actually a couple of moments on here too where DMX sounded a lot like Tupac – his rap cadence and inflections gave me Pac vibes, so I’m wondering if there was a bit of West Coast influence on this project (I don’t see anything immediately in my quick search that speaks to that). The majority of the production leaned more haunting and eerie, though, which plays into the theme of death that circulates heavily on here. A special shout out to the Nardo’s chorus on “I Can Feel It.” He gives us an interpolation of the chorus of Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight” – which is one of my favorite songs (I mean, who doesn’t love that song) – and I loved every moment of that. From the two projects I’ve heard from DMX, it seems like he found his sound pretty early on and tapped heavily into it.

Vibe Check

I have a very strong love for songs with the kind of haunting, spooky feel that the tracks on here have, so I was truly having a blessed time listening to this.

Replay Value

I probably won’t listen to this entire project again any time soon, BUT I do have a few songs I liked a lot that I’ll probably revisit.

3 songs i dig…

“Damien” “How’s It Goin’ Down” and “Stop Being Greedy'”

Featured Image via Legacy

Overall Album Rating

(listen to It’s Dark and Hell is Hot on spotify, by clicking on the image below)

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