1997 was the year of Shiny Suit era. With the passing of Tupac and Biggie, Nobody wanted to rap about the street life anymore and that type of pop flavored sound became evident for the majority of the releases of that year. The West Coast was left in shambles after Pac’s death and Biggies death left a huge void on the East. There were still hardcore music being put out. The Wu Tang Clan released Wu Tang Forever, Bone Thugs N Harmony released Art of War, Master P was really starting his No Limit movement to the next level and of course Mobb Deep, Redman were keeping the streets pumping with their releases.But Bad Boy’s success put pressure on the forerunners of NY at the time as their movement was so powerful that guys like Nas, JayZ, Wyclef Jean, LL Cool J The LOX, as they would follow the commercial rap route with their releases.
1997 was also an interesting year of hip hop as LL Cool J would once again put a bunch of hungry young emcees on his all-star featured 2nd single 4,3,2,1,. It already featured superstars Redman, and Method Man but the two emcees that really stood out were two newcomers named DMX and Canibus. This was the first time I ever seen or heard of DMX and with his opening lines, I knew he was gonna be a problem for the game:
Stay out the dark
hen I’m blunted and I give it to any nigga that want it
stay out the dark
cause if I catch you when the sun is down run it clown
come up off that or I’m gon’ gun it down
DMX and Canibus ended up being the main stars of that track, Canibus went on to fued with LL Cool J while DMX remained in his lane and continued to rip guest appearances on tracks from everybody to Ice Cube to Onyx. It wasn’t until Get at my Dog is where the streets started to pay attention and recognize DMX as that new nigga:
The video was so captivating because it was different from anything that was released at the time. Every hip hop video that came out at that time was showcasing the big Willie lifestyle. Flashy videos that featured Champagne, Fly women, big parties, cars, jewelry, were the main focus points of hip hop music in 1997 and DMX’s video was more dark, grimy, and street compared to the majority at the time. Labels weren’t sure how to market it at first but as the Video/Song started becoming bigger and getting play on MTV. They had no choice but to sign the Yonkers MC to a deal.
On the contrary of what many may say.Puff Daddy was looked upon as the Anti Christ of Hip Hop to many Underground fans. People were sick of all the pop sounds, unoriginal samples and repetitive song themes about commercialism. DMX was looked upon as a savior of hip hop for those who were fiending for some hardcore music and he constantly delivered feeding more into the hype for his debut album with his b single titled Stop Being Greedy.
Soon as DMX released his Debut album titled Its Dark and Hell its Hot. He pretty much shifted the tide from commercialism back into the streets. You knew what to expect when DMX dropped the Intro to his debut album and it remains as one of the greatest Introductions to a hip hop album ever. The Intro was so hardcore that Mike Tyson even started using it for his fights.
DMX had alot of the similarities of the late Tupac Shakur working for him as well. He knew how to write deep music to channel different emotions(Let Me Fly, The Convo, Damien) He knew how to showcase his dangerous side(Fuckin Wit D, Get at Me Dog, Ruff Ryders Anthem) and he knew how to kick fly shit to the ladies(How its Goin down) thus giving him instant sex appeal. This is one of the main reasons why DMX’s debut was such a classic musically and impact wise.
I remember going to school the next day after DMX’s debut album was released and remember EVERYBODY having it, Either it was on tape or it was on CD. I’ve heard so many people bumping the album. Their wasnt a artist since Snoop Dogg where I seen so many people buying and bumping this album on the same day so repeatedly. Everywhere I went that day I heard DMX’s blasting out of car speakers. It even suprised me even more when I seen teenage white girls buying DMX’s album. And just like that, DMX destroyed the Shiny Suit era.
DMX went on to become one of the biggest rappers in the country, He released Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood which was an album even more darker than the previous and did monster numbers, He was a main character in the movie Belly which featured Nas and that did solid numbers as well. DMX continued the Ruff Ryders movement into 1999 where he released his possibly highest selling album to date And There was X. The album wasnt as great as the previous two but it was a banger. DMX was still as ferocious on the mic as ever as this time he was taking aim at commercial rappers, emcees taking shots at him(Kurupt, K-Solo) and went on two major tours with Cash Money Records and JayZ respectively. The LOX also caught up in the DMX wave even wanted to be apart of the moment that they fled Bad Boy to follow suit.
Sadly like Tupac Shakur, Even with all of the success of him being the biggest rapper at the time and movie star, DMX still seemed to be a troubled soul and just couldn’t seem to shake the monkey off his back. His financial feud with Def Jam, constant run ins with law enforcement, his rumored drug use, and personal demons seemed to have overshadowed everything he has accomplished from 1998-2001.DMX has publicly denounced Def Jam for years in songs and interviews claiming unpaid royalties from record sales and video games. DMX was one of many that got caught up in the Industry politics and what sadly may have contributed to his drug use.
The DMX that We see today is crying for help and is in the battle of his life spiritually. You can hear the pain in songs such as Let Me Fly, You can hear him battling the devil in his music with his Damien series on his albums and the fact that he acknowledges the higher power on the song Lord Give Me Sign showcases a man with a pure heart trying to find positive light in a world full of savages that are looking to either take advantage of him because he’s DMX. As a fan, I hope DMX finds the right path and defeat his demons but lets give him his due for being one of the realist artists to ever touch a mic.