Archive for the ‘hip-hop’ Category

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Weekly Music Update: Kamaiyah, Jidenna, Eminem & Beyonce

November 15, 2017

New Playlist Additions

KamaiyahBefore I Wake (hip-hop/rap) – Kamaiyah is a double dose of rarity for me: a female rapper that I enjoy and a Bay Area rapper that I enjoy. She gets a lot of great production and has a really smooth vocal style and doesn’t abuse her sexuality. I liked her debut album and after 2-3 listens already, I’m a fan of this one also.

JidennaBoomerang – EP (hip-hop/rap) – I’m a fan of Jidenna. I’m a fan of EPs. This is a solid compliment to his LP The Chief released earlier this year – complete with a “Bambi” sequel!

Eminem & Beyonce – “Walk On Water” (hip-hop/rap) – Oh man. It’s becoming less of a secret that Eminem has a new album on the very near horizon and “Walk On Water” is the first song leaked from it… and it’s a disappointment to me. I can appreciate the message – the pressure for an artist to continually come with great content and better their past releases – and I enjoy Beyonce’s singing, but goodness the production is lackluster. Eminem is basically rapping over someone playing a piano and it sounds jarring at times and I have to say is quite a letdown overall. Hopefully not a sign of things to come.

Chris BrownHeartbreak on a Full Moon (R&B/soul) – I’m not going to lie: 45 Chris Brown songs is quite the chore and not exactly one I’m looking forward to, but my niece recommended this to me and I feel like it’s good form to listen to other people’s recommendations if I want them to listen to mine. I guess I don’t know much about Chris Brown, but I assumed I wasn’t a fan and I’ve mostly enjoyed the songs that I’ve heard from this collection so far.

Cam’ronThe Program (hip-hop/rap) – Literally just added this to my playlist as I was typing this post. Can’t say I’m checking for Cam’ron, but he’s always had talent and is probably worth giving a shot.

Other Notable Releases

Wiz KhalifaLaugh Now, Fly Later (hip-hop/rap) – This dude sucks now.

Too $hortHella Disrespectful: Bay Area Mixtape (hip-hop/rap) – Remember what I said about Bay Area rappers. I liked Too $hort when I was 12. Vocally and lyrically, I really think he’s one of the worst rappers ever.

Angel OlsenPhases (alternative)

Recent Albums Update

Sam SmithThe Thrill of it All (pop) – Definitely a good album that I can listen to all the way through.

KalelaTake Me Apart (R&B/soul) – Haven’t really listened to yet.

ELHAEAURA II (R&B/soul) – Haven’t listened at all.

LE$The Catalina Wine Mixer (hip-hop/rap) – A surprise release that I wasn’t initially aware of, but LE$ has been one of my favorite hip-hop artists over the past year and his work ethic is extraordinary: this is his fifth release in the last 18 months and last year’s Tecnnoviolet was a top 5 rap album of 2016 for me. Considering the volume of music LE$ is putting out, the consistency of the quality is extremely impressive. If this dude isn’t on your radar, he should be. I wouldn’t say he’s elite lyrically or vocally, but the guy knows how to make good rap music.

Brent FaiyazSonder Son (r&b/soul) – My goodness this is fire. I played a 16 hour poker session yesterday and I kept finding myself coming back to this album and “Stay Down” in particular. I must have listened to that song over ten times yesterday. “Talk 2 U” is another highlight and both of those songs sound like immediate classics. This whole album is good though. I’m pretty close to giving this a final rating and it will definitely be a strong one.

dvsnMorning After (r&b/soul) – I gave this a less than favorable first impression and I have to say this album has grown on me tremendously. I’m still figuring out how I feel about the album as a whole, but it’s a strong R&B release and I can say this much with certainty: “Claim” is a classic!

Big K.R.I.T.4eva Is a Mighty Long Time (hip-hop/rap) – Haven’t really given this a dedicated listen yet. As of now, I can’t say any songs have stood out to me.

YelawolfTrial By Fire (hip-hop/rap) – Yelawolf is a good rapper. He knows his niche, executes well, and has plenty of substance and authenticity. I heard two songs this past week that really stood out to me: “True To Yourself” and “Keeps Me Alive” – both added to my Best Songs of 2017 playlist.

H.E.R.H.E.R. (r&B/soul) – Still haven’t given this a full listen, but I’ve liked basically every song that has come up on random so far.

Hustle GangWe Want Smoke (hip-hop/rap) – Finally got the delete. Just no interest.

Wu-TangThe Saga Continues (hip-hop/rap) – From last week: “I’ve listened to the first half of the album four times and the second half twice, so I’m still getting a feel for some of it. I know this much: Method Man absolutely destroys over multiple appearances. He not only sounds completely rejuvenated, but as good as he ever has – so many quotables from Meth: “Mayday! Mayday! But no charge, I’m nutty with the bars/ that’s a Payday, so bruh (sober), this ain’t even a bar, this is AA.” The production is also a massive highlight. I stopped giving albums numbered ratings, but I can say this much: this Wu-Tang album is inching up my Very Good category and getting consideration for Top Notch, which puts it in Albums of the Year territory.” Not much to add. I still can’t get over how much Method Man crushes this album.

BeckTrue Colors (alternative) – Deleted. Not for me.

Dame D.O.L.L.A.CONFIRMED (hip-hop/rap) – Another album I gave a less than favorable first impression that has grown on me a little. Dame seems to be more entertaining to me in smaller doses.

Best of 2017 Playlist Additions

“True To Yourself” – Yelawolf, Trial By Fire

“Keeps Me Alive” – Yelawolf, Trial By Fire

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Weekly Music Update: Sam Smith, Kalela, ELHAE, LE$

November 7, 2017

New Playlist Additions

Sam SmithThe Thrill of it All (pop) – I’m not familiar with this guy’s catalog at all, but he seemed to be the most prominent release of this past week, so I added his album to my playlist and I must say I’m impressed. I’ve already listened to this a couple of times all the way through and that says a lot. Very easy on the ears.

KalelaTake Me Apart (R&B/soul) – I think this came out a week or two ago and I just added it last night after reading some promising comments online.

ELHAEAURA II (R&B/soul) – Same as Kalela.

LE$The Catalina Wine Mixer (hip-hop/rap) – A surprise release from last week that I wasn’t initially aware of, but LE$ has been one of my favorite hip-hop artists over the past year and his work ethic is extraordinary: this is his fifth release in the last 18 months and last year’s Tecnnoviolet was a top 5 rap album of 2016 for me. Considering the volume of music LE$ is putting out, the consistency of the quality is extremely impressive. If this dude isn’t on your radar, he should be. I wouldn’t say he’s elite lyrically or vocally, but the guy knows how to make good rap music.

Other Notable Releases

21 Savage, Offset & Metro BoominWithout Warning (hip-hop/rap)

Maroon 5Red Pill Blues (pop)

Blake SheltonTexoma Shore (country)

Kid RockSweet Southern Sugar (rock/country)

Recent Albums Update

Brent FaiyazSonder Son (r&b/soul) – My goodness this is fire. I played a 16 hour poker session yesterday and I kept finding myself coming back to this album and “Stay Down” in particular. I must have listened to that song over ten times yesterday. “Talk 2 U” is another highlight and both of those songs sound like immediate classics. This whole album is good though. I’m pretty close to giving this a final rating and it will definitely be a strong one.

dvsnMorning After (r&b/soul) – I gave this a less than favorable first impression last week and I have to say this album has grown on me tremendously. I’m still figuring out how I feel about the album as a whole, but it’s a strong R&B release and I can say this much with certainty: “Claim” is a classic!

Snoop DoggMake America Crip Again (hip-hop/rap) – The opening track (“M.A.C.A.”) and the closing track (“Fly Away”) are pretty good. Everything in between is trash bin material to me. Rating: Decent

Big K.R.I.T.4eva Is a Mighty Long Time (hip-hop/rap) – Haven’t really given this a dedicated listen yet. As of now, I can’t say any songs have stood out to me.

YelawolfTrial By Fire (hip-hop/rap) – I’ve listened to this album all the way through once and it was definitely enjoyable. I think Yelawolf is an artist I’d rather have come on randomly in a big playlist as opposed to song after song. “Sabrina” is a highlight and a chilling song where Yelawolf imagines his daugther dying.

H.E.R.H.E.R. (r&B/soul) – Still haven’t given this a full listen, but I’ve liked basically every song that has come up on random so far.

Hustle GangWe Want Smoke (hip-hop/rap) – My interest level in this project is pretty low. I’ve heard songs on random but this will probably get deleted before I ever really listen to it.

Wu-TangThe Saga Continues (hip-hop/rap) – From last week: “I’ve listened to the first half of the album four times and the second half twice, so I’m still getting a feel for some of it. I know this much: Method Man absolutely destroys over multiple appearances. He not only sounds completely rejuvenated, but as good as he ever has – so many quotables from Meth: “Mayday! Mayday! But no charge, I’m nutty with the bars/ that’s a Payday, so bruh (sober), this ain’t even a bar, this is AA.” The production is also a massive highlight. I stopped giving albums numbered ratings, but I can say this much: this Wu-Tang album is inching up my Very Good category and getting consideration for Top Notch, which puts it in Albums of the Year territory.” Not much to add. I still can’t get over how much Method Man crushes this album.

BeckTrue Colors (alternative) – I’ve liked the few songs I’ve heard on random, but nothing spectacular.

Dame D.O.L.L.A.CONFIRMED (hip-hop/rap) – Another album I gave a less than favorable first impression that has grown on me a little. Dame seems to be more entertaining to me in smaller doses.

Best of 2017 Playlist Additions

“Claim” – dvsn, Morning After

“Stay Down” – Brent Faiyaz, Sonder Son

“Talk 2 U” – Brent Faiyaz, Sonder Son

“Pearl Harbor” – Wu-Tang, The Saga Continues

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New Music Friday – 10/27/2017

October 31, 2017

New Playlist Additions

Snoop DoggMake America Crip Again (hip-hop/rap) – Snoop has released approximately three projects since Doggystyle that I’ve been a legitimate fan of. Needless to say, I don’t care about this, but I’ll let it spend a couple weeks in my most prominent playlist and see if anything catches my ear.

Big K.R.I.T.4eva Is a Mighty Long Time (hip-hop/rap) – There was a point in time when K.R.I.T. was unquestionably one of the best up-and-coming rappers. I admittedly haven’t listened to his last couple albums and that’s probably because they didn’t get overwhelmingly positive feedback –
but also because I was kind of in music hibernation. I will give this a dedicated listen at some point this week and I really have no idea what to expect.

YelawolfTrial By Fire (hip-hop/rap) – I wouldn’t say Yelawolf is exactly my cup of tea – his style definitely has a southern and country twang to it – but he’s plenty capable of making some good rap music. His last album Love Story had multiple songs that made my Best of 2016 playlist. Yelawolf has proven he’s worthy of checking out, so I will also give this album a dedicated listen this week.

Other Notable Releases

Yo GottiI Still Am (hip-hop/rap)

Ty Dolla $ignBeach House 3 (hip-hop/rap) – I maaaaaaay add this to my playlist, but I’m pretty sure this dude doesn’t grab me.

Kelly ClarksonMeaning of Life (pop)

WeezerPacific Daydream (alternative)

112Q Mike Slim Daron (r&b/soul) – I was just wondering the other day what happened to 112… I guess I could find out?

Previous October Albums

Brent FaiyazSonder Son (r&b/soul) – I’ve listened to this album about 3.5 times now and I’m loving it. There are multiple songs on here that sound like old classics and that I’ll eventually be adding to my Best of 2017 playlist. It’s early, but this could possibly be my favorite R&B release of the year.

H.E.R.H.E.R. (r&B/soul) – Can’t say much about this yet because I’ve only listened to two songs so far.

Hustle GangWe Want Smoke (hip-hop/rap) – Hustle Gang is a lot of T.I., some B.o.B. and a bunch of guys I’ve never really heard or care about. I’ve listened to one song so far and I doubt I’ll ever give this a full listen.

Wu-TangThe Saga Continues (hip-hop/rap) – I’ve listened to the first half of the album four times and the second half twice, so I’m still getting a feel for some of it. I know this much: Method Man absolutely destroys over multiple appearances. He not only sounds completely rejuvenated, but as good as he ever has – so many quotables from Meth: “Mayday! Mayday! But no charge, I’m nutty with the bars/ that’s a Payday, so bruh (sober), this ain’t even a bar, this is AA.” The production is also a massive highlight. I stopped giving albums numbered ratings, but I can say this much: this Wu-Tang album is inching up my Very Good category and getting consideration for Top Notch, which puts it in Albums of the Year territory.

dvsnMorning After (r&b/soul) – I learned something new this weekend: this dude’s name is pronounced as “division” – I’ve always sounded the letters out individually. Interesting. I gave this a full listen driving back to Washington from Reno and while I found it enjoyable enough, nothing really jumped out at me like “In + Out” or “With Me” did on last year’s SEPT. 5TH. I can’t imagine I will give this many more dedicated listens, but it will remain in my top Playlist for a while.

BeckTrue Colors (alternative) – My play count says I’ve listened to zero songs so far, but I know I’ve heard at least one. Either way, I clearly have no opinion yet. I’d really like to branch out of the hip-hop and R&B genres, but I rarely know what albums I should be listening to. Beck has been nominated for Album of the Year three times at the Grammy Awards, which seems pretty strong.

Dame D.O.L.L.A.CONFIRMED (hip-hop/rap) – NBA star Damian Lilliard is also an accomplished emcee that goes by the name Dame D.O.L.L.A.. CONFIRMED is his second major release, following last year’s The Letter O which sort of shocked me and I found to be very good. After a couple listens, I’m not liking this album as much. Compared to his first album, this one seems to be lacking in substance and I didn’t notice any actual growth from Dame vocally or in his songwriting. I don’t have a full grasp on the album yet, but I’m pretty confident there’s a handful of songs I never need to hear again.

New Best of 2017 Playlist Additions

“Found A Way” – Dave East, Paranoia: A True Story

“If Time Is Money (Fly Navigation)” – Wu-Tang, The Saga Continues (Method Man solo)

“Memories On 47th St.” – Vic Mensa, The Autobiography

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The DAMN. Tour featuring Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, and D.R.A.M.

August 4, 2017

Seeing Kendrick Lamar live was an obvious bucket list item for someone that is already hailing him as the greatest hip-hop artist ever, so I had my alarm set for ten minutes before tickets went on sale. I have to say I was worried about my chances since I got shut out on Adele tickets last year even though I was similarly prepared. Somehow the Adele show sold out entirely within seconds of tickets going on sale to the public – something I still can’t wrap my head around to this day. So when I had success with Kendrick tickets on my first try I just snatched up the first seats I saw and hoped for the best (more on that later).

For those of you that have read this post about my recent anxiety issues, it will come as no surprise that I decided to pass on driving myself to and from the Tacoma Dome, so I took an Uber to downtown Tacoma and met up with a friend for dinner before the show.

We managed to get to our seats about 10-15 minutes before show time and amazingly – and unprecedented for a rap show – the lights dimmed at 7:29, one minute before the show was scheduled to start and D.R.A.M. came out to perform with roughly half the stadium still empty. I liked D.R.A.M.’s album and consider myself a fan so far, but my buddy had no clue who he was and I really didn’t care to see him perform live so we mostly just talked through his entire set. The crowd didn’t seem to care too much either as they really only responded enthusiastically when he closed out his set with his most popular track “Broccoli.”

I was excited to see Travis Scott. I consider him to be the absolute best of the mumble rap/autotune guys and his Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight is a clinic on constructing hit songs. Needless to say, I was looking forward to seeing him bring that album to life in a live setting.

At this point, I feel it’s worth mentioning where our seats were located. We were located off to the side of the stage in the upper deck about 15 rows away from the top of the dome. In other words, our seats were total garbage. As an adult that can afford nice things for myself, one of my rules is that I don’t go to live events and sit in crappy seats. What’s the point? If I’m going to go to a game or a show, I’m going to cough up the extra money and sit close enough that I feel involved in the action and can actually see the people I came to watch. In this case, I sort of panicked and bought the first seats that were available. Those damn Adele tickets. I would have happily paid $200ish to sit on the floor and be able to see what was happening on stage.

But we were in binoculars territory and the production didn’t help things by adding a smoky graphic to the monitors and making Travis Scott impossible to see on the big screens as well. And the sound was bad too. I don’t know if it was because of where we were sitting or if the sound was actually bad for everyone, but the music sounded more like angry noise and I pretty much couldn’t understand anything Travis Scott was saying throughout his entire set. The lackluster sound, terrible seats, and useless big screens made Travis’ set far less enjoyable than it should have been. Still, the man has a number of hits and his energy was good, so my enjoyment was hindered by the production and not his music or his abilities. I was kind of surprised when Travis closed with “Goosebumps,” his song with Kendrick, because it almost certainly meant they weren’t going to perform it together. The headliner is just never going to pop out for the first time to do a verse on one of his opener’s songs. Still, “Goosebumps” easily got the best reception from the crowd and the Tacoma Dome was jamming during this song.

Finally, it was Kendrick Lamar time and unsurprisingly Kung Fu Kenny’s set had a martial arts theme throughout. Thankfully, the production decided to skip any visual effects on the screen during Kendrick’s set so you could actually see him on the screen and it’s pretty cool to see an artist genuinely smiling because the audience is fully invested in his music. And it was pretty amazing watching the whole audience moving with the songs and singing along. In fact, when Kendrick did “HUMBLE.” he rapped most of the first verse and then let the crowd finish it off and do the rest of the song acapella. It was quite the sight. Something someone like D.R.A.M. wouldn’t be able to pull off. I can’t even imagine how satisfying it would be to have 20,000 people rapping your lyrics in unison while you just sit there admiring how much all your hard work has paid off. Kendrick did most of the songs off DAMN. and a number of classics off Good Kid M.A.D.D. City. “Did ya’ll remember?” Yes, yes we did. Kendrick’s set seemed to have better (but still not great) sound mixing than the two previous acts, but it was still hard to make out a lot of his vocals. For instance, when he did “Bitch Dant Kill My Vibe” I couldn’t hear the verses at all, which was pretty disappointing because that’s one of my favorite Kendrick tracks. In addition to the DAMN. and Good Kid tracks, he also did a few off untitled/unmastered and To Pimp A Butterfly, most notably “King Kunta,” which absolutely brought the building down. My only complaint about his track selections is that he decided to perform “PRIDE.” and “LUST.” but didn’t do “FEEL.” which is a mortal sin. Nobody pray for him.

Kendrick was a great performer, but our seats and the sound really hindered how much I could really enjoy things. I wasn’t blown away like I have been by past shows and, honestly, I was wondering if I wasn’t getting too old for the whole mass audience hip-hop show. I’m not really one to get too involved physically with the music; I just want to watch, enjoy the show, and mind my own business. And I’m still unsure if the sound issue was a me problem or a whole stadium problem. If it was just me then, well, maybe it’s time to start staying home for these things.

Regardless, it was a fun experience and I was happy to see King Kendrick live even if my seats were crummy and the sound mixing was disappointing.

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Bone Thugs N Harmony – New Waves

July 1, 2017

Listened to the new Bone Thugs N Harmony album (which is really just a Krayzie and Bizzy collaboration) in entirety and, goodness, it is an embarrassment. It’s not much of a surprise that a new Bone album would disappoint in 2017 – when is the last time any of these guys has dropped a notable project? But still, it’s hard to believe how bad it really is. I heard a number songs that sounded like they were aimed at the EDM crowd and I even heard a song that sounded like it would be at home on a country album. What I didn’t hear was a single track that sounded anything like vintage Bone. This album is SOFT. There’s nothing wrong with artists growing up and some of the messages have heart, but the production is almost universally terrible and most of the hooks are appalling. These guys can still rap just fine, but there isn’t any noteworthy songwriting happening on this album. I can honestly say that I liked one song: “Good Person.” Something about it (I think it’s the hook) just grabs me. The rest of the album is straight up trash bin material.

4/10 (Trash Bin Material – because nothing needs to lower than that)

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June Music Preview: Last Post Before WSOP Hiatus

May 29, 2017

I’m flying out to Vegas today, so this will be my last post until late June. Here’s a quick look at what music will be coming out next month.

Music:

Kool G RapReturn Of The Don (2nd) – One of the old school GOATs. Never really dug into his catalog, but his skills are undeniable. One of the first truly elite rappers.

Halseyhopeless fountain kingdom (2nd) – Someone said they were excited to listen to this. I don’t know what it is, but I’ll check it out now.

Katy PerryWitness (9th) – Not exactly my thing, but notable nonetheless.

RancidTroublemaker (9th) – Shrug. I liked them in the mid-90’s but I have to say metal/punk rock is difficult for me to listen to now.

MC EihtWhich Way Iz West (9th) – One of the weaker old school west coast rappers IMO.

NickelbackFeed The Machine (9th) – Again, not my thing, but maybe someone that reads this wants to know they have a new album coming out.

SZACTRL (9th) – Rumor has it the TDE singer will finally be dropping her album on the 9th, but I haven’t seen this made official anywhere. Needless to say, anything associated with Top Dawg Entertainment is a must listen and hopefully we get some new Kendrick, Schoolboy, and Isaiah Rashad features.

Avenue EightFunk Me Up (16th) – No idea who they are, but the album cover and the album title has put it on my radar.

Big BoiBoomiverse (16th) – Andre 3000 might not want to make music, but Outkast’s other half has been plugging away. Big Boi released a couple albums when I wasn’t paying much attention to music, but they were both critically acclaimed. “Kill Jill” is exceptional and I’ve liked everything I have heard from Daddy Fat Sacks the last few years. Also, this is apparently a double album. Mark me down as excited.

LordeMelodrama (16th) – Definitely will check this out after enjoying the early singles.

Gucci ManeDrop Top Wop (23rd) – I’ve been giving basically everything a change, but this should hit my trash bin in record time.

RadioheadOKNOTOK (23rd) – One of the most acclaimed bands of all-time and while I’ve tried to give them a chance, I just don’t get it.

Vince StaplesBig Fish Theory (23rd) – I think at this point, Kendrick Lamar is the only rapper I want to hear an album from more than Vince Staples. His last album, Summertime ’06, was incredible. My expectations are immense.

Calvin HarrisFunk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 (30th) – If “Slide” with Frank Ocean and Migos (already on my Best of 2017 playlist) is what we can expect from this album, mark me down as stoked.

Also, for those of you that have Netflix streaming, here’s some of the more noteworthy additions for June:

Arrow: Season 5 (1st)
Full Metal Jacket (1st)
Rounders (1st)
The Queen (1st)
The Sixth Sense (1st)
Young Frankenstein (1st)
Zodiac (1st)
Dreamworks’ Trolls (7th)
Orange Is The New Black: Season 5 (9th)
Scandal: Season 6 (17th)
Disney’s Moana (20th)
GLOW: Season 1 (23rd)
Gypsy: Season 1 (30th)

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DMX

May 8, 2017

After getting in some heated debates on Facebook, it became apparent that I needed to assess the career of DMX next to either support my claim that he’s overrated or discover that maybe I’m wrong and he didn’t fall off as hard as I think he did. 

 It’s interesting to me that so many people can consider DMX one of the greats considering that he’s still active but hasn’t really been relevant since 2001 – that’s over 15 years of making music no one is really listening to! It’s one thing to be talented and overlooked, but considering DMX’s tremendous success in the past one has to assume people stopped listening because he stopped making good music.

I can admit that I have skipped pretty much all of his music since The Great Depression was released in 2001, but it was my contention that if it was any good someone would have recommended it to me. Still, it is unfair of me to make that claim with certainty unless I listened to all of it myself, so I spent the last several weeks going through pretty much the entire discography of DMX in order to assess his place in hip-hop history with all the relevant information, and that includes all the music he’s released since his life has become overcome by drug addiction and frequent arrests.

Legacy: DMX actually grades pretty strong here. After the deaths of Tupac and Biggie, I would argue that X grabbed the torch as hip-hop’s premiere artist from May 1998 up until Eminem took over in November of 1999 on Dr. Dre’s 2001. His first three albums hold up well in 2017 and the fact that a number of his fans act like the last 15 years of his discography never happened almost makes it seem like the golden era of his recording career is all that matters – and if one wants that to be true, it actually can be.  DMX can’t tarnish his legacy no matter how hard he tries to.  All his personal issues are either ignored or forgotten and it really seems as though most people don’t even realize he’s released three bad albums since The Great Depression. B+

Consistency: And here’s where 2003 to 2017 can’t be ignored. Almost everyone would agree that It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot is the best DMX album. From there, I’d argue that each album that follows is progressively worse, all the way up to Undisputed in 2012 where he really had nowhere else to go but back up. Even though he peaked with his debut album, X was very consistent on his first three releases. However, he falls off a cliff after that and never even hints at returning to elite levels of rapping throughout the rest of his career. D

Longevity: Realistically, DMX had a peak that lasted from 1998 to 2001, when he released his first obviously disappointing album. He has sporadically released new music since then, but the general public has paid little notice and he has received no critical acclaim. Even his most dedicated fans can’t make strong arguments in support of his later work. DMX has been a recording artist for 20 years now, which sounds good for longevity,
but he has been irrelevant for more than half of his career now. D

Lyrics: Even at his peak, DMX was not a strong lyricist. On “Fuckin’ Wit’ D” – on what many would consider a classic album – he actually rhymes: “Stuck in a tree, is what you will be/ like a cat, and I’m the dog, at the bottom, looking up, ‘yo, what’s that?'” He rapped those lines when he was at his best. Check out this article that details the vocabularies of a number of hip-hop’s most notable artists. You can click the link and see how the survey is conducted, but I can save you time and tell you this: out of the 85 artists considered, DMX ranks last. DEAD LAST. Like, no one considered has a smaller vocabulary than DMX –  and Too $hort is the only other rapper that is even close. And when you listen to the music, you can see why: if Dr. Seuss was a gangster rapper, he’d sound like DMX. No matter which way you want to look at it – he wasn’t clever, he wasn’t funny, his rhyme structures were simple, and he wasn’t deep or metaphorical – DMX has always been incredibly simple when it comes to lyricism. F

Songwriting: Once upon a time, DMX was a great songwriter. In fact, X is a fantastic example of how different the elements of lyricism and songwriting really are: even though he was rarely saying anything of substance and his actual lyrics were elementary, DMX’s hit-making abilities from 1998 to 1999 were almost unmatched. To be fair, he was getting laced with some stellar production at the start of his career, but he had an uncanny understanding of how to capture a beat’s mood and craft a hook that made his songs memorable. Unfortunately, it seems as though drugs sapped that creative juice some time around the making of The Great Depression and never returned. I have to consider the whole body of work here – and more than half of it is bad – but in his prime DMX was probably an A- in this category. C

Rapping: Rapping was another strength of prime DMX, as he was able turn subpar lyricism into enjoyable and infectious music and that is something that wouldn’t be possible if he wasn’t rapping his ass off. DMX had an unmistakable presence on the mic and seemed to attack every verse with a fury that was rarely present in his contemporaries. But again, as he got involved with drugs and continued to get arrested throughout his career, he lost almost all of his vocal edge and on his later records he sounds like a ghost of his former self. C

Voice: DMX has one of the most distinguishable voices in hip-hop. Back in the late 90s, his verses were unmistakable. Grimy and gruff, with a strong mic presence and his instantly recognizable growling and barking ad-libs, you always knew when it was DMX’s turn to spit. B+

Replay Value: Having revisited his whole catalog over the last few weeks, it’s clear that his first three albums all hold up pretty well. I could put them on shuffle and listen to almost every song. The rest of his albums I could barely listen to once. C-

Features: DMX was a popular featured artist in the late 90s, but has very little memorable guest appearances since the turn of the century. He helps make The Lox’s “Money, Power, & Respect” and Mase’s “24 Hours To Live” true hip-hop classics and he was frequently awarded the coveted last verse on posse cuts. Perhaps the coolest feature I found in all my digging was on Mic Geronimo’s “Time To Build,” a 1995 boom bap rap song that also features Ja Rule and Jay-Z, before any of them blew up, and finds DMX doing a pretty good ONYX impression while probably still trying to find his own identity as an emcee. He has some other songs with Jay-Z and Ja Rule as the supergroup Murder Inc. and they are solid, but I’m not sad that concept never really materialized. B+

Discography:

It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot (1998) – Okay, I’m going to voice an unpopular opinion here, but this album is overrated. Don’t get me wrong… I love it, but it’s just not a real classic and most people I talk to don’t hesitate to give it that status. So how did that happen? I really think it’s because DMX debuted at a time when Puff Daddy, Mase, and No Limit Records were dominating rap music. Puffy and Mase were Charmin soft and, in 1998, the most popular No Limit artists (Master P, Silkk The Shocker) sounded like a parody of gangster rap, so when It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot was released, no popular rap artist was really making hardcore hip-hop. DMX filled that lane and he did it really well. He attacked the mic with passion and gave zero fucks about what he was saying: “and I’m gunnin’ for your spouse/ trying to send that bitch back to her maker/ and if you got a daughter older than 15, I’m a rape her/ take her, on the living room floor right there in front of you/ then ask you seriously – ‘what you wanna do?'” It’s wild that a multi-platinum artist could say something like that on a record. This album came out when no mainstream artist was making this kind of rap music and I think, because of that, people remember this album as being better than it really is. It’s definitely an enjoyable listening experience and really only has one weak track (“Crime Story”) but if you look at a true hip-hop classic – like Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle – you can find a number of songs that are better than every song on It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot and the weaker songs compare favorably with the best songs on this DMX album. Sorry X fans, this is a very good album, but it’s not a hip-hop classic. 7.5/10 (Highly Enjoyable/Essential Listening)

Blood Of My Blood, Flesh Of My Flesh (1998) – This album is actually better than I remember and the fact that DMX released two good albums within seven months of each other is pretty remarkable. While “Slippin'” is the only song I think is truly great, X once again puts together an album with only one weak track, the ill-advised Marilyn Manson collaboration on “The Omen.” This album is a master class in crafting memorable hooks, as DMX takes multiple mediocre songs and makes them enjoyable with hooks you can’t help but repeat in your head. 6/10 (Recommended)

…And Then There Was X (1999) – Another album that was better than I remembered it being. I thought the noticeable slip started with this release, but this is actually pretty solid. “One More Road To Cross” and “What These Bitches Want” are excellent songs, “Angel” is very good, and most of the album is enjoyable. …And Then There Was X does contain one of DMX’s most memorable hit songs in “Party Up (Up In Here)” which, while not one of my favorites, is outrageously infectious. “Good Girls, Bad Guys” is the only song I hated, which means that DMX only has three truly weak songs on his first three albums. I think the highlights on this album are better than Blood Of My Blood… but overall this album is just a tad bit weaker. 6/10 (Recommended)

The Great Depression (2001) – And here’s where things really start to go bad. Of the 17 songs on this album (skits excluded, bonus songs included), I genuinely like four of them: “A Minute For Your Son,” “School Street,” “Trina Moe,” and “Who We Be.” The way this album is sequenced makes it sound even worse: the first three songs are good, the last song is good, and everything in between is mediocre. Actually, as I listen to it again, “We Right Here” is a good song too. I’d wager that if one made a greatest hits playlist for DMX, it would include zero songs from The Great Depression. In addition, DMX has nearly twice as many weak songs on this album (5, by my count) as he did on his first three albums combined. 4/10 (Lackluster)

Grand Champ (2003) – DMX had a chance to redeem himself here after disappointing on his last album and things start off promising enough, but this album’s sequencing mirrors that of The Great Depression as the best songs are the first few songs – and it goes downhill from there, although “The Rain” is a later track that is pretty good. “Where The Hood At” is a true banger, but the vast majority of this album is totally forgettable. To give an idea of how weak this album is, fire up “My Life” on iTunes or YouTube and realize it’s one of the best songs on here. 4/10 (Lackluster)

Year Of The Dog… Again (2006) – There were two songs on this album that I kind of liked: “Blown Away” and “Goodbye.” The rest of the album ranges from forgettable to pure torture. I really struggled to listen to every song on this album because it was so bad. If his previous two albums were disappointing but showed hints of his former stardom, this is the album that really puts the nail in the coffin of his career – he had nothing left. 3/10 (Crap)

Mixtape (2010) – I have to be honest here, after listening to two disappointing albums and an undeniably bad one, I didn’t have the heart to listen to an unofficial DMX release well into his demise. I skipped this and I’ve literally never heard one person even mention it, so I can’t imagine it’s worth listening to.

The Weigh In EP (2012) – See above.

Undisputed (2012) – I did give this a full listen and I have to say it’s better than Year Of The Dog, but X still sounds like a ghost of his former self. Considering everything DMX was going through in his personal life, it’s actually pretty remarkable that he even put out another album. He sort of touches on his issues on “Slippin Again,” but DMX was never a great lyricist and he has trouble conveying his feelings here. He keeps saying “I wish you knew” in reference to what his life is like, but even after writing a song about it, we still don’t know much. To some degree, DMX sounds reinvigorated on this album in comparison to his previous few releases, but it’s another forgettable effort from a man who needs to be in a rehabilitation center more than he needs to be in a studio. 4.5/10 (Lackluster/Decent)

Classic Albums: 0
Peak: 1998-1999
Current Status: Barely alive. He was actually found without a pulse and not breathing in February of 2016 from what seemed to be a drug overdose. I’ve read that he has cancelled shows in 2017 because of a “medical emergency.” X and Swizz Beatz have posted on social media about new DMX music coming in 2017 and it is rumored to feature Dr. Dre and Kanye West. While it would be cool for DMX to release something good, it seems unlikely at this point in his career and I’m honestly much more interested in seeing him get healthy than I am in hearing new music.
All-Time Status: Outside my Top 50.