The Yonkers rapper's compilation of the Def Jam years.
Adam Webb 2007
Nas might claim that hip hop is dead – and certainly, US CD sales are down 33% this year - but anyone familiar with either his music or his autobiography will attest that DMX has retained an almost impenetrable credibility. Raised on the notorious Yonkers housing projects, a life spent resisting (and occasionally relenting) the lure of NYC’s meanest streets has thrown up thicker plotlines than a Scorsese movie.
The post-9/11 album The Great Depression might have opened up a worldview beyond his immediate backyard, but the career trajectory of Earl Simmons remains a living embodiment of the flip side to the American Dream.
This is more than evident on The Definition Of X…, a compilation spanning his Def Jam career between 1998 and 2003, and which does pretty much what it says on the tin. Save for “Cradle 2 The Grave” outtake, “X Gon’ Give It To Ya”, there’s nothing of rarity value: just 20 solid tracks from one of rap’s most distinctive voices.
That gravel pit rasp literally defines who DMX is - and the raw hustler who typified “It’s Dark & Hell Is Hot” barely alters his flow over the intervening years. Indeed, “Grand Champ” outtake “Where The Hood At” is among the highlights here, joined on the podium by album cut “Blackout” (featuring Jay-Z and The Lox), “Party Up”, “What’s My Name?” and the bleak ghetto fable “Slippin’”.
The unreconstructed wordplay hardly makes for family-friendly listening, but there’s a hardboiled truth about DMX that you wouldn’t find on, say, a 50 Cent record. And while this pick of the litter might not arrest hip hop’s commercial slide, it remains – for the uninitiated, at least - a pretty essential collection.