October 2, 2003

DMX: A Fallen Champ

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If Grand Champ is indeed DMX’s last album, he’s leaving with a whimper rather than a trademark bark. During the two years that have passed since his last album, X has been trying, like so many other popular music icons, to juice Hollywood for all it’s worth. While he’s been busy making movies with Jet Li, the mainstream rap community has adopted new young stars such as 50 Cent and Ludacris. And aside from his cult of hardcore fans, most of us didn’t miss his presence, nor did we eagerly await the release of his latest album. While Grand Champ delivers classic DMX — a gritty voice, brutalistic lyrics, and frenetic beats — we were hoping he’d try something new for a change.

It’s always admirable when an artist evolves over the course of his career. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen with DMX. His image, complete with a chain around his neck, a muscle shirt, and about 200 pit bulls on leashes, has worn thin. It seems like this guy has never cracked a smile in his life. He’s eternally pissed off at someone or something, and that attitude carries through his music. His style was great at first, when he had us all bobbing to the beats of “Ruff Ryderz Anthem” and “Party Up,” but casual fans such as us have become disinterested listening to his recycled garbage over the years.

Admittedly, the album has a few slightly redeeming tracks. “Where the Hood At,” a diss rap to Murder Inc., has a catchy beat, but could do without the excessive homophobia. It’s undoubtedly the closest thing to a party anthem on the entire album. “Shot Down,” produced by the under-appreciated Salaam Nassar, is an alluring collaboration with Styles P and 50 Cent, but ends up leaving X upstaged by his more versatile counterparts. On “Don’t Gotta Go Home,” DMX flows well with the singer Monica, in yet another track about a rapper having a secretive relationship with an innocent, female R&B artist.

With over 10 different producers dropping their widely varying beats on the album, one might expect X’s lyricism to carry the weight. Yet in this regard, he fails miserably. DMX is completely lacking any creative energy. It seems like whenever he can’t come up with a word to rhyme at the end of a line, he resorts to screaming out, “WHAT! WHAT!” Honestly, who in their right mind would listen to DMX for the lyrics? The only reason we listened to him in the first place was because his hardcore, no-bullshit image was original. Now, he’s even lost that. Grand Champ has been a somewhat of an anti-climax for X, not anywhere near the level of his first three albums. We’re hoping more than anyone that this isn’t his last, because a superstar isn’t supposed to go out like this. Grand Champ is for DMX what the Washington Wizards were for Michael Jordan. If X puts out another album, we’d like to see him bring some new material, otherwise we and the rest of his fans can only look forward to watching him in more blockbusters with Jet Li and Stephen Segal.

Archived article by Mike Chrestkha