DMX Is One Of The Most Influential Rappers Of All Time
The words And Then There Was X should carry considerable weight in the hip-hop community. Not only is it the title of DMX’s third multi-platinum album, it’s a turn of phrase that depicts his indelible mark upon the rap industry and the boundaries he left in disrepair. For a spell of five albums in a row, each new record would ascend to the top of the charts upon its debut, inserting an undiluted grittiness into an increasingly commercialized marketplace. For those who didn’t experience it first-hand, it must be hard to fathom how colossal the Yonkers, NY thoroughbred became after arriving with the seminal It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot.
After Biggie passed, there was a need for someone to pick up the mantle and become King Of New York. For a span of a few years, the frontrunner was not named Hov or Nas, but rather The Dark Man X himself. They say history is rewritten by the victors. In this case, it goes some way in explaining why the man who once held hip-hop on a short leash is now largely condemned to a be a parable on fame’s corrosive power. Fresh out of his latest stint in prison, X has been a free man for less than a month, but it already feels as though something has fundamentally changed within him. In this brief window, the man born Earl Simmons has outlined his plans with a clarity that has eluded him in recent years when he was still beset by substance issues and legal woes.
Two days after he was reintegrated into the world, DMX already had his first live show under his belt, and has since announced a belated 20th-anniversary tour ofIt’s Dark And Hell Is Hot. As detailed by long-time collaborator and protégé Swizz Beats, the person that ventured into custody for tax fraud and the man that exited the penitentiary possess two vastly different outlooks. “I just got off the phone with my brother DMX!” explained Swizz, upon X’s release. “He told me this time he didn’t work out his body in jail he said he worked out his mind! He also said he’s about to make music for the people that need his truth and pain.”
A staggering seven years removed from the creative nadir of Undisputed, there’s an inescapable feeling that order has been re-established within the psyche of Earl Simmons. Now that a return to the fore seems more plausible than it has for years, it’s a perfect time to reappraise his lasting influence on the rap game. To provide a comprehensive picture of DMX’s lasting contributions, it’s important to note that they manifest in two distinct traits. On the whole, his imprint on today’s budding talents and stars can be equated down to delivery and content.
Although he was capable of a more tender inflection, one of the key tenets in DMX’s meteoric rise was his formidable growl. Hyper-aggressive and oozing ill intentions, his tales of violence and destitution rang with an unchallenged authenticity. As contemporaries, his trademark style may have shared similarities with Onyx, but his skyrocketing popularity soon made it synonymous with the Yonkers MC. On the other side, X could also be fiercely protective of his gruff cadence, and Ja Rule’s perceived plagiarism eventually led to a beef between the two.