Posts Tagged ‘hip-hop’

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August 2019 (and July 2019) New Music

September 4, 2019

I always hear people complaining about how bad music is nowadays and they couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, there is more quality music flooding the industry than ever before. It’s impossible to listen to it all, but… I try to. I give everything a chance and at the end of every month I’ll post everything I listened to and how much, what my favorite album was, what the other must have albums are, and what songs I added to my 2019 Bangers Playlist.

Stop complaining and take some guidance!

Because some albums come out later in the month and I don’t get much of a chance to listen to them before making my post, I’ve decided to make my new music posts containing all albums I’ve listened to over the last two months. New albums for this month will have the artist’s name in bold.

Also, check out my 2019 Albums page to see where I have rated any albums I’ve formed a solid opinion on.

HEAVY ROTATION (heard whole album many times)

BJ the Chicago Kid – 1123
Dreamville – Revenge of the Dreamers 3
Little BrotherMay the Lord Watch
RapsodyEve
SiRChasing Summer
YBN Cordae – The Lost Boy

SOLID ROTATION (heard whole album at least twice)

BasSpilled Milk 1 EP
Blood Orange – Angel’s Pulse
Chance the Rapper – The Big Day
Devin the Dude – Still Rollin’ Up: Somethin’ to Ride With
DJ Muggs & CRIMEAPPLE – Medallo
Ed Sheeran – No.6 Collaborations
Maxo Kream – Brandon Banks
Nas – The Lost Tapes 2
Rick RossPort of Miami 2

COURTESY ROTATION (heard whole album)

38 SpeshA Bullet for Every Heathen
Big K.R.I.T. – K.R.I.T. IZ HERE
Black MilkDiVE
BROCKHAMPTONGINGER
Jidenna85 to Africa
Joell OrtizMonday
Missy ElliottICONOLOGY EP
NF – The Search
Obie TriceThe Fifth
Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains
Scarlet Parke – Flight Risk
Snoop Dogg I Wanna Thank Me
Obie TriceThe Fifth

SKIM ROTATION (haven’t heard whole album)

A$AP Ferg Floor Seats
Bon Iveri,i
Curren$y – Hot August Nights
DrakeCare Package
Raphael SaadiqJimmy Lee
Snoh Aalegra Ugh, those feels again
Taylor Swift – Lover
Young ThugSo Much Fun

Out of Rotation (removed from my current playlist)

Berner & Curren$y – Pheno Grigio
Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire
The Lion King soundtrack

TOO NEW (zero listens)

AlchemistYacht Rock 2
Bun BBun B Day – EP
CommonLet Love
Dame D.O.L.L.A.Big D.O.L.L.A.
Justine SkyeBARE WITH ME – EP
KXNG CrookedThe Weeklys, Vol. 3
Slum VillageThe Source
ToolFear Inoculum

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

RapsodyEve – This was released on the 4th Thursday of August, so it hasn’t been around too long and yet I’ve already listened to the whole album three times and most of the first half at least five times and that’s saying something considering I listened to almost no music while I was in L.A. the last week of the month. I didn’t give Rapsody much love her last time around, even though she found her way to a Grammy nomination, but I did enjoy her last album when I did listen to it. Eve immediately grabbed me though. Three of the first five songs have already been added to my Best of 2019 playlist below and I’ve now added almost half the album. I like a lot about what Rapsody is doing here. She has important things to say, the beats are really good, the songs are extremely well written and Rap isn’t a slouch on the mic either. She does get a little overboard with her adlibs at times and it can be a bit of a distraction, but it’s not a dealbreaker for me and doesn’t take away much from my love for this album. I’ve seen people calling this a classic already and, honestly, I’m pretty close to saying the same thing. I enjoy this album top to bottom, as there is no glaring weak spot and plenty of highlights. Rapsody has herself a serious contender for Album of the Year.

2019 Bangerz Playlist Additions

Ari Lennox, “Up Late”
Ari Lennox, “BMO”
Ari Lennox ft. J.Cole, “Shea Butter Baby”
Ari Lennox ft. JID, “Broke”
Ari Lennox, “Whipped Cream”
BJ the Chicago Kid ft. Afrojack, “Reach”
BJ the Chicago Kid, “Can’t Wait”
BJ the Chicago Kid ft. Anderson .Paak, “Feel the Vibe”
Chance the Rapper ft. En Vogue and Ari Lennox, “I Got You (Always and Forever)”
Drake ft. J.Cole, “Jodeci Freestyle”
Dreamville (EARTHGANG, Smino, Saba, J.Cole), “Sacrifices”
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib ft. Pusha T and Killer Mike, “Palmolive”
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib ft. Anderson.Paak, “Giannis”
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, “Practice”
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, “Flat Tummy Tea”
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, “Soul Right”
Marlon Craft, “Family”
Marlon Craft, “Gang S**t”
Maxo Kream, “Brenda”
Rapsody, “Nina”
Rapsody, “Cleo”
Rapsody, “Whoopi”
Rapsody ft. K.Roosevelt, “Maya”
Rapsody ft. SiR & JID, “Iman”
Rapsody ft. J.Cole, “Sojourner”
Rapsody ft. PJ Morton, “Afeni”
Rick Ross ft. Gunplay, “Nobody’s Favorite”
SiR ft. Kendrick Lamar, “Hair Down”
Snoop Dogg, “Focused”
YBN Cordae, “Wintertime”
YBN Cordae ft. Pusha T, “Nightmares Are Real”
YBN Cordae, “Thanksgiving”

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July 2019 New Music

August 4, 2019

HEAVY ROTATION (3+ listens)

BJ the Chicago Kid1123

DreamvilleRevenge of the Dreamers 3

NasThe Lost Tapes 2

SOLID ROTATION (1+ listens)

Big KRITK.R.I.T. IZ HERE

Blood OrangeAngel’s Pulse

Chance the RapperThe Big Day

YBN CordaeThe Lost Boy

Devin the DudeStill Rollin’ Up Somethin’ to Ride With

Ed SheeranNo. 6 Collaborations

Maxo KreamBrandon Banks

SOME ROTATION (haven’t heard whole album)

Berner & Curren$yPheno Grigio

Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquireMr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire

Murs and 9th WonderBrighter Daze

Purple MountainsPurple Mountains

Various ArtistsThe Lion King soundtrack

TOO NEW

DJ Muggs & CRIMEAPPLEMedallo

NFThe Search

Scarlet ParkeFlight Risk

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

DreamvilleRevenge of the Dreamers 3 – There’s a chance that YBN Cordae made the best album of July (it’s dope), but I’ve only listened to it once all the way through so far, so I guess I’ll go with the album I listened to and enjoyed the most. J.Cole and co. just make good music. Buddy, JID, and Cozz are all over this album and if you’ve been sleeping on them, it’s time to go check out their last projects because all three of these dudes can RAP. It’s possible that Dreamville has even taken over Top Dawg Entertainment as the label I’m most excited about.

TOP FIVE

2. YBN CordaeThe Lost Boy – This is a smooth ass album with solid production. YBN Cordae sounds at home on the mic and has plenty of content. I’ve only made it through the album once so far, but I really liked it and I can see multiple songs making my Bangerz playlist. The track with Anderson.Paak is already on there. I’d never heard of this guy and wouldn’t think to check for him, but I read some good stuff and he has really surprised me by making a very enjoyable and cohesive album.

3. NasThe Lost Tapes 2 – This is some unreleased material from a top 10 rapper of all-time and it’s pretty good. His first Lost Tapes was an instant classic and this one doesn’t match up to that, but there’s still plenty of good stuff on here.

4. Maxo KreamBrandon Banks – Another dude I’ve never heard of that is pretty damn good at rapping. I’ve only listened to this once through so I’m still digesting, but there wasn’t much I didn’t like the first time through. A definite recommendation.

5. Devin the DudeStill Rollin’ Up Somethin’ to Ride With – 21 years and 10 studio albums in and Devin is still going strong. I’m not a weed smoker so I’m not vibing with Devin’s music on that level, but it hardly matters. This is chill background music that’s perfect to have one while playing poker. “Somethin’ to Ride With” is insane. It has about a two minute stretch in between vocals with just the beat playing and it is AWESOME.

2019 Bangerz Playlist Additions

Berner & Curren$y ft. Kokane, “Gangsta S**t”
BJ the Chicago Kid ft. JID and Buddy, “Get Away”
Devin the Dude, “Somethin’ to Ride With”
Dreamville, “1993”
J.Cole (Dreamville), “Middle Child”
Nas, “Tanasia”
Reason and Cozz (Dreamville), “LamboTruck”
YBN Cordae ft. Anderson.Paak, “RNP”
YBN Cordae ft. Arin Ray, “Family Matters”

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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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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.