Review: DMX “…And Then There Was X” (1999)
The dogs most successful album sees him at the apex of his career and continues his platinum selling album streak.
In 1999 DMX was on top of the world. His last two albums, both released in 1998 debuted at the top of the charts, he was starring in movies like Hype Willams’ Belly, received extensive coverage on MTV and his Ruff Ryders label was turning the hip hop world upside down with their videos from artists such as Eve and The LOX. After two highly successful albums it seemed like DMX could go no further… and then there was X.
His third album …And Then There Was X, recorded largely in Miami, Florida became the most successful album of his career. With 698,000 copies sold in its first week, for the third time in a row DMX debuted at #1 on the Billboard and had massive hit singles, the first being the triumphant “What’s My Name?” With this album DMX and the Ruff Ryders capped off the most successful 18 month run for any artist in hip hop, possibly even recording history.
By the time the aforementioned lead single “What’s My Name” comes up in the album we can see that this third album serves as DMX’s victory lap in the rap game. The keys on the piano while DMX screams into our ears “You think it’s a fucking game!?” leading into the triumphant sounding horns over the banging bass, we see where X is standing, on top of the fucking world. He’s already proven he can make hits and keep his name on the charts with two highly successful albums, huge features, a cult film and a loyal team behind him, X is running circles around everyone else in hip hop at the turn of the century.
…And Then There Was X boasts some of the most powerful beats the production team in the Ruff Ryders camp had made at the time, utilizing producers from previous albums Dame Grease, P.K. and Swizz Beatz. The competition growing between these producers seemed to pay off for X as it crafted songs like “One More Road To Cross,” “D-X-L (Hard White),” and the mountainous “Party Up (Up In Here).”
A hit like “Party Up” is one that comes around maybe once in a lifetime. It’s such a perfect track for any party to get hyped up or just to get the show going and make the crowd go absolutely ape shit. It deserves the status it maintains over the years as DMX’s most famous song because it defined how infectious his energy was. When X started telling people “Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind up in here” the listener proceeded to follow in his steed. It really made people do some of the most ignorant shit I’ve ever witnessed in my life.
Looking at this album objectively, I must note some of low points with a number of the tracks that weren’t hits. “The Professional” is probably my least favorite despite DMX’s creative lyricism, it just sounds too much like a fantasy song. No doubt DMX lived a rough life and it’s well documented he was rapping and robbing before he made it big but I don’t take X for a cold blooded killer. The song reminds me of stories “The Iceman” Richard Kuklinski would tell. The thing about DMX was he was all about expressions of reality, not really fantasy. Also I can’t help but hear lyrical similarities between “Fame” and “Let Me Fly” from his debut but I digress. Despite all of that the album doesn’t fall apart with lesser tracks such as these, it’s still an overall enjoyable listen.
In all honesty I used to hate “What These Bitches Want” featuring Sisqo but in terms of the listening experience I think its still earns the title of being a standout track. His second verse which names several girls also became one of the funniest memes in the last few years and to me spotlights how funny DMX was as a rapper. Do I like overlooking misogyny? No not at all. Is it an enjoyable song? Yes.
There’s some under appreciated gems on this album in my opinion as well like the Swizz Beatz produced “Don’t You Ever” and DJ Shok produced “Here We Go Again.” The most underappreciated song to my ears here has got to be the “D-X-L (Hard White)” which is another fantastic feature between X and The LOX. Anytime DMX stepped in the booth with any of the Ruff Ryder affiliated groups members he created absolute gold, it all started back with The LOX track “Money, Power, Respect.”
Overall, I think …And Then There Was X was and still remains another memorable album from DMX, probably the one people will be introduced to first because it contains his most successful hits. If I had to compare this with his previous two 90s albums, this would definitely come in last place. Despite all of that, it maintains its place in DMX’s discography by reminding fans and new listeners how incredible of an MC DMX was and caps one of the most spellbinding run of albums any artist has ever had.