DMX . . . And Then There Was X Def Jam/Ruff Ryders
It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, DMX's 1998 debut, is too lurid and trashy to be considered a classic by most. But it lodged deeply, the appeal persisting through two imitative successors nowthe new . . . And Then There Were Was X is notable mainly for the novelty "Good Girls, Bad Guys." Maybe we'd better broaden our definition of classic to include archetypes so necessary that no one cares if the originality dries up. As a performer, DMX is magnificent: His voice wheedles and bellows, takes on animal qualities and even a Howdy Doody squeak (for the devil). The words aren't especially graceful, but, drawing on all those battle rhymes, they're preached, hectoring, discursive. The music of the Ruff Ryders crew of producers (notably Swizz Beatz, a nephew of the Deans) matches his energy: driving, loud, with a bounce and a recoil. "It's some simple shit," says Gotti. "But that simple shit really wins, man."