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The music of New York

Review: DMX Returns With The Weigh In

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    For those who were there, DMX's recent concert at New York hip-hop institution S.O.B.'s was nothing short of legendary. Looking no worse for wear after two recent prison stints, DMX prowled the stage, communicating in screams and barks, putting the thrill of life in the fully-packed room.

    It's tempting to say that, for the spiritually-inclined Yonkers MC, the evening was something of a salvation, even if only for a moment. However, the question remained: was DMX's new music any good?

    The Weigh In, DMX's recently-released mixtape, looks to clear up this question. We're dealing with a DMX who has indeed lost a step on the mic -- while prime X was never the nicest with his lyrics, he trended towards frenetic instrumentals that required less technique, and more plain tenacity to keep up with them.

    On The Weigh In, he mostly sticks to slower beats, growling over mid-tempo melodicisms. This isn't only weird, it feels below X -- he's out of place, warbling hooks on "That's My Baby," which features a Tyrese guest spot (why doesn't that dude sing more?). These aren't bad songs per se, but when juxtaposed with the truly iconic, era-defining music that DMX was responsible for, these songs do not hold up.
     
    “There’s a new sheriff in town, one that’s been re-elected,” DMX raps on “Where My Dogs At,” a Western-inflected tune that recalls the soundtrack work of Ennio Morricone. The beat stomps, and X rises to the occasion with his vintage intensity. “I’ll make you smile ear-to-ear like the Joker,” he continues, forcing the line into rap through sheer force of personality. It’s terrifying.

    It’s one of two songs that can run with the big dogs in DMX’s classic-filled catalog, including “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem,” “Party Up,” “Where Da Hood At?” and “X Gon’ Give It To Ya,” perhaps his most enduring hit.

    “Wright Or Wrong,” the mixtape’s closing track, recalls the insular, hookily paranoid world of his earlier work, a chorus of DMX’s chanting him on as he tries to talk himself back up to the heights he once ascended to. He opens the song with the couplet, “I’ve been doing this for a minute/So with or without you, I’mma get it,” expressing the same rugged self-reliance that made him a superstar.

    The Weigh In shouldn’t be taken as a full entry into DMX’s catalog; instead, consider it a document of a once-vital artist rediscovering his voice, finding what it means to be himself again. Sure, The Weigh In isn’t a good mixtape by any stretch of the imagination, but it contains one great song. For DMX, at this point, that’s good enough.