Monday, September 29, 2014

"2 In 1": Revisiting DMX's "...And Then There Was X" and "The Great Depression"

After two back to back excellent, successful albums, DMX returned one year later with album number three, "...And Then There Was X". Of course, I really anticipated this album, especially after his first two. Let's dive right on in!


Release date: December 21, 1999 (I bought this on December 28, along with Jay-Z's "Vol.3... The Life and Times of S. Carter", which was the actual release date of Jay's 4th album, a newer copy of Wu-Tang's "Enter The Wu-Tang 36 Chambers", and a portable CD player.)




1. THE KENNEL (SKIT)
Beware of the dog.
"It is not a fuckin' game!!!" -DMX


2. ONE MORE ROAD TO CROSS
PRODUCED BY SWIZZ BEATZ

"One more road to cross, one more risk to take/Gotta live my life like it's one more move to make"


This was a very good way to open the album. While the title and the hook above would suggest an introspective look, this was slightly all over the place, with the first two verses being story driven and the third verse being close to what this song really should've been about.
*4 out of 5*


3. THE PROFESSIONAL
PRODUCED BY P. KILLER TRACKZ

In short, if you're in the wrath of X, you could get it at any time. If X had a role in a movie as a hitman, this would be the theme. And speaking of movies, it'll be more on that topic a little later in this post,, but as it stands, this was another good song.
*4 out of 5*


4. FAME
PRODUCED BY GREASE

Loyal reader, I'll be referring to my mom often during this particular album, so I'm letting you know that up front, lol. I always thought this was a very good song, but I like this one a little more than the average person because of the nostalgia, in that when my mom played this album (I recorded it on a blank tape for her, told you she was an X fan, lol), this was one song she used to play a lot, dance to, AND sing a bit of the hook! I also liked how the beat starts normally, then once you're starting to get into the song, the beat changes up, really adding a little something extra. An admitted bias here plays a strong role in the rating, yes indeed!
*5 out of 5*



5. A LOT TO LEARN (SKIT)
A very brief skit, which finds X and a guy chatting. He's all about the money and getting it by any means. X simply says "stay loyal and it'll come, keep it real". The guy bypasses that advice, and after X takes his blunt back (lol), he says "you got a lot to learn dog" and he was right.

6. HERE WE GO AGAIN
PRODUCED BY SHOK

X is playing the role of mentor here. This is the familiar story of the veteran helping out a young upstart, facing all the trials and tribulations along the way, told in true X fashion.
*4 out of 5*

7. PARTY UP
PRODUCED BY SWIZZ BEATZ


Oh man, this joint, the second single released from the album, was a HIT back in 99 and 2000 and in addition to the "DMX" name itself, it was this song that sold this album and it worked in spades. And who can forget the energetic hook:

"Y'all gon make me lose my mind, up in here, up in here
Y'all gon make me go all out, up in here, up in here
Y'all gon make me act a fool, up in here, up in here
Y'all gon make me lose my cool, up in here, up in here"


Just about everything with this song worked and I guarantee you if you throw it on at a party today, you're bound to see a packed dancefloor..... with my mom on it, lol!! Speaking of my mom, man she LOVED this song back then and she still loves it today. I consider this a classic and it certainly has aged well, definitely one of his greatest hits.
*5 out of 5*

 

8. MAKE A MOVE
PRODUCED BY P. KILLER TRACKZ

This was more or less a continuation of "The Professional". Decent, but nothing more.
*3 out of 5*


9. WHAT THESE BITCHES WANT
FEATURING SISQO
PRODUCED BY NOKIO

Going into this album, I remember already not giving this song a chance because of the Sisqo feature. At the time, I only knew ONE guy who was a fan of Sisqo (and if he's reading this, he knows who I'm referring to, lol), but I wasn't. Furthermore, I recall a time when he would get a little heated when people didn't have too many good things to say about Sisqo, especially when it came to this song ("calm down and just listen to the song", he would say, lol). When I finally listened to it for the first time, I didn't hate it, but I thought it was ok for what it was, plus Sisqo didn't help or hurt the song.
*3 out of 5*

10. WHAT'S MY NAME
PRODUCED BY SELF AND IRV GOTTI



Hot damn, as the album's first single, this was a hell of a banger and one of my top 5 favorite DMX songs ever. The energy, lyrics, hook, you name it, all of that was present here, complete with a DOPE video. Plus, my mom enjoyed the hell out of this song, almost more than I did, lol. Classic DMX here.
*5 out of 5*
 


11. MORE 2 A SONG
PRODUCED BY P. KILLER TRACKZ

Yes indeed, there's clearly more to life than money, jewelry, clothes, women, etc. Even in the mid-late 90s, this was an issue, but it would only get worse as the 2000s arrived, especially within hip hop, and I understood the points X was making. Oh yeah, this line:

"Who you really think give a fuck how much your watch cost/How much your watch cost? You bout to get your watch lost"


I was in the 10th grade at the time this album came out, and I recall a few of my friends suggesting that X was "dissin" Jay-Z with the lines above. I shook my head and laughed then and now at the ridiculous suggestion, lol. First, at this point in hip hop, Jay was hardly the only MC/rapper talking about his jewelry and the costs associated. Second, even though there may have been some friendly competition (and a little tension) between the two, there was nothing to suggest that X was going at Jay here. I mean HE WAS IN THE "WHAT'S MY NAME" video (lol), so overall the thought made no sense to me.
*4 out of 5*

12. DON'T YOU EVER
PRODUCED BY SWIZZ BEATZ

Another good, apply titled song here. Naw, you don't want it wit' D, lol.
*4 out of 5*


13. THE SHAKEDOWN (SKIT)

14. D-X-L (HARD WHITE)
FEATURING THE LOX AND DRAG-ON
PRODUCED BY GREASE

"I put 16 above ya neck, I love my set/Niggas think they a thug, then thug to death/Cause the P gonna squeeze til no slugs is left/You know I'm good wit a hundred of dro, gun, and an O/You think your shit is butta? Hop in front of this toast" -Styles P

"Bet you never even felt the heat/Til I put the M1 next to your waves and melt the grease" -Jadakiss


Ruff Ryders on the set! Usually when some combination of these five got on a track, the results were dope, which is the case here. They go in on the nice track provided by Grease, plus it seemed like whenever X was on a song with more than 3 artists, he came through more harder than usual, truly a competitive MC, nothing wrong with that. Also, it didn't occur to me till now that "D-X-L" (apparently) stood for "Drag-On-X (DMX)-Lox", lol.
*5 out of 5*



15. COMIN' FOR YA
PRODUCED BY SWIZZ BEATZ

This song was ok, but I could've done without the somewhat silly hook.
*3 out of 5*


16. PRAYER III



17. ANGEL
FEATURING REGINA BELL
PRODUCED BY IRV GOTTI

This deep, excellent song follows in the same steps as "The Convo" and "Ready To Meet Him", so you can basically say this is the third part, also featuring a nice hook delivered by Ms. Regina Bell. X is again talking to "his God" about where he's at in his life and where he plans to go. The best song on the album.
*5 out of 5*
 


*18. GOOD GIRLS, BAD GUYS
FEATURING DYME
PRODUCED BY P. KILLER TRACKZ AND CHARLY "SHUGA BEAR" CHARLES

"Angel" was the best way to close this album, but we got this as a "bonus track". It's decent and when you look at the title, you already know what this is about, lol. "Why do good girls like bad guys?" Even after all these years, I still couldn't be able to tell you, lol.
*3 out of 5*



This album has aged a bit better. Overall, it was not on the level of his first two albums, but this is still a damn good DMX album (also my mom's favorite album from him, lol). Yes, this time around the sound was a little more mainstream, but X was still hot at this point and his aggressive charisma and undeniable energy made this work. The numbers didn't lie either, as the album moved 698,000 units in its first week, going on to achieve a 6X Platinum certification, remaining his best selling album, plus a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album in 2001. I initially gave this 3.5 stars, but I'm upping it to 4 stars.





Going into his 4th album, DMX was still a hot commodity in hip hop (even with things changing around him). While he didn't release an album in 2000, he still made guest appearances and notably beginning to get what some would call "that movie money". X's presence begin to grace the silver screen, becoming a respectable actor in the process. It all started with 1998's "Belly", which is a movie I NEVER liked to this day and you couldn't pay me to revisit it. He also had a supporting role in "Romeo Must Die" and I feel it was the Steven Seagal "comeback" film "Exit Wounds" that started to get him noticed more in terms of movie roles. Also, the month before this album was set to drop, he was a guest on Rap City's "The Basement", and I still remember Big Tigger asking him, "when it comes to the new album, which is it more comparable to (I'm paraphrasing here, lol)?" X pointed to "It's Dark And Hell Is Hot" (his first three albums were on a nearby table). That got me excited, but was that the case? We'll definitely see during this revisit. And with "Who We Be" and "We Right Here" blazing the radio and TV at the time, all during my senior year of high school, my anticipation level was high.



 Release date: October 23, 2001 (I bought this when it first came out.)




1. SOMETIMES
A 1:06 spoken word sends us on our way into.....


2. SCHOOL STREET
PRODUCED BY DAMON "GREASE" BLACKMAN

"School Street, home of the brave..... that's where I'm from"


Yes indeed, and this Dame Grease produced banger sets right tone for the album. The song sees X throw it up for where he comes from, as well as sending shoutouts to fam and friends still here (circa 2001) and those that have passed away.
*4 out of 5* 


3. WHO WE BE
ADDITIONAL VOCALS BY DUSTIN ADAMS
PRODUCED BY BLACK KEY, CO-PRODUCED BY MELVIN "HIP" ARMSTEAD



Oh man, this joint brings back memories right here. As mentioned, this was heavily on the radio and TV in late 2001, instantly taking me back to my senior year in high school, and of course it still bangs. I also want to bring up the criticism I heard a lot of at the time. A lot of people I knew always pointed out how dope the song was, but could not figure out what X was talking about. I understood where they came from, but even then I just enjoyed the song for what it was and never really tried to go/dig deeper than that. When it comes to pure nostalgia, it's a "5 out of 5", the song itself is a "4 out of 5", so in this instance I'll split the rating. (Fact: I didn't know until now that this song was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance. Wow, interesting.)
*4.5 out of 5*



4. TRINA MOE
PRODUCED BY DAMON "GREASE" BLACKMAN

To this day I still don't know what the hell "trina moe" is or what it's supposed to be, lol, but it's all good. Standard X song here, a little better than what I remembered.
*3.5 out of 5*


5. WE RIGHT HERE
PRODUCED BY BLACK KEY



Ah, the memories I have when I hear this one, just like "Who We Be". I feel this is one of the more underrated songs in X's discography and it still sounds good today. "Bring it, what, we right here/We're not goin' anywhere, we right here!"
*5 out of 5*

 


6. BLOODLINE ANTHEM
ADDITIONAL VOCALS BY DIA
PRODUCED BY DMX AND KIDD KOLD

Bloodline Records was shaping up to be X's new label to put on some up and coming talent, starting with Dia (who also does a good job here), and I'll have more to say about that during the closing. As for this song, it's pretty good and the rock vibes were a nice touch.
*4 out of 5*


7. SHORTY WAS DA BOMB
PRODUCED BY DAMON "GREASE" BLACKMAN

This was all about X and his "adventures" with the ladies, nothing more or less.
*3 out of 5*


8. DAMIEN III
PRODUCED BY P.K.

This was the third installment in the Damien series and it's unofficial end. Damien notably points out that X didn't shout him out on the 3rd album in a funny bit. It all culminates with X coming to the conclusion that, while it took him some time, he knows what this guy is all about and after about a year or so, he's out of his life (to which Damien replies "sike!", lol). Then again, maybe this was the official "blowoff" to the Damien series after all and it was more fast paced than parts 1 and 2.
*5 out of 5*



9. WHEN I'M NOTHING
FEATURING STEPHANIE MILLS
PRODUCED BY DMX AND DAMON "GREASE" BLACKMAN

For starters, the Stephanie Mills hit,  "Whatcha Gonna Do (With My Lovin') , was sampled nicely for this song, including an equally nice hook by Ms. Mills, however, with hindsight being 20/20, considering the nature of the song, I feel this was a waste of a Stephanie Mills guest appearance. Don't get me wrong, it's still a good song, but I feel it would've been better with a different direction and subject matter.
*4 out of 5*


10. I MISS YOU
FEATURING FAITH EVANS
PRODUCED BY KIDD KOLD

This VERY heartfelt tribute to X's grandmother, Mary Ella Holloway, is exactly how a tribute to one's grandmother should sound, especially when she has passed away. VERY well done all around.
*5 out of 5*



And this one is for Ms. Mary Ella Holloway....

 


11. NUMBER 11
PRODUCED BY P.K.

I guess X couldn't come up with another title for this song, so "Number 11", even if a bit lazy, lol, won out in the end, lol. Nothing we haven't heard before and done better quite frankly.
*3 out of 5*


12. PULL UP (SKIT)

13. I'MA BANG
PRODUCED BY JUST BLAZE

At this point, Just Blaze was starting to make a lot of noise behind the boards, so when I saw his name in an album insert, I was expecting a banger. This one didn't pack the punch I was looking for, but overall it was a very good song.
*4 out of 5*


14. PULL OUT (SKIT)

15. YOU COULD BE BLIND 
FEATURING MASHONDA
PRODUCED BY SWIZZ BEATZ

Oh man, my long time friend Kentyl LOVED this song back in the day and I'm sure he would lose his mind if I threw it on today, lol. Towards the end of the album, we finally get something with Swizz (as well as Mashonda's debut, Swizz's ex-wife too), and again another very good one.
*4 out of 5*


16. THE PRAYER IV



17. A MINUTE FOR YOUR SON
PRODUCED BY SWIZZ BEATZ

X comes through with his dedication to the almighty God and if you liked "The Convo", "Ready To Meet Him", and "Angel", you'll like this one. This would've been a great way to close the album, but instead we get some additional material.
*5 out of 5*



*Continuing after the previous song (it's not sequenced as 18, 19, and 20), we get some material highlighting some acts that were set to debut on Bloodline Records, including Jinx, Loose, Kashmir, and Big Stan, plus the Mysonne and Drag-On assisted "No Problems", and "Usual Suspects 2" with Mic Geronimo and Big Stan.)




When talking about this album, I've often heard people say "yeah it did depress me listening to it" , "yeah it was depressing", etc. I respect everyone's opinion, however, I disagreed then and I certainly disagree now. "The Great Depression" is nowhere near the level of X's first two albums, and it's about even with "...And Then There Was X", but this is not a bad album. X stuck with what he knew and did best, coming through with a 4 star album (up from my previous rating of 3.5), moving 439,000 units in its first week, going on to achieve a 3X Platinum certification . Looking back, I'll also say that after "Who We Be" and "We Right Here" left radio and TV, X began to cool off a bit, which had more to do with the changing nature of hip hop and somewhat less to do with X himself. Not surprisingly, aside from a few more guest appearances here and there, he took another break from hip hop and focused more on his acting career, respectively, not releasing another album until 2003's "Grand Champ", which will be covered next along with "Year of the Dog... Again".  And after this album, that was essentially it for Bloodline Records and to this day, I'm still not sure why it never got off the ground. As it stands, 13 years later, "The Great Depression" is a very good album, certainly not depressing to these ears. 

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