After starting with DMX's sophomore record "Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood" we rewind to his debut released earlier the same year. Its widely regarded as his best, a commonality for Hip Hop debuts. Hearing X's wild and ferocious flow for the first time would certainly give listeners a strong attachment to this record but Its the records production and beats that give it more juice, not to mention the banging "Ruff Ryders' Anthem" kicking off the album and X's debut track "Get At Me Dog" beefing up the track listing with two of his best. They both showcase two sides to this record caught between the early and late 90s sounds, some sampling oriented beats and a lot of programmed instrumentals.
The album really comes into its own with "X Is Coming", a dark and harrowing song where X says some very sketchy things in the name of blowing up his persona and extremities of his rap style. It introduces slick drum arrangements with mafioso string sections, creating an air of powerful, menacing criminality. The following "Damien" introduces a character who features on the following record. Its a narration between X and his thoughts, or better yet the evil voice in his mind that leads him to bad places and situations. He gives Damien his own voice, a hazel, high pitched inflection that has the tone for malicious intent and we follow the two talking back and forth in conversation.
Between his vibrant WHAT!s, alarming barks and menacing growls, X's flow is energetic and easy to follow. The words roll effortless and come at a hyped pace. He's more impressive with the energy he gives and the knack for fiery hooks than his lyrical word play. A notable trait is to change the tone of his voice when shifting back and forth in the narrative. His story telling is fluid, blunt and raw, sound effects of screams and sirens painting a hellish criminal vision on the cinematic "ATF".
Hes no wordsmith but its the unleashed, unfiltered character that really sells it and with the nefarious instrumentals the elements feel in the right place on this record although its production is a little mixed in the beginning. There's a cover of Phill Collins' "In The Air Tonight" which is a very memorable re-imagining of Phill's timeless hit. As great as this record is, I do feel like X could deliver a little more, hes got such a great style but his lyrics fall flat when unfocused and drifting into foul mouthed, violent braggadocio. Either way I loved this record, I'm sure it will grow on me more with time.
Favorite Songs: Ruff Ryders' Anthem, Get At Me Dog, X Is Coming, "Damien", Stop Being Greedy, ATF, For My Dogs, I Can Feel It