Making our way through the troubled rappers discography we arrive at his third and most commercially successful record. It shipped over ten million copies world wide no thanks to the massive hit "Party Up" and it being released in the prime of the industry's sales. Its not his best work but certainly has a more consistent tone about it. The instrumentals feeling very fitting one song to the next and X seems as ruthless and unforgiving as hes been so far. Its not to much effect however, beyond the savage nature of the stories told, his vocabulary doesn't expand much beyond a constant reliance on curse words which gets a bit tiresome where lyrical creativity is needed.
The albums theme has X diving deeper into stories of street life, painting an unapologetic image of him delving into crime, drugs and questionable behavior as he raps very directly about his experiences. They are often aimed at an individual, X threatening his actions through the music with violent imagery and insulting slurs. I'm probably focusing on the negative aspects as Ive heard him so frequently recently, his flow is still fantastic, wild, up beat and hyped with plenty of barking but it still feels like the lyrical content isn't anywhere near as exciting. On "What's My Name" he gets the hook just right to make one my favorite DMX songs thanks to a fantastic instrumental, however the records best raps come from The Lox on "D-X-L".
The production is tight, consistent and a little denser than before. Another set of programmed instrumentals and drum kits take a step forward with a shade more complexity and depth in the various arrangements. The drum loops are loaded with more cymbals and hi-hats, alongside them strings, pianos and various synths set the setting for X's dark criminal raps. Its got the atmosphere down but far from being special. Just a solid collection of beats from start to end with a hint of mafioso.
My one big turn off is "Prayer III", X's spoken word piece, a conversation with god that's featured on each record. This time it feels a little contrived and illogical for him to acknowledge his influence on his potentially impressionism audience, accepting his success and fame as a gift in the wake of his troubled behavior and antics. I'm not keen on this way of thinking, its enabling but I'm not here to cast judgement, just making observations from my perspective. Good record but only has a couple of sparks.
Favorite Tracks: The Professional, Part Up, What's My Name, D-X-L