Pitbulls. Nasty little pieces of work, aren�t they? I mean, they�re hardly the most friendly breed of dog. On top of that, they really aren�t even pleasing to the eye. For years, pitbulls have been bred (see: used and abused) for fighting, guard duty, and a variety of other oftentimes violent activities. Now then, can you think of anyone in the entire world who would actually enjoy
having these brutes around? Earl Simmons would. So, just who the hell is Earl Simmons? You know him as Dark Man X, The Divine Master of the Unknown, or simply as DMX. Mr. Simmons (hereinafter referred to by his stage name) has something of an obsession with pitbulls. He has a tattoo of a deceased dog of his, named Boomer, on his back. Unsurprisingly, the late Boomer was a pitbull. DMX has even gone to jail over these vicious canines. In 1998, after a raid on his Teaneck, NJ home, DMX was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, disorderly conduct, and animal cruelty. The last charge was due to the fact that he held fights between any number of his thirteen pitbulls in his basement. Well, dogs seem to have a great effect on DMX�s music: he talks about the constantly in his songs. However, they also provide him with a raw, insatiable anger, which makes for some damn fine hip-hop.
When DMX isn�t out breaking the law or playing Frisbee with his puppies, he�s out ruling the rap world. To date, DMX is the only rapper in history to have five consecutive albums debut at number one. As if that wasn�t enough, in many cases, DMX�s brand of growling, snarling hip-hop has transcended through several different musical genres, being readily accepted by fans of rock, metal, pop, and everything in-between. Now that�s certainly saying something. In addition to all this, he balances acting and movie/record producing careers, and is an avid philanthropist. The good he does seems to outweigh the acts of debauched, idiotic mayhem he seems to enjoy getting into so much. One of the best examples of such an act would be his impersonation of an American federal agent in 2004. While he might not be the most respectable cat in the biz (then again, how many rappers could you deign to be �respectable?�), he's among the most talented.
DMX�s latest release, 2003�s Grand Champ
is a fine example of what he can do. The album features DMX�s signature attitude, with plenty of dog-influenced segments. Hell, the album even has one of those lovely pitbulls on the cover. Grand Champ
exudes a sense of sheer hip-hop entitlement, and is guided at the reins most handily by its swaggering creator, DMX.
First of all, Dark Man X�s delivery is simply fantastic. He�s a man�s man, man. His deep, commanding voice casts what he calls a �spellbound� style of rapping, which he claims to have invented. You could equate his vocal style to that of a dog�s in human form: it�s harsh, guttural, yet has plenty of audibility for maximum sense appeal. In laymen�s terms: DMX�s bark can back up his bite. Oh, but what about said bite? That would probably come from the lyrics contained on Grand Champ
. Rancorous, profane, and extremely violent, the wordplay that can be found here is extremely addictive. DMX has an excellent sense of rhythm and flow, which is very evident on Grand Champ
. The lyrics range from anecdotes about arrests, to fictitious tales of gang wars, and even DMX�s assertions as being one of the most badass rappers in the hip-hop world. Well, anyone would get a big head if they drew comparisons to 2pac
and were credited with bringing about the return of hardcore gangsta rap. DMX is relatively accurate in his rather boisterous take on things: he�s solid hip-hop gold, and he doesn�t even have to mention his name every five seconds to leave an impression on people.
No good hip-hop album is complete without an impressive array of beats, melodies, and samplings. Well, that must mean that Grand Champ
is a good hip-hop album, because the music is really quite impressive. As you may expect, to fit in with the tone of an angry album, the instrumentation has to be angry as well. It is, and therefore meshes very well with DMX�s great wordplay and fantastic delivery. Grand Champ
just has a certain feeling of overall polish. This is rare for such a rash, balls-out hip-hop album (or any other album for that matter). It�s a nice change, and I wholeheartedly welcome it.
features its fair share of ambitiously emotive fight music. Songs such as �Where The Hood At,� �Dogs Out,� �Bring The Noize,� and �Rob All Night (If I�m Gonna Rob)� are exactly the kind of angst-ridden, pissed-at-everything offerings you expect from DMX. They�re ridiculously degrading, ridiculously violent, and ridiculously fun to listen to. You also have a variety of songs such as �The Rain,� �Don�t Gotta Go Home,� �The Prayer V� which are deeper songs, seemingly having more meaning and message. There�s even the inclusion of some fantastic work from some less-than-fantastic peers of DMX�s. Fantastic: Styles P
on �Shot Down,� Cam�ron
on �We Go Hard,� and Big Stan
on the bonus track, �On Top.� Less-than-fantastic- basically everything else; most notably Chinky
on �My Life� and 50 Cent
on �Shot Down.� Such as the songs have their ups and down, as to do the skits. These classic ways of filling in the cracks of hip-hop albums have usually served to accentuate a point, build a mood, or provide comedic relief. The skits on Grand Champ
are generally warnings and threats involving a variety of gunfire and explosions. Even though they aren�t supposed to, they may make you laugh; as the idea of a multi-platinum hip-hop artist throwing away his career for a couple of gun battles seems rather silly.
is quite the album. It�s only real criticisms stem from it�s lack of true innovation over previous works of DMX. That basically means that it�s very, very similar to his past albums. In this humble reviewer�s opinion, however, this does not detract from the experience one iota. What has been hailed as DMX�s greatest weakness is what I believe to be his greatest strength. Still, a little progress never hurt anyone, and perhaps his upcoming release The Year of the Dog�Again
will the slake the conformist lust of some of his fans. Let�s hope that in the future DMX keeps his similarities to his four-legged pals intact, without abusing said pals or pretending to be a spy or anything. Like I said, it would be a silly thing if he did something to get locked up for a long, long time.