Earl Simmons—better known as DMX— was a force to be reckoned with in rap music at the turn of the century.
The Yonkers, New York rapper—who passed away on Friday at 50 years old after being hospitalized for a heart attack last week—came onto the scene in the '90s with one of the most unique voices to ever grace the radio.
He had a direct and commanding presence on the mic, such as early as guest appearances to learning five consecutive multi-platinum albums that he released in 1998.
X impacted the direction of a distinct era in hip hop, and his catalog has proven time and time again to be one of passion and profound performance.
Without further ado, here are 10 of the best DMX tracks to listen to this weekend in honor of his legacy.
1) LL Cool J featuring Method Man, Redman, Canibus, and DMX, “4, 3, 2, 1,” released in 1997
LL Cool J’s hit from his 1997 album phenomenon is not only an integral moment in inaugurating Def Jam’s Survival of the Illest” era in the late ‘90s; it had many punch lines in it from rappers Method Man, Redman, and DMX.
DMX’s verse is packed with energy as he shouts, “And it’s better to live/Let me get what’s in your sock, ‘cause it’s better to give.”
Additionally, as the world started to be aware of DMX’s hospitalization, LL Cool J took to Twitter to say the following: “Today is 4/3/21 — it’s only right that we celebrate the talent and genius of my brother DMX on the 4, 3, 2, 1 song. We love you X get well fast.”
2) “X Gon Give It To Ya,” released in 2003
Since the song was released, “X Gon Give It To Ya” has remained relevant through the years thanks to movies such as Marvel’s Deadpool and television. The song is one of DMX’s most pop-esque songs, dishing out his hyper-aggressive minimalism into a 3 1/2 minute track with taunts that make you surrender, especially when he says, “This rap s*** is mine, m************/It’s not a f****** game.”
3) “We Right Here,” released in 2001
In the early ‘00s, DMX’s public and personal life was circulating in the press. His first single from his fourth solo LP, The Great Depression, allowed him to reclaim a spot as one of rap’s biggest and brightest stars.
“Bring it! WHAT!/We right here/We’re not going anywhere,” he says over bass, percussion, and slight keys by producer Black Key.
Moreover, the song wasn’t the biggest hit with those who are used to over-the-top club rages.
4) DMX featuring Sheek Louch, “Get at Me Dog,” released in 1998
Despite his legacy in the music industry, many DMX fans didn’t realize that he struggled to make his big break in the industry. He left a failed Columbia single deal in 1992 for the “Born Loser.”
It makes sense as to why his first major hit was of him portraying a criminal who hustled for survival.
“I rob and I kill, not because I want to, ’cause I have to,” he raps. “’Cause nowadays, gettin’ by is nothing more than an occasional meal and gettin’ high.” Sheek Louch from the Lox on the chorus said, “Get at Me Dog.” The song ended up becoming a gold-selling top 40 hit.
5) “What’s My Name,” released in 1999
DMX has always been concise, with his easily shoutable lyrics. Few songs, however, matched the simplicity of this single in his catalog.
With Irv Gotti to help craft the single with piano notes, the rapper yells, “ What’s my name? DMX!” as he hurls threats like “Stop talkin’ s***” and “make cowards disappear into thin air.”
6) The LOX featuring DMX and Lil Kim, “Money, Power & Respect” (1998)
To this day, there is a divided opinion on whether or not The LOX’s debut album was a failed attempt at a combination of Yonkers hardcore and Diddy’s bad boy Jiggy rhetoric. There isn’t a debate on whether or not this track is a banger, with stand-up performances from Lil Kim on the hook and a 16-bar gem with Jadakiss.
Then DMX, who was on the road to taking over the music industry with his debut LP, delivered sharp words to close out the track.
“You think I’m playin’?/‘Til you laying somewhere in a junkyard decaying?” he growled. The song reached the top 20 and is one of Lox’s most successful songs to date.
Fun fact: The LOX eventually left Bad Boy Records to join Ruff Ryders Entertainment, the label X was signed to.
7) “It’s All Good,” released in 1998
There’s something always cool about sampling groovy Beats from the ‘70s and ‘80s. In this rap, DMX rhymes over Taana Gardner’s 1981 classic “Heartbeat.”
This was an incredible crossover between hardcore rap and vintage disco music when this wasn’t readily accepted as cool.
He goes on to boast about loving groupies with darkly humorous elements.
“I like ‘em greedy/Black like Idi/Eyes beady and willing to give to the needy.”
8) “Prayer (Skit),” released in 1998
It’s no secret that during this time period, skits on raps were a prevalent thing. And on his 1998 debut, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, he offers a prayer that serves as the mission statement for the entire course of his career.
Whether people realize it or not, exit music was always rooted in having faith, and his work serves as a reminder of the transformative power that religion can have when it’s not used as a weapon.
With the enormous amount of passion and the goal of seeking redemption in the song, we really get a glimpse into the essence of his soul.
“So if it takes for me to suffer, for my brother to see the light/Give me pain till I die, but please, Lord, treat him right,” he says.
9) “Ruff Ryders Anthem,” released in 1998
First and foremost, DMX is one of the few rappers to sound fantastic over Swizz Beatz keyboard loops.
“Oh, you think it’s funny?/Then you don’t know me, money, ” he raps.
Interestingly enough, he didn’t want to write the song.
“I actually didn’t want to write it. I didn’t want to do that song. The beat was simple and repetitive. So many other songs had so much substance, and this song was like, f****** ABCs, like elementary,” he said in a 2019 interview for GQ.
The simplicity turned out to be fruitful though, which gave him more room to really flex his lyrical abilities.
10) “Party Up (Up in Here),” released in 1999
It’s safe to say that DMX and Swizz Beatz had a very fruitful creative partnership that peaked with “Party Up,” a lively hit from his quintuple platinum album ...And Then There Was X. From the moment the song starts playing, you can hear a bunch of synthesizers and shrieking whistles, and X shouting a whole bunch of insults on “broke,” “weak,” and “whining” enemies.