Grand Champ

Artist: DMXTitle: Grand ChampRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Jayson Rodriguez

When DMX burst onto the scene in the late ‘90s, his brazen flow and rabid lyrics bit the industry in the ass and solidified his spot as the top dog in the post Biggie/2pac era of rap. And X reaped the benefits that two number one albums in the same year brought. But as Dark Man X went from the vocal booth to the big screen, his bark became the main feature, while his bite—such as the case on Grand Champ—was left on the cutting room floor.

For the third album in a row, DMX continues to tell his naysayers all he did was “take a pause/ did a couple of movies/ and you thought this whole rap shit was yours?” But on “Dogs Out,” he falters with weak similes such as: “I run through niggas like hallways with the cops behind.” Punctuated with an off-hand remark about Ja Rule, the track does little to support his boasts. There are, however, a few bright spots on the album where X proves he’s still capable of carrying a track on his back like his One Love Boomer tat. “A’yo Kato,” finds the Dark Man eulogizing a lost homie with potent thug poetry over a flute-laden backdrop.

Of course, these performances appear few and far in between, and more often than not they come courtesy of the guest appearances. A bland reinterpretation of “No Love 4 Me,” titled “Rob All Night,” comes off sounding like a bad version of “Planet Rock.” The hack production job is replete with lyrics that are equally amateurish. First, X laments, “98 percent of the industry is faggots.” Before concluding: “Stupid little niggas don’t want no static/ when they say who shot J.R. it won’t be Dallas.”

Most of the material on the album suffers from hollow lyrics and a lack of varying themes. This is a problem for DMX, because he is not the most lyrically dexterous rapper in the first place. And it becomes increasingly apparent amid the excess adlibs, barks and myriad of vocal inflections. If X is to regain the bite that drove him to the top, it’d help if he’d return to drawing from his own life experiences, which propelled his earlier works. Because he’s proven he can deliver on that without reading from any Hollywood script.

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