DMX: The DEFinition of X—Pick Of The Litter

X gives it to you every time.  Despite Pick of the Litter’s (Def Jam) omissions both holy and not—“The Convo” and “The Omen”—this collection reminds us that DMX puts his guts into his music, whether it’s the pain or the peace; the faith or the violence. Ten years have passed since he dropped “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” and slugged it out on Survival of the Illest.  But X is still here because he’s sincere and talented, and his search for the real DMX is not a gimmick.To support him, X has rallying cries.  “Ruff Ryders Anthem,” with classic Swizzy production, and “Get at Me Dog” offered the hardest adrenaline shots out at the time, and still might cause a riot.  X finds solace in the Darkman here, forgetting about his problems and fighting to let loose.  This is the artist who needed an oxygen mask after collapsing during performances.  Classics from albums deemed forgettable—“Who We Be” from The Great Depression and “Where the Hood At” from Grand Champ—demonstrate the side of X that cares about the people around him.  Those discs are worth revisiting.  “Blackout” is another lost track too, where he gets down with Jada, Sheek, Styles, and Jigga, in a battle for status as New York’s grimiest.DMX is an unlikely pop star.  His records are filled with blood and religion and depict a man, to paraphrase X himself, running in place.  But he connects with people.  When he’s not reveling at the club or paying back his enemies, he is honest about his struggle.  His arrest sheet and consistency on the mic back up his persona.  No one has ever accused him of being contradictory because it’s contradictions that drive his music and make him real.  “Slippin’” endures as his career highlight and though not part of his “Prayer” series, offers his most simple plea:  “I can’t get up/Get me back on my feet so I can tear shit up.”  For ten years and counting, DMX still stands, and Pick of The Litter paints a picture of the dog that Hip-Hop loves.

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