Year Of The Dog, Again

Artist: DMXTitle: Year Of The Dog, AgainRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Eb Haynes

There is only one word to describe DMX; raw. As a rapper, actor or the man Earl Simmons, the gritty and passionate delivery felt in all his music, seven albums, is birth from the streets. Year of the Dog, Again (Ruff Ryders/Columbia) commemorates the grimy hood wearing Lords of the Underground/Naughty by Nature days, armed with baseball bats, rockin' Timberlands, huddled in hyped ciphers sharing war stories of fatherless homes and boasting of robbing a rapper or becoming a rapper. DMX, the seemingly volatile, God fearing, former stick-up kid, father and husband, representing for the streets should be the focus of Hip-Hop—its roots. Not the superficial hyperbole riddled in the genre today. DMX rants on a feverish, Swizz Beatz produced "We In Here", "Prada/Gucci/Escada and Louis Vuitton/Come on/What's really goin' on?"

Musically, there are few yet necessary unions, Dre and Snoop, Pharrell and Clipse, Kanye and Common, DMX and Swizz. The mosh pit, energized music the two breed, epitomizes the Dog's ferocious bite on Year of the Dog. With 20 million units sold, the duo is unparalleled. Other talented producers such as Dame Grease ("Life Be My Song") lend introspective moments to the 15-track album. Scott Storch hones in on DMX's maturing zeal with the impressive "Lord Give Me a Sign".

DMX has never been an MC to hit his audience with a lot of word play. He is succinct. If he's cross with a situation, he's likely to hit first, growl, then walk away. DMX continues with this formula, suitable to his conflicted mentality which he affirms on "Give 'Em What They Want", kicking, "Y'all niggas don't know pain/Cause y'all niggas don't know me/And that's my name." Busta Rymes provides a brilliant performance on the amplified "Come Thru (Move)". Faithful to his Ruff Ryder family, Jadakiss and Styles P. charm an appropriately titled "It's Personal".

"Wrong or Right" and "Walk These Dogs" are lukewarm tracks for the Dog. The former is rock/funk inspired while the latter is a late seventies disco groove meets early NWA while "Baby Motha" is an uncomfortable saga. However, DMX is flawless as DMX. He has carved his own niche, perfecting his brand of unfiltered aggression. Legions of DMX loyalist will not be disappointed.