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London Stratford Rex

Woah!

London Stratford Rex

With a healthy arrest record and enough felonies to fill a cell several times over, DMX's authentic street thug reputation precedes him. And when you witness the half-man, half-snarling pit bull in the flesh, you can see why.

DMX is so far ahead of the field tonight, so energetic, vibed-up and wired, it seems his multimillion record sales over in the States have only spurred him on. Most people exposed to the kind of attention showered on Earl Simmons (D's real name) would just turn up to gain the kudos, but this possessed man, in his alter ego roles as party host and demonic underlord, has something to prove.

No props adorn the stage beyond a turntable for a trusty DJ sidekick to chop up electronic breakbeats. And while we may be disappointed the curtain doesn't rise to reveal DMX in a huge bath full of human blood (like he usually is on his sleeves), he more than fills the vast area with a call-and-response approach that initially belies his blood'n'gore persona. "Where my dogs at?", is all this member of the Ruff Ryders clique has to ask, for the smartly dressed hardcore crowd to explode with appreciation.

But there is the other side to D - a darker, more reflective side concealed behind his trademark bark. This is the man who grew up on the streets, who prefers the company of dogs to humans, who has seen unspeakable things and who once had to take shelter in a church's basement when homeless. As evidenced by the melancholic strains of 'Slippin'', (where ghosts call the protagonist to cross the Styx river and join them), and the closing a cappella 'Prayer' (a soliloquy to an unseen God), all is not exactly well in DMX's garden.

He's here to party, move the crowd and to bullshit, though. To carve back some dignity and territory lost to him in America. And, the near impossible task of being even more effective live than on record is accomplished on the rowdy 'Party Up' and the self-aggrandising 'What's My Name?'. For someone who thinks everyone is out to hurt him, DMX is gifted with an astounding confidence. Woah!

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