It’s still tragic to hear that one of New York’s most prolific rappers of the ‘90s and ‘00s has passed away. However, before his death, DMX left behind a collection of tracks that have been put together and called ‘Exodus’; his first studio album in nine years. With a range of eclectic tales with some of his oldest and newest buds, ‘Exodus’ was clearly meant to be a new start for the 50-year-old, which unfortunately couldn’t be seen through. Here are 10 of some of the biggest talking points of the late Ruff Ryder’s album.
DMX made this whole album months before his death
‘Exodus’ isn’t your typical posthumous record. DMX had consciously chosen every feature on this album to work with and every one was finished with him in the room, so sonically everything is what DMX would have wanted us to hear. Listening to ‘Exodus’, you can truly hear a newer side of the Yonkers native. There are a bunch of traditional hip-hop beats used on tracks like ‘Hood Blues’, but DMX switched it up and rapped over contemporary R&B on ‘Walking In The Rain’ and got sensual on ‘Take Control’ with Snoop Dogg. Oddly enough, with all these different sounds on the album, DMX still sounds like DMX – but then again, how could he not without his signature deep tone?
The title is beautiful
Since DMX was on his newly found religious journey, many would think that the name is just a Biblical reference, and that DMX didn’t have to look far to get the name. Also, Exodus could refer to DMX’s last-born child, who we hear all on the record’s interludes. But to summarise the book of Exodus, in the Bible or Torah: it’s a story all about freedom, and on his eighth studio album, that seems to be DMX’s main focus.
Pop Smoke didn’t get to be on the album
Whilst talking to HipHopDX about ‘Exodus’, DMX was so excited to tell the world that he was working with some new guys from the boroughs – like some sort of passing the baton to them. But one nuggets that really prickled most ears was the idea that Carnasie’s Woo star Pop Smoke was going to be on the album. The 21-year-old passed violently last year, and rap has missed his gruff tones; to hear the two growl together would have been a highlight of the album. However, whether it was due to clearance, or the song just not reaching the same standards as the others, it’s a shame that we’ve missed out on what would surely have been a viral track.
But the new guys hold their own regardless
Despite not having the likes of Pop Smoke on the record, we do see the Yonkers star go toe-to-toe with some young bucks, proving he still had it before passing. Choosing two rappers with drastically different styles, DMX is overly excitable on ‘Money Money Money’ with Memphis’ Moneybagg Yo – which reminds us of his cocky side. And then on ‘Hood Blues’, we see DMX utilise his slow and off-centre deliveries to look strong against NY’s Griselda, who are simply technical powerhouses.
DMX still had his finger on the pulse
This ability to keep up with these new stars proved that DMX was tapped into the current state of hip hop more than we might have thought. And it’s a shame that we could see how DMX was going to reinvent himself in the new playing field.
Is that Bono from U2 on ‘Skyscrapers’?
Yes, it sure is! When looking at the name aside an artist as brazen as DMX, you’re bound to question whether you know of another star named Bono – because in what world does the U2 frontman find collaborate with him? But when you listen to the track, ‘Skyscrapers’ is a beautiful song that showcases the Ruff Ryder’s softer side. The two are almost like sweet and sour: two completely opposing things – but together, they’ll be somebody’s favourite. It’s beautiful to hear such beauty from Simmons, given that he he always had an aggressive exterior up for most of his career.
Jay-Z and Nas… like each other?
These two were at their prime in the ‘90s when they were shooting shots in diss tracks, birthing the iconic hip hop staple that is Nas’ ‘Ether’. So whenever you hear the names Jay-Z from Brooklyn and Nas from Queens in the same sentence, it feels shocking. Thus seeing the two hip-hop juggernauts reunite in honour of their Yonkers brother is a beautiful sight. This wasn’t their first reunion – that happened on Nas’ ultimate 2007 album ‘Hip Hop Is Dead’ – but it’s heartening that they put the beef aside again.
Swizz Beatz legacy remains intact
If you watched the recent Ruff Ryder Chronicles film, or any other documentary on the subject, you’d be sure to see a tall guy with his cap on backwards somewhere in the studio. That guy would be Swizz Beatz, who was made famous for stellar producer skills that are recognised as some of the most influential artists in the world, including Missy Elliott and Timbaland. Swizz was the go-to producer at Ruff Ryders, making their most famous hits ‘Ruff Ryders Anthem’, Eve’s ‘Gotta Man’ and X’s ‘Party Up’. It seems only right that he also made sure his last album had straight bangers on it again.
DMX got to work with his pals
The LOX – that’s Jadakiss, Styles-P, and Sheek Louch – laid down some verses like the old times. Known for all rapping together on the classic ‘Money Power Respect’, the quartet had become as thick as thieves when it came to the music industry, because DMX was instrumental in getting the Yonkers collective signed to Ruff Ryders. Hearing all these friends unite on ‘That’s My Dog’ is heartwarming, nearly making it a friendship anthem. After all the years they’ve known each other, the group and X have never strayed away from their brotherly bonds, and that’s sweet.
But where are the rest of the Ruff Ryders on this album?
There has been hope among fans that the Ruff Ryders would have some sort of reunion in the near-future. And with DMX being a real Ruff Ryder through-and-through, you would have thought that he might have wanted to collaborate with all of his old friends from the label and not just The Lox and Swizz Beats. Whether this was a conscious effort by DMX to not do so, or someone thought it’d be more respectful for the label to not do a tribute on this album, that’s fine. However, you can’t help but wonder…