...And Then There Was X
Gangsta rap is often criticized for glamorizing the street, but DMX’s third album seems anything but a celebration. And Then There Was X’s often doomy sounding beats are accompanied by warnings, threats and admissions that thuggin’ is little fun. “One More Road” details a spectacularly failed liquor-store robbery that ends in murder. “Never Gonna Lie” alternates between a boast of “I’m never gon’ die” and a promise to stay in the life “even if it kill me.” And the hired killer of “The Streetz” admits “I know I’m goin’ to hell.” After those opening cuts, the album eases into less surprising criminal territory, but “Money” (a small-timer’s lament couched in a driving track) and “What’s My Name” don’t make their milieus sound very enjoyable either. Amusingly enough, though, “F*** Around” twists the party-party grind of Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood’s “It’s All Good” into a caution against walking on the wrong side of the Ruff Ryders crew; “Reliable” tops it with the audacious meld of grungy blaxploitation strut and worshipful prayer.