The “Grand Champ” may not be completely worthy of the title, but this dog can hold his own bone. With the release of Grand Champ, DMX creates an album that gives listeners the traditional gritty, gangster lyrics and hardcore style synonymous with hip-hop’s underground. However, the subject matter is redundant (insert two barks here).
Songs like “Shot Down,” featuring 50 Cent and Styles P, warn fake thugs to eliminate the facade, alluding to rapper Ja Rule. Other cuts, such as “We Go Hard” and “Bring the Noise,” glorify crime and street life alongside an up-tempo bounce beat.
Grand Champ also offers a refreshing variety of collaborations. R&B divas Patti Labelle and Monica belt out melodies that give DMX’s gruff tones a harmonious balance. Heavyweight recording artists such as Cam’Ron, Eve and Jadakiss also add to the album.
DMX has the unique ability to open up his soul to the public. In his music, X makes confessions, prays for forgiveness, talks about losing his mind and makes listeners feel his pain and frustration. In the first year after emerging from the underground rap scene, he released two albums, It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot and Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood, both of which went platinum. DMX presented something new to the rap game with his raspy, soul-bearing rhymes and professed love for canines.
But perhaps the pedigree obsession has now played out. DMX hasn’t been able reach platinum status since 1998, and his last album, The Great Depression, sold poorly. The quality of his lyrics isn’t up to par with previous creations, and Swizz Beatz fails to deliver the hard-hitting drum beats and bass lines as he did for past songs like “Ruff Ryder’s Anthem” and “Party Up (Up In Here).”
Grand Champ proves to be DMX’s most experimental work to date because of his collaborations with multiple producers. But creatively speaking, DMX has dried up and is going to have to find more ways to show people he can be the top dog.