In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.
Watching the sad state of former superstar rapper DMX on the Oprah Winfrey Network show Iyanla Fix My Life recently reminded me that it was about time for my twice-yearly visit to …And Then There Was X, his quintuple-platinum 1999 album. Where Earl Simmons is currently headed seems uncertain (but almost certainly not good), but where he’s been is pretty incredible. In the late ’90s, DMX was about as mainstream a presence as you could find, as evidenced by his incredible sales figures. But there’s no hint of compromise anywhere in his string of three unstoppable records from the era. Even on “Party Up (Up In Here),” which was X’s biggest crossover, there’s no sense that he’s anything but biting, vicious, and often very, very funny. It’s an incredible combination of a singular, inimitable voice—gruff, low—and a quick, decisive cadence that set him apart. He could even get away with rhyming “shit” with “shit” several times in a row, because it just sounded right. And then there’s the rapid-fire takedown from “Party Up,” which is probably being repeated somewhere in the world right now, as it should be: “You wack, you twisted, your girl’s a ho / You’re broke, the kid ain’t yours, and everybody knows / Your old man say you stupid / You be like, ‘So? I love my baby mother, I’ll never let her go.” The video was dated instantly (“MISTAKEN IDENTITY!”), but the song will live on and on.