Hip-hop audiences, particularly fans of hardcore hip-hop, are notoriously fickle, which is why many popular rappers are reluctant to mess with the formula that's made them famous and wealthy. But for every Dr. Dre, who exerts quality control while working in a limited genre, there seem to be a dozen Master Ps willing to crank out endless carbon copies to keep fidgety audiences from losing interest. DMX is clearly of the latter stripe: His third album, And Then There Was X, is a veritable clone of its predecessor, which itself offered only a slight variation on what came before. By now, it's abundantly apparent that DMX has two modes: repentant thug killer and unrepentant thug killer. The only surprise this time is that the tracks featuring the repentant DMX (the spoken-word "Prayer III" and "Angel") are even more obnoxious and empty than the many tracks in which he growls angrily about his violent contempt for the sum of humankind. Much of gangsta rap calls upon its listener to root for the bad guy, but people only root for bad guys when they're more colorful and oversized than the good guys. DMX, however, is a tedious, one-dimensional bad guy, and the album's jittery, synthetic Ruff Ryders-by-numbers production just reinforces how uninspired and arbitrary And Then There Was X is. DMX may be a superstar, but he has yet to put out a decent album, let alone a good one.