Angry, Dark, Passionate, Emotional: DMX's classic It's Dark and Hell Is Hot

Jun 18, 2006 (Updated Jun 18, 2006)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:An absolutely pissed off DMX scares the living shit out of the world...

Cons:He was never able to top it...

The Bottom Line: "All I know is pain // All I feel is rain // How can I maintain // with mad shit on my brain"

I can hear it now...

Oh Gosh no... he's back. Oh gosh... that vulgar, arrogant, cocky piece of Cuban trash is back on Epinions, to make all of the other writers look bad with his genius. is scrambling to Defcon 4 now. I can just hear the fanboys rising up from the caves that they've dwelled in for 6 long months. Yeah, since December 15th, 2005. Felt like 6 years huh? I know for some, never is too soon. Enjoy it people, cause the greatest writer of ALL TIME is back, but this very well could be my swan song...

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Earl Simmons is a name in hip-hop music that virtually everybody on the planet recognizes instantly. DMX went from a gritty, underground, hungry rapper to one of the biggest and most respected names in all of music in general. Was there one high-school or one music channel in 1998 that wasn't bumping DMX? Not in this stratosphere. Throughout his allustrious career, we've seen all sides of DMX. We've even seen him crossover into doing some pretty good action flicks. Before all of that though, DMX took our souls by the neck and dragged us down into his sick, twisted mind, in the depths of hell. It's Dark and Hell is Hot was a cinematic and sick look at the utter madness of one man.

X is psychotic on this album, and it's hard to picture a man as spiritual as Earl Simmons conjuring up these thoughts. It's Dark and Hell is Hot so dangerous that it's beautiful. With DMX's absolutely relentless and vicious, like a legitimate pitbull. 'Sides that, the beats are absolutely fucking dangerous. There have been discussions in the past about whether or not to consider this a classic. Well without a doubt though, the album is a fucking classic, from the mouth of me, and you know what Big D says is law.

Track List & Rating

1. Intro (5 Stars)
2. Ruff Ryders Anthem (5 Stars)
3. Fuckin' Wit' D (5 Stars)
4. The Storm (Skit) (NOT RATED)
5. Look Thru My Eyes (5 Stars)
6. Get At Me Dog f/ Sheek (5 Stars)
7. Let Me Fly (5 Stars)
8. X Is Coming (5 Stars)
9. Damien (5 Stars)
10. How's It Goin' Down (5 Stars)
11. Mickey (Skit) (NOT RATED)
12. Crime Story (4 Stars)
13. Stop Being Greedy (5 Stars)
14. ATF (4 Stars)
15. For My Dogs f/ Big Stan, Loose, Kasino, Drag-on (5 Stars)
16. I Can Feel It (5 Stars)
17. Prayer (Skit) (NOT RATED)
18. The Convo (5 Stars)
19. Niggaz Done Started Something f/ The Lox & Murda Mase (5 Stars)

Much like almost all other DMX album to follow, the intro to It's Dark and Hell is Hot kicks off with X talking, then going into a, let's be honest, dangerous verse. This verse sets the dark, psychotic tone of the entire album. X tells us why he's definitely not to be fucked with when he states "Gettin right back at ya when I snatch ya // up out the grave, nuthin but bones and ashes // Hittin niggaz with gashes to the head // Straight to the white meat but the street stay red". Backed by drums, X declares war on the industry within just 3 minutes time: "That nigga DMX is a motherfuakin problem".

"Ruff Ryders Anthem" is without a doubt, DMX's most famous track to date and the single song that placed him head and shoulders above ANY hip-hop act in 1998. The scaling trumpets have become legendary within the anals of time. I'm sure that 90% of people reading this can probably recite this entire song in their head quicker than any other song in DMX's career. That's how important it is. Besides stating that this song is probably responsible for putting all of the Ruff Ryders on the map, I don't think I need to cover this anymore.

X continues his bad-ass persona on "Fuckin wit' D". A lot of folks tell me quite often that the majority DMX's style is pure gangsta rap and braggadocio, but I beg to differ. While there are a few pints of each, DMX, specially on It's Dark and Hell is Hot, was a pure Hardcore Horrorcore artist. In fact, X redefines the term hardcore. With just a few lines, X sums the entire album up: "Listed as a manic depressin' with extreme paranoia... and dog I got somethin' for ya!". That sums it up. DMX is paranoid on this album.

It often makes you wonder if he's playing a character, or if he's really paranoid and insane. When you listen to It's Dark and Hell is Hot and listen to DMX's screams and vocal rises, it honestly FEELS like X is pissed off at life, watching his back at every turn. Hell, I'll go so far as to say that it sounds like DMX recorded this while fighting a gang of hoodlums on the street. On "Look Thru My Eyes", X gets much more introspective about the life that he lives and what he sees around him. A lot of times with X's music, its almost like hes teaching life lessons while expressing his thoughts and unleashing his anger. This song is a tad bit calmer, which isn't a surprise. As you listen to the album, you notice that he goes from going absolutely berserk on a song, to calming down, almost like he has Terretz.

"Get At Me Dog" is purely ruthless DMX. It's hard to describe how much angst you feel from listening to DMX on this song. It's a feeling he could never duplicate for the rest of his career. DMX challenges everybody on the street to take him on in what appears to be hardcore warfare. Sheek's chorus is nice, even though it isn't needed. X is the main event though, psychotic and powerful. He fucked me on here, no homo.

"What must I go through to show you shit is real
And I ain't really never gave a fuck how niggaaz feel
Rob then I steal, not cause I want to cause I have to
And don't make me show you with the Magnum"

"Let me Fly" has grown to be one of my favorite DMX songs. The paranoia continues, as now DMX pulls a 2pac and begins to question his death, acknowledging that he knows his time is coming. This time, DMX accepts his reality and it feels as if he's trying to convince himself that he's as legitimate as he claims he is, but also asks for mental freedom. The chorus "either let me fly, or give me death" feels like he's talking to himself. Hell, the entire album feels that way. It's almost as if DMX just talks to himself repeatedly while staring into his bathroom mirror like some sort of madman. It's eerie, but provides a very unique listening experience that few other artists can even come close to touching.

The next track, "X is Coming", is a classic. The first thing you notice is the production, which provides this threatening violin and bass that gives the song an evil, psychotic feel to it. DMX knew exactly what to do with this track... rip it. X just sits there and threatens the living fuck out of you. There are so many classic lines in this that it's hard to pick just one. The song has a slasher-flick style feel, topping off with the obvious Freddy Kruger reference. If anybody has the balls to doubt X's lyrical ability, listen to this track and shut the fuck up.

The haunting "Damien" has become legendary, and further cements my theory that DMX was absolutely nuts on this track. This is the debut of the well-known Damien character who pops up on each of X's albums. Damien is like DMX's little devil on his shoulder, convincing him to do bad things like cheat on his wife, kill people, and commit crimes. The song is just... eerie. X plays the part of himself, as well as the demonic influence Damien. The eerieness continues with the bizarre chorus: "The snake, the rat, the cat, the dog // how you gon' see them if you livin in the fog". The song just gives you a damn weird feeling, but keeps you listening. I'm not going to sit here and bullshit you and claim that the album is actually a well-written story of a madman on the brink of insanity, but dammit it sounds like it.

"How's It Going Down" is a complete 180 from everything the album has been thusfar. On here, DMX throws away the horror movie theme and goes for a seductive ladies track, which I think is not only soothing, but damn entertaining. X's future attempts at this ("What these bitches want") fall a bit short compared to this. A smooth loop accompanies beautiful background singing as X lays the mack down. But man, X sure is changing his mind about a lotta things.

The next skit serves the purpose of setting up the return to the dark, grim underworld that X has painted for us. "Crime Story" and "ATF" are both extremely good stories that DMX tells about escaping cops as well as rival gangs. It's fun to listen to these, but I can't help but feel that they aren't as strong as the rest of his songs. Maybe it's because X isn't mad like on the other songs, but they're still nice and shouldn't be skipped.

Now "Stop Being Greedy" on the other hand, is a masterpiece. The track is laced with haunting violins and a powerful organ piano, cementing that horror movie-esque feeling. DMX is just as bad as any horror movie monster here: he's nuts. DMX uses this track to think up the most violent, most brutal kinds of torture possible and just spits them one after another. DMX's target? Greedy rappers who don't want to give back to the community. X stands up for those around him, but also remains that paranoid persona, quite-often fighting himself and not being able to make a decision. Either way, DMX's ruthless, well-written lyrics and warrior-esque charisma will entertain you until the crack of dawn:

"All nightmares, the light dares to desert me
Got me like everybody wants to hurt me
Paranoid, so I strike out at what ever
The closest thing to me is gonna get it
but, never Will I, can I think death is wrong
So I'ma keep holdin on til... what's left is gone
You could put that on my nigga Boone
These other rap cats will give a nigga room
But if it calls for me to force my way in the door
Headhuntin mother fuckers, stay on the floor"

The results are in: Yes X, it's time to return to the ward.

If the psychotic-sounding strings aren't enough to crack you on "ATF", DMX's paranoia will. On this track, X is worried to siit because somebody apparently snitched him, and retells about his escape from the cops. "For My Dogs" is also a nice pure lyrical display from DMX as well as his roster of killas. It's at a much slower pace that what's normally found on It's Dark and Hell is Hot, but easily a head-bopper.

"I Can Feel It" is close to being one of the best DMX tracks ever. As if you didn't already know, the track samples Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight". This is deep son, this shit's deep. Arguably, this is probably DMX's deepest song besides "Slippin" on the next album. DMX is certainly calmer here as he explores his thoughts and reveals his contemplations about life, struggling, and lessons learned. Definitely an educational look inside the head of the Dark Man. His delivery is, as always, on point, and although the song is easily softer and much more relaxed, X does his little pitch raising dealy several times during the track. X is passionate and powerful here, and is a moment of clarity and softness on an obviously hardcore album. Then again, a lot of hardcore albums have that one wildly different song that stands out.

Appropriate enough, "Prayer (Skit)" is on next. Anybody who's ever listened to any DMX album in full knows exactly what this is, however, this was the first. Back in 1998 when this came out, few albums before it actually had an emcee praying on a skit, specially since the majority of what was "pop" back then was the opposite of anything spiritual. It was refreshing to hear DMX show that he is a real person with real feelings who needs God. A lot of us do nowadays.

The peacefulness probably would've been a nice way to close the album out, but nope, the madness returns as quickly as it left. "The Convo" is as much of a mind-fuck as anything else here, but refreshingly creative. DMX brings us into the heart of the streets with potent spiritual street poetry, as DMX questions the situation that God has placed him in, but doesn't lose his beliefs. X has a conversation WITH God during the song, thanking the Lord for all of the positivity that X has in his life and for taking him out of the hard life and pushing him to reach his peak. This track could probably be seen as the polar-opposite or antithesis of "Damien".

"It was you that breathed life into my lungs when I was born
And it was you that let me know what was right... from what was wrong
And it was you that let me do what I knew what could be done
And it was you that gave me a good wife and a beautiful son
And It's been you speakin' to me inside my mind.
And it's been you who has forgiven time after time...

Quite often, the album's closer "Niggaz Done Started Something" is unfairly shat on, and honestly I don't see why. We've got a group of the illest niggas in rap, ripping a really smooth piano loop. Sheek opens the track with his potent, charismatic flow until Jada comes on with his sharp, gangsta rhyming. Mase is next, with a pretty decent cut, showcasing the Murda Mase character. Styles, my favorite member of the Lox, quickly steals the show in my opinion and had the best verse of the song until DMX came in and absolutely stabbed it in half. Very nice closing track, but it does feel kind of left out, probably because its not as good of a closer as it could've been if placed elsewhere on the album.

The title says it all: It's Dark and Hell is Hot. Dark is probably the correct term to be used to describe this opener. As we know, DMX would go on to drop Flesh of my Flesh, Blood of my Blood a few months later, which was also a huge success, but probably half of the quality of this classic. Afterwards, DMX fully crossed over into the mainstream with ...And then there was X, which, while it had some great music on it, was obviously a much toned-down DMX with much easier mass appeal. And now supposedly DMX is coming back with Here We Go Again. I doubt I'll be listening to that. I'd prefer to just pop this in and reminisce about a good times and have DMX bring me into his world of darkness. Hell isn't just hot, it's a fucking towering inferno...

5 Stars

Boy has this place totally sucked without me or what?

Happy Father's Day.

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