The Triangle got a taste of one of hip hop's premier hardcore acts when Def Jam recording artist DMX hit Raleigh and performed before a large crowd at the Mission Valley Shopping Center last Tuesday.DMX, a rapper known for his trademark gruff voice, hard street lyrics and scowl, is famous as much for his frequent run-ins with the law as for his multi-platinum selling CDs and critically acclaimed movie appearances. The Ruff Ryder himself came to Raleigh on just a day's notice (the public was alerted via radio station WQOK 97.5), yet the parking lot at Mission Valley was filled to capacity a full hour before he appeared on stage.
In town to perform his high-energy show and also to promote his fourth and latest CD, The Great Depression, DMX has been on the road for the past couple of weeks performing for his Hoodstock Tour. The 15-city free tour has drawn huge crowds since he first launched the show in his hometown of Yonkers, N.Y. The Great Depression has sold over 440,000 copies since its release last week.
"The shows are free, so it ain't like I'm gettin' paid," said DMX after the Raleigh show. "But it's all good because it's a way of giving back to the fans who've been supporting me and buying my shit. And I had to come lay it down in North Carolina. Niggas are real here and they feel what I'm doing."
DMX, which stands for Dark Man X, also has another motive for his free tour: Traveling by bus from city to city has given the rapper and his crew the opportunity to scout and recruit talent for his new label, Bloodline. The first part of Tuesday's show was used specifically for bringing local new jacks on stage to bust freestyle rhymes that were judged by the crowd.
"We want some real niggas for the label, and this is the best way of finding 'em," said DMX. "Bloodline is gonna be a continuation of what the Ruff Ryderz is all about. It's gonna be real. I've been waiting for this shit to happen since I started rapping."
The Ruff Ryderz features established acts Eve, the Lox, producer Swizz Beats and up-and-coming talents like Drag-On, Yung Wun, Parle and Infra-Red. Over hard street beats by Swizz, the Ruff Ryderz usually spin lyrics about the street and thug life.
DMX (born Earl Simmons), has been in the rap game since the late '80s, but he didn't create a buzz until he started guesting on songs by major acts like L.L. Cool J, the Lox (when the group was signed to Bad Boy) and Mase. "I been around for a minute, but for some strange reason I kept getting passed over by muthafuckas that didn't have half the talent I had," DMX said. "That shit got frustrating, but I always say that there's a time and place for everything."
The time was right for DMX. Thanks to Puff Daddy and Bad Boy Records, hip hop had become watered down and the rap audience longed for something harder and more street. With his debut CD, It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, in 1998, DMX reached that hardcore audience and hasn't let up since. Six months later, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood was released, making DMX the first artist of any music genre to have two albums debut at No. 1 on the Billboard charts in the same year. A year-and-a-half later, ... And Then There Was X was released, achieving the same platinum results.
"The Great Depression is about the realness of the street," DMX said. "It's hard. I ain't gonna change. If it ain't broke, I ain't fixing it."
--Gabriel M. Rich