Today, when giving others their flowers has become more accepted and frequent, it’s still awesome to see it in person. I say this because, as a society, we still take for granted that things can change in an instant, and what we have now could soon become a distant memory. As I attended the Exodus album listening party for the late DMX on Thursday (May 27) night, his first posthumous release since passing away on April 9, the biggest thing I witnessed was the outpouring of love for a man who always gave it back.
Whether it was close friend and long-time collaborator Swizz Beatz deejaying a special set in his honor, new age rap stars Conway the Machine and A$AP Ferg coming through and showing love, or legendary Power 105.1 radio personality Angie Martinez also being in attendance, X’s party didn’t lack in star power. But, as we waited for midnight to arrive and bring us Exodus, another element in this special occasion came to the forefront: perspective.
As someone from Westchester County, New York; where DMX lived and rose to fame, I can’t express enough how much of a hero he was and will remain to our area. The late MC’s willingness to proudly represent the 914 left a permanent mark on all of us and became the foundation of our hometown pride. Who else shot music videos in Westchester? Where else can you run into a legendary artist who was not only willing to speak with you, but also prayed with you on the spot? No matter the situation and its circumstances, DMX was himself and left you with a memory you never forgot.
Among all of the people that have impacted my life, he ranks high on my list. X showed thousands of young kids from the 914 that it was possible to survive what you’ve gone through and still change the world. The latter was the biggest reason I was a fan.
“I’m still overwhelmed by the amount of love X, and the Ruff Ryders family have given me,” Conway the Machine told REVOLT at Thursday night’s event. Amidst the loaded features that are on Exodus, most notably from JAY-Z and Nas (“Bath Salts”), Conway and his Griselda teammates Benny the Butcher and Westside Gunn joined the late rapper on “Hood Blues.” “Whether it was [DMX] coming from Yonkers or [Griselda] coming from Buffalo, we both learned how to survive and tell our stories through the music,” Conway added. “That’s why it only made sense for this connection to happen, and I’m blessed it happened.”
Leading up to midnight, the energy of the party was high and celebratory. Swizz got on the mic to excite the crowd, and offer nice words of insight regarding the importance of X and this moment. One of X’s most famous movies, Belly, was being projected on one of the walls of the event, which took place at Invite Only Studios in Chelsea, Manhattan. As I sat back and observed what was going on, I watched several hugs and dabs be exchanged, and people rapping and dancing to every DMX record played. It didn’t matter if it was his greatest hits or deepest cuts, they were all giving it up for a man who would have reciprocated love without hesitation.
Then, as the clock struck midnight, Swizz immediately began playing Exodus after making one more speech in honor of his late friend. The 13-song project, which Swizz executively produced, witnesses X’s signature sound joined with some of today’s rising stars. Records such as “That’s My Dog” featuring The LOX and Swizz, “Letter To My Son (Call Your Father)” featuring Usher and Brian King Joseph, and “Hood Blues” gave you the same feeling, storytelling, and path to introspection that defined X’s earlier and most classic works. With that said, it was fun hearing DMX’s flow combined with today’s sound. Hearing him go word for word with Moneybagg Yo (“Money Money Money) was something I didn’t know I needed until that moment.
And besides exchanging verses with JAY-Z and Nas — the latter who was also on “Walking In The Rain” — it was incredible hearing X reunite with Snoop Dogg (“Take Control”) or give us a rare collaboration between himself and Lil Wayne (“Dogs Out”). Even with the different changes of paces and intricacies of each song on Exodus, two things were certain. X didn’t sound out of place, and he was motivated to prove himself at the age of 50.
Over the last few years, hip hop has remained grateful that our legends are still great as they’ve gotten older. JAY-Z released 4:44 and Nas just won a Grammy for Best Rap Album. Snoop Dogg is the most popular he’s ever been in his career and can still rap an incredible verse. The Diplomats’ Cam’ron and Jim Jones released album of the year considerations in recent years. Whether it’s that handful of men or others such as Black Thought from the Roots, the culture has embraced a new reality that the best rappers could also be our elder statesmen. And while no longer here, X is now a part of that club who serves as a prime example of such truth.
“For the world, this is an epic moment, and for me, X is reincarnated again,” Ruff Ryders founder and CEO Joaquin “Waah” Dean told REVOLT. “This album is iconic because we’re celebrating the Dog, it’s inspiring, and he left us with one more masterpiece.”
He continued: “Whether it was myself or even with X, it came down to our faith in God,” Dean said. “In the physical form and now, I stayed connected with X and the man above because of our spiritual connection. Everything we do has to keep our spirits up, and I’ll always remember the good times we had. And beyond that, I want to make sure all of my relationships are good, and I maintain my balance.”
When it was all said and done, the objective was evident last night. The memory of DMX, whether it’s through his music or otherwise, will be aided by those who are authentic and giving with their respects, and you have no choice but to when the man himself did the same thing. If DMX ever meant anything to you, then this isn’t a problem at all.