It’s one of the most recognizable records in Hip-Hop. Once the tongues start clacking and the beat drops, real fans know they’re about to turn up to DMX’s “Ruff Ryders Anthem.” Although the song dropped a week before, it still remains one of the stand-out tracks on the New York rapper’s debut album, which turns 24 today.
On May 12, 1998, DMX released his first LP It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot via Def Jam Recordings/Ruff Ryders. The 19-track album comes equipped with its four lead singles, “Get At Me Dog” featuring Sheek Louch of The LOX, “Ruff Ryders Anthem,” “Stop Being Greedy,” and “How’s It Going Down.” It also contains other collaborations with Drag-On, The LOX, Ma$e, and more.
The album is primarily produced by Dame Grease and P.K. along with assistance from Swizz Beatz, Irv Gotti, Lil Rob, and more. His debut single “Get At Me Dog” featuring Sheek Louch dropped a couple of months before his album arrived. That record, which is still his third highest peak on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, was just the beginning of DMX’s reign in Hip-Hop.
At the time, DMX was just 27-years-old. His aggressive bars and authentic tales from his past resonated with enough fans to make his first project a massive success. Not only did the album debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, but it also sold over 250K copies in its first week. The album had already reached Gold status after its first month in rotation. Two year’s after its release, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot had gone 4x Multi-Platinum.
DMX began to change the landscape of Hip-Hop even before the release of his debut album. His signature gruff voice and energetic flows were unlike any other rapper during his era. His vocals were so rare and distinct that Sean “Diddy” Combs at the time had no interest in signing him, that is until he went to Def Jam.
“I spit or whatever and he was like, ‘eh, his voice is too and he’s unmarketable,’ DMX recalled during his Drink Champs appearance in 2016. “Didn’t like it, but I had to respect it. But three weeks later when he found out I was getting signed to Def Jam he was like, ‘I’ll lace your pockets. I’ll double what they gave you and lace your pockets.’ I was like, no I’m cool.”
As a new artist over two decades ago, DMX’s music shifted the focus away from those who rapped about the luxuries of fame and gave a voice to those who came up just like him. Despite his instant success with his debut album, the White Plains, NY native remained authentic and disregarded criticism from key figures in the industry up until the very end.
DMX passed away in 2021 at the age of 50 following a drug-induced heart attack. Although he’s no longer with us to celebrate his major-label debut, his family, friends, and fans across the world will always remember the impact It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot made within the music industry and Hip-Hop culture overall.
Written by: Broadcast HipHop Network
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