Thursday, March 27, 2008

...And Then There Was X

In a recent conversation, friend and fellow pop culture blogger Andrew U. told me of his genuine belief that rap superstar DMX was crazy; like, legitimately, certifiably, medically, bat shit insane. And the more I look back at his body of work, the more I tend to agree. The constant references to dog fighting, the prolific barking, the almost non-stop screaming, the gruesomely violent and unsettlingly specific lyrics, the unexplained relentless aggression at the world in general; it all adds up to a disturbing listening experience. To listen to DMX is to listen to the bizarre words and thoughts of a lunatic. I'm surprised that, despite his baker's dozen or so of arrests (mostly driving and dog fighting), he hasn't flat out killed a man.

Crazy as the man may be, one cannot argue that he is truly unique, for better for for worse. Say what you want about the guy but "Dark Man X" is a massive success that defies common sense. He's one of the best selling rappers of all time despite never having a top 20 single. He's the only artist to have his first five consecutive albums debut at number 1 on the Billboard charts (his sixth debuted at 2 coming up just 1,500 short). On top of that he has one of the better film careers among rapper/actors (I remember Cradle 2 the Grave being number one when it came out). He could release an album next week and his ever devoted following will take him straight to the top.

Perfect example of X's inimitable brand of craziness and appeal is one of his biggest hits, the inaptly titled "Party Up." Off the bat you'd think a song called "Party Up" would all about having a good time and well...partying. It would appear to be a carefree hip hop club anthem and from the irresistibly catchy beats it's very much that. However, the more you get into it, you realize this isn't an ordinary party song it's a DMX party song! The whole thing just abrasively punches you in the face, from the whistles to the horns, to the police sirens. And then there's the trademark DMX delivery, an antagonistic rant directed hyper aggressively right to the listener. The song's so thumping and catchy that you never really pay attention to the lyrics, but it essentially has nothing to do with partying at all. It's the standard DMX lyrical cocktail of: threats to assault you, explanations of why DMX is so hard, some metaphors about dog fighting, how he's angry and tired of certain people that he considers enemies of his, and reiterations of his threats to assault you.

My favorite part of the song is towards the middle where, after he disses whoever he's discussing, he further elaborates by LITERALLY listing all the factors of why they suck ("you wack, you're twisted, your girl's a hoe..."). Add that and about the three or four times he mentions either hitting someone with, or making someone suck his dick and you've got yourself vintage DMX.

Of course a song of this brilliant insanity requires an equally brilliant and insane video; the distant cousin of that other great bank robbery centered music video favorite of mine.

Here's a rundown of the events:
  • It all starts off innocently enough, our man DMX goes to his local branch's ATM to draw some funds.It turns out the machine is broken which is the cue for X to snap and rush up to the bank to give them a piece of his mind (although killing everyone doesn't seem too far fetched). Unfortunately just as he's arriving a notorious bank robber who looks like him and wears the same clothes leaves. What are the odds?
  • Now when X comes upon all the bank customers and employees on the ground cowering in fear, does he suspect something is up? Of course not! He just starts threatening/rapping at the throughly confused and frightened tellers! Probably about fixing that machine downstairs. While he continues his angry flow, the situation goes from bad to worse with cops and media surrounding the building.
  • X actually commits his sole logical action in the entire video (neigh perhaps in his entire career of videos) by noticing the injured security guard and attempting to bring him to safety. His reward for his good deed is being promptly shot at by the police, which I'm sure is some cutting social commentary on the racial profiling inherent in American criminal justice.
  • Soon afterwards all the hostages in the bank are cleared out. It's just X and the police. They're trying to make sense of this strange angry man screaming into a direct communication walkie talkie he suddenly got. Alas, the law doesn't seem to understand.
  • DMX finally realizes that he's involved in the aftermath of a bank robbery as the SWAT team storm the building. He escapes to the roof top. With his situation clearly at its bleakest he makes a call to his only hope: some guy in an SUV filled with strippers.
  • The police finally determine that X wasn't the robber based on the testimony of the guard. X continues rapping on the rooftop.
  • "It seems as though a couple of Suburbans are pulling up and females are running every where!?"
  • Finally the sensible black detective plays Reginald VelJohnson to the trigger happy uninformed white detective's Paul Gleason and stops the sniper while X Die Hards it off the building using his apparent repelling skills.
  • When he arrives on the ground he gets a gives a quick picture for the paper and is on his way, while the army of tramps continue to titillate and confuse the policemen. Thus concluding another wild adventure in the wacky life of DMX!

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