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"Grand Champ" was released in 2003 and came as his fifth album. It finds him making waht could be said to his first album that moved completely away from the darkness that came with his two 1998 records as he broke into the game. This one features many more club-based joints and so gives him the chance to connect with a wider audience, but you still get hints of the past here too.
1. "Dog Intro"
2. "My Life"
He sets things out with a pretty hardcore one and a track that I felt has a good one to take us right into his world where we are forced to hear him going right in with some of his deeperst stuff. I think that the steady, simplistic structure that you get from this one was nice to have as the opening to the record as you find that it eases you in as initially he simply gives a sort of list of things for you to take with you for the rest of the album.
3. "Where The Hood At?"
One of his most controversial singles, this was one that I felt had a place on the record ass we get a heavy tune for the streets and one that connects him to the places that I felt as though it was quite tough to get over with on his first few outings, due to the fact that his deep and dark themes are likely to have gone over most people's heads. It seems like a well-rounded tune from the rapper.
4. "Dogs Out"
We get a surprise producer coming to show some support with this one as it is Kanye West who brings some of his stuff on this one and so with the bassy beats which are complimented by a chipmunked Soul sample to make for a tune that stands out as one of the most hardcore tunes not to have had a role in representing the record as one of its singles. I really can't see why it wasn't chosen to do so, but it acts as nice surprise as a result.
5. "Get It On The Floor"
This one has to be considered as the start of when X' began to move the majority of his singles towards the club end of thing. Ones which especially had him linking up with Swizz Beatz, and often making for some of the biggest tunes of the respective years when they dropped (looking first back to "Party Up" in 1999). It keeps it all rolling nicely here and was a great inclusion to the record.
6. "Come Prepared" (Lude)
7. "Shot Down"
With this one we get X assisted by Styles P and 50 Cent and I felt that they were some nice guests to add to the thing as they gave DMX the chance to connect with some big names in the East Coast Gangsta Rap scene. When you consider that 50 had just made his breakthrough, he clearly had a massive impact by doing his thing here on one of the rawest jams from this, DMX's fifth album, showing great advancements from his work in the late nineties.
8. "Bring The Noize"
We get some freaky breaks on this one as the Tuneheadz take over with the production here and blaze out a Funk-laced joint that I felt made for another of the club bangers that really needed the sort of attention that "Get It On The Floor" and "Where The Hood At?" received at the time as the joint shows so much with its liveliness and almost excessive energy. You simply cannot fault it in any way.
I have to say that this one really needed quite a while to get to the sort of place that I felt was easy to get to with the other tunes leading up to it as we see that once X as had his say on the track, he gives it all over to a range of guest performers who really don't have that much else to add to the thing. However I did find that it was a grower and if you can feel X's work then the rest should eventually come with it.
10. "F**k Y'All"
With beats coming from Ron Browz this time around, here we get another tune that seems to have a nice connection with the contemporary East Coast Hip Hop scene and you see that here we have a joint that has him forcing you to take attention with the head-bop-inducing beats aiding by X's raw delivery style, and the kind of thing that listeners have always know him for (since as early as 1992).
11. "Ruff Radio" (Lude)
12. "We're Back"
Here we get more of the cold material from the artist and we are able to see, in this one, how he has managed to change his approach to things when he goes about his Gangsta Rap as he has gone from the deep Horrorcore-based things that had been taken from the material that had come primarily out of Detroit and Houston during the nineties. It is a pretty strong one, but offers little new from him.
13. "Ruff Radio 2" (Lude)
14. "Rob All Night"
Rockwilder gets on the beats and we see that we get another tune that sounds as if it really should have dropped as one of its singles whereby we get some grungy pre-Hyphy production that takes you in with its hyped club feel that takes minimally from House and uses the kind of things that led to the dominance of the Dirty South's Hip Hop dominance from this point. It goes hard and has a lots for all.
15. "We Go Hard"
With this one we see that DMX comes to link up with Cam'ron with a tune that calms things down quite a bit after we have been hit with one of the most hyped tunes from this one. I felt that this one was a bit of a change to the way things were going here, and perhaps was a bit too diverected towards the style of the guest, but it still can't be seen as a weak link on this album by any means.
16. "We 'Bout To Blow"
Dame Grease doens't give us long on that end of things as we see that he forces us to feel a tune that has him moving back towards the danceable tunes that gets you going in a way that you would only have expected Swizz Beatz to have done for X at this time, regardless of this the producer does all he can to show that he has got over the Horrorcore, and can put it down here well too without much effort.
17. "The Rain"
This song is deeply depressing and it talks about how he feels that his melancholy mood is probably self-induced, so he is the only person who can lift the cloud over his head. Although he says this, it doesn't sound as if he's making an effort to do anything about it, which confuses me. I felt that it was a tough track to listen to if you weren't in the correct mood, to make The Dog drag you down into his state of mind which isn't fun to feel.
18. "Gotta Go" (Lude)
19. "Don't Gotta Go Home"
We have a forced change to the direction of things here as we have a tune that gets him laying out a smooth tune where he links up with Atlanta's Monica, and with a female vocalist on his side (perhaps taking on the role that we would have got from Aaliyah had she not tragically left soon before. The tune stands right out and finds him putting out something with lots of unexpected commercial appeal.
20. "A'Yo Kato"
Probably one of the most well-known non-single tracks from the album (as it featured as a snippet on the end of the video to "Where The Hood At?") we get a sombre track from the rapper as he shows just how he performs when the direction of the music is altered, but he still stays quite close to what we've known him for as he decides one to a recently-deceased friend. He does it well and manages to make you actually care.
21. "Thank You"
On this, an unexpected final proper track on the album, we see that we get a massive mix-up of many different styles that you really won't be able to reist at the end of the record. I felt that this came when he addresses a subject-matter that I doubt all will be abel to connect with as he does some Christian Rap and does so with additional Funk, Soul, Old School Hip Hop and Gospel thrown into the mix.
22. "Prayer V" (Outro)
Although I understand that not all of his fans really liked the change towards the club-based material, I felt that it made for much better music from him and music that many more potential listeners can connect with. Little holds this back and if there are any then listening more to them will solve these problems.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Dog Intro
2 My Life - DMX, Chinky
3 Where The Hood At
4 Dogs Out
5 Get It On The Floor - DMX, Swizz Beatz
6 Come Prepared (Skit)
7 Shot Down - DMX, 50 Cent, Styles P
8 Bring The Noize
9 Untouchable - DMX, Sheek, Syleena Johnson, Infa-Red & Cross, Drag On
10 F*** Y'all
11 Ruff Radio (Skit)
12 We're Back - DMX, Eve, Jadakiss
13 Ruff Radio 2 (Skit)
14 Rob All Night (If I'm Gonna Rob)
15 We Go Hard - DMX, Cam'Ron
16 We 'Bout To Blow - DMX, Big Stan
17 The Rain
18 Gotta Go (Skit)
19 Don't Gotta Go Home - DMX, Monica
20 A 'Yo Kato - DMX, Magic, Val
21 Thank You - DMX, Patti LaBelle
22 The Prayer V
23 On Top - DMX, Big Stan
24 X Gon' Give It To Ya