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The Yonkers, New York rapper DMX came with "Year of the Dog... Again" in 2006 (The Chinese Year of the Dog) as his sixth album. Coming a couple of years after his last, it saw that he had moved on with his first non-Def Jam release and so enabled him to come at things in a fresh manner with new backing from Sony. As usual, we get production coming from the likes of Dame Grease and Swizz Beatz as he comes with a mix of Gangsta Rap, Hardcore Hip Hop and even a little Christian Rap.
2. "We In Here"
The album's set off in a big way as we get a grungy cut that gets you right into the perfect mood to get some heavy material out of 'Dark Man X' as he runs through some powerful rhymes which have him focusing upon fighting against Def Jam and artist such as Rihanna who made their way over there to that label after him as he comes through with a raw headbanger suited to the streets (rather than the mainstream).
3. "I Run S**t"
Swizz Beatz, who was on the last cut, is seen to take on this one too, however this time around we find that his beats are much more open and have a much more defined club feel to them. The beats to it sound really thick and as if it's a real struggle to infiltrate them, and if anyone was able to manage them then it would be X. He does well to ensure it doesn't sound like a straight mess and that it connects to his core fanbase.
4. "Come Thru'"
We find ourselves taken right into a pretty big collaboration piece here as Long Island's Busta Rhymes comes to show a little support from X and rhymes along with him as we get the last of a string of Swizz-produced jams on this album. I thought that it was nice to see a link-up from a pair of artist who've both been in the game since the early nineties (although DMX didn't get his career properly underway until 1997) and it makes for a heavy jam here.
5. "It's Personal"
On this cut we find that things are taken right back towards DMX's early breakthrough days back in around 1998 as here he gets on a cut that also features Styles P and Jadakiss of The L.O.X. (who were quite prominent in his work from the late nineties). I felt that this made for a very solid track from him and an improvement on all the dark stuff that came out of them in those days where I simply couldn't get down to that kind of stuff.
6. "Baby Motha"
You get more beats which clearly have Swizz Beatz behind them (you tend to pick up on the signs if you follow DMX's work), we find that DMX decides to take things in a different direction as although the production still has a bit of a danceable edge to it, the rapper is intent on rhyming on deeper subject matters, such as his life at home when his baby's mother is always nagging him and making him do things for him.
7. "Dog Love"
On this track you have X's gritty voice contrasted by some light R&B vocals from both Amerie and Jaynce as the two of them support the artist as he decides that it's about time that he goes for a love track and shows how even he can rhyme about such things. Although he may try to input a little Gangsta Rap into the mix to make not sound as soppy, its certainly not you're typical DMX tune, but he does well with it.
8. "Wrong or Right?"
You find that the track opens up with X singing in a very off-putting manner and so if you're able to get over that then you should find that what comes after it is strangely appealing. This one takes on some late eighties hard Rock influence to it and doesn't quite seem to fit in with what the rapper's about, but does have paralleling themes to what tunes in that genre were offering at that time and so it does actually fit in here.
9. "Give 'Em What They Want"
With this one you get another hype cut. Although this one didn't see the same sort of success as many of the others and was largely ignored, I thought that it was another big one as we find that this time around Scott Storch gets on the beats and comes through with a style which contrasts with the rapper's rough stlye of delivering the beats and so seemed to really stand out on the album as a result.
10. "Walk These Dogs"
We see that here we get a cut that completely changes the direction of the music once again as we find that he's intent on showing how much there is to his material and how he doesn't wish to restrict himself with just Gangsta Rap and the hardcore stuff that puts off a large range of people. This one hits hard on the thing and has Dame Grease offering a funky and lively composition to back him up.
11. "Blown Away"
You get a completely different feel on this cut to what we had on the last one as hear the music calms down significantly and it means that here he has to really settle himself down in order to go out with a track where he thinks on all the bad he's done over the years and speaks on how he wishes to rectify all of these. It wasn't really to my tastes, but a welcomed change in the album here.
This tune has him choosing to keep the tempo and energy levels at te same sort of place that they were at on the tune before it. It had to be done like this as this track , which has Da Gutta Fam on the beats, has him taking the time to say his goodbyes to those who he's lost over the years. He thinks on how he could easily be one of those who die too young and so rethinks the way he's living his life.
13. "Life Be My Song"
Dame Grease is able to get right back on the beats for this one and I felt that this is just what we wanted to have as after a couple of tunes which were a bit too deep for quite a few to get into, you like to get a track like this where he allows the rapper to come out with rhymes which may infringe on the same sorts of topics as on the last couple, but isn't quite as deep and dark as them and so pulls it back a little more.
14. "The Prayer IV" (Lude)
15. "Lord Give Me A Sign"
Comign off another addition to the "Prayer" series which he started on his debut 1998 album ("It's Dark and Hell is Hot") we get the final track and a big one considering what it actually is. Here he decides to kick us some straight-forward Christian Rap as a massive contrast to all of a lot of what the rest of the thing offers and it sees that he gets up over some impressive Scott Storch beats to win people over with a cut that presents his faith in a different way to what you'd expect.
I thought that although this album wasn't as well-received as many of his other, it does offer a lot and keeps the artists career flowing (although it would be the last before a prison sentence which completely messed-up his career). It brings with it a lot of variety and lots of different sides to his character in the sorts of things which he speaks on. I would recommend it, however the amount of club tunes may put off those into his earlier work.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Intro - DMX
2 We In Here - DMX & Swizz Beatz
3 I Run Shit - DMX & Big Stan
4 Come Thru (Move) - DMX & Busta Rhymes
5 It's Personal - DMX & Jadakiss/Styles P
6 Baby Motha - DMX
7 Dog Love - DMX & Janyce/Amerie
8 Wrong Or Right (I'm Tired) - DMX & BZR Royale
9 Give 'Em What They Want - DMX
10 Walk These Dogs - DMX & Kashmir
11 Blown Away - DMX & Jinx/Janyce
12 Goodbye - DMX
13 Life Be My Song - DMX
14 Prayer VI - DMX
15 Lord Give Me A Sign - DMX