One of the most doggedly successful stories in the history of Def Jam Recordings belonged to rapper and megastar DMX – the only artist in history to have his first five albums debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart between 1998 and 2003.
With cumulative Def Jam album sales totaling 15 million copies in the U.S. alone, and nearly four times that number in worldwide record sales, DMX’s career at the label is summed up with the release of ‘The Definition of X: Pick of the Litter.’ The 20-track collection, including a sizable one dozen chart singles, will be released June 12th.
DMX (aka Earl Simmons) debuted on the album charts as a Def Jam solo artist on June 6, 1998, when ‘It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot’ entered at #1. It was pumped by his first litter of single picks – “Get At Me Dog” featuring Sheek of The Lox, “Stop Being Greedy” (aka “Survival Of the Illest”), “How’s It Goin’ Down” featuring Faith Evans, and “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” – which comprise, of course, the first four cuts on ‘Definition of X’ (after the “Prayer III” intro). It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot stayed on both the pop and R&B charts for over 100 weeks each and was certified 4x-platinum.
During that debut album’s incredible 2-year run, DMX’s second album, ‘Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood’ was released in December ’98, featuring a guest list topped by Jay-Z and the Lox on “Blackout” and Swizz Beats and Drag-On on “No Love 4 Me.” In addition to those two, ‘Definition of X’ also includes “It’s All Good” and the single “Slippin’.” ‘Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood’ again entered at #1 where it chewed up the competition for 4 weeks, and spent over a year on the charts as sales blew up to triple-platinum.
DMX’s third album, ‘…And Then There Was X,’ entered at #1 on January 1, 2000. A new trio of single picks – “What’s My Name,” the all-time classic “Party Up (Up In Here),” and the unforgettable “What These B*tches Want” (featuring Sisqó, aka “What You Want”) – kept the album on the charts for more than a year and a half and sent it to 5x-platinum. Along with the three singles, ‘Definition of X’ adds the albums tracks “Here We Go Again” and “One More Road To Cross.”
The year 2000 also marked DMX’s movie debut, in the lead role of Belly, the first film by video director Hype Williams. That same year, DMX also appeared in Romeo Must Die, the film that established Jet Li’s career in America, directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak. The same director was responsible for DMX’s third movie, Exit Wounds (starring Steven Seagal), a #1 box office opener that won DMX a multi-film contract with Warner Bros.
A near-two year span between albums did not diminish his popularity, as ‘The Great Depression’ entered the charts at #1 in November 2001. The RIAA platinum best-seller stayed on the charts through the first half of 2002, amped by two signature singles, “We Right Here” and “Who We Be.”
DMX’s fourth major film was the 2003 reunion with Jet Li and director Bartkowiak in Cradle 2 The Grave. The movie opened #1 at the box office and its Bloodline/Def Jam soundtrack, which led off with DMX’s “X Gon’ Give It To Ya” (one of three tracks he contributed to the album) struck RIAA gold. His next (and final) Def Jam solo album Grand Champ marked his fifth consecutive #1 debut (October 2003), a chart feat not likely to be matched again. From that album, ‘Definition of X’ reprises “The Rain” and his last chart single for the label, “Where The Hood At.”
In 2007, ‘Definition of X’ brings his career full circle with the essentials of his hitmaking Def Jam years.
Journalist Smokey D. Fontaine, co-author of E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX, which was published in 2003, called his subject, “One of the most memorable MCs of all time. The only artist who has spent a career inspiring followers around the world to bark and rhyme in loud bursts of manic, ghetto energy, only then to get them to read and rap and think and cry in private moments of honest thought and introspection. No one in hip-hop has ever done it better. No one has meant more.”