DMX, Undisputed | Album Review
Once ubiquitous rapper DMX releases Undisputed, his first studio effort since 2006. He was once a force on the East coast rap scene.
DMX scored five no. 1 albums on the Billboard 200. Only his 2006 effort, Year of the Dog…Again failed to top the chart. The promotional campaign for his independently released seventh album, Undisputed, is underwhelming. Beyond tempered commercial expectations, the album is a mixed bag. It has it’s high points and not-so high points. Things are best in the hands of the proven producers (Swizz Beatz and J.R. Rotem) as opposed to unknowns. Sometimes, issues lie within over-repetition and lax vocal production, particularly considering the incredibly gruff vocals of DMX. Add in lack of top-rate rhymes and a dud is born. There are enough solid moments on Undisputed to download a couple of tracks, though potential buyers should be aware that “I Don’t Dance” is the valedictory cut.
“What They Don’t Know”
The effort opens with intro “Looking Without Seein’ (Intro),” which comes off generic. Truly, the only benefit of the intro is showcasing the gruffness of DMX. “What They Don’t Know” is the first of a couple of Swizz Beatz productions. The production trumps the rhymes, characterized by an old-school sampled sound, intact with horns, bass, and hard drums. The hook is simple, but scatchy: “What they don’t know, they gon’ find out…”
“Cold World,” featuring Adreena Mills has its moments as well as flaws. The production retains the ‘old-school’ sensibility and is lush and well executed. The drums are dusty, propelled by prominent use of hi hat. As far as cons, Mills sounds fine, but she’s provided with too much space. DMX doesn’t rap until nearly a minute-and-a-half into “Cold World.” Additionally, the cut runs too long.
“I Don’t Dance”
“I Don’t Dance” is produced by J.R. Rotem, and features Machine Gun Kelly. The production is characterized by the pounding, 4/4 beat. DMX is on autopilot, staring with his ad-libs.
“Aww shit, what the fuck? Yo! This shit right here son…Oh my God!”
He rocks the best hook of the album with gruff mastery:
“I ain’t a dancing nigga/ I just move to the beat/ Sit there and nod my head but won’t move my feet/ Gangsta, so I’m holdin’ up the wall/ That dancing shit up to the rest of y’all.”
Not to be outdone by X, Machine Gun Kelly spits effortlessly and passionately on the second verse, proving a capable collaborator for DMX.
“Sucka For Love,” featuring Dani Stevenson sounds less ‘gangsta’ than “I Don’t Dance,” opting for a ‘hardcore’ love song. DMX, of course “…ain’t never been a sucka for love.” The most disturbing moment is when he goes so far in with a clumsy line acting out the ‘climax.’ The soul-laden guitar is a nice feature. “I Get Scared” features a jazzy Rachel Taylor. Taylor’s vocals are unique, though pitch problems takes away from her eclecticism. Cleverly, DMX and Taylor collaborate singing on the hook. “I Get Scared” needed more direction to make it less repetitive and static at times.
“Slippin’ Again” sports a fine beat and somewhat restrained, but effective production. The problem is, the record leaves ou saying, ‘so what’? “Prayer” is nothing more than an interlude, yet eclipses some of the humdrum showings on Undisputed. Given the scrappiness of DMX, you can’t help but wonder how sincere the religious message is. He alludes back to “Lord Give Me A Sign” (Year of the Dog…Again). Regardless, DMX is loud and bombastic.
On “I’m Back,” the vocal production allows DMX clarity, something that doesn’t occur consistently on Undisputed. This ‘banger’ isuits DMX, and producer Bird successfully taps into that. “Have You Eva,” takes a back step, despite solid production. Overall, the effect is repetitive filler that is boring. “Get Your Money Up” features nice synthesized horns with a ‘Swizz-styled’ beat, produced by Snaggs. DMX sounds clear, and delivers a simple, effective hook. Not an elite cut, “Get Your Money Up” is a better cut from Undisputed.
“Head Up” is quite enjoyable, lifting portions of Earth Wind & Fire classic, “Keep Your Head to The Sky.” The production is excellent, characterized by the beat, piano pad, and synthetic strings. DMX doesn’t ‘light it up’ with his rhymes, but he pulls it off. “Frankenstein” is just weird, never quite suiting the rapper. While his aggressive delivery complements to an extent, it’s not a perfect fit. Add to that notion his vocals are covered by the busy production and there’s another rub.
“Y’all Don’t Really Know”
“Y’all Don’t Really Know” possesses more a vintage DMX sound, thanks to Swizz Beatz. The slow, relaxed tempo allows for him to ‘do his thing.’ The hook is simple, catchy, and effective: “Y’all don’t really know/they don’t really know…” It doesn’t eclipse “Party Up (Up In Here),” but ranks among the best songs of Undisputed.
“I Got Your Back,” featuring Kashmere is merely okay. The production doesn’t seem a good fit here for DMX. Kashmere sings well, if thats any consolation. “No Love” featuring Adreena Mills once more does nothing for the ceding momentum. Closing cut “Already” is better, featuring sound production from Pat Gallo, and a solid, repetitive hook from DMX.
Overall, Undisputed is all over the place. There are some ‘good’ moments, but also there are lots of inconsistencies. Nothing eclipses “I Don’t Dance.” Inconsistencies in vocal production, overall production, and lyrical substance hurt the project. With the album sitting at nearly 55 minutes, ten to fifteen minutes worth of edits of filler may have strengthened it. It’s mediocre at best.
Gems: “What They Don’t Know,” “I Don’t Dance,” “Head Up” & “Y’all Don’t Really Know”