Exodus is the first album from legendary Yonkers rapper DMX since his untimely passing on April 9th of this year. Unlike many other posthumous releases, X nearly completed the entire project while he was still alive. With this being his true sendoff to the fans, family, and culture that worshipped him, will DMX give us one more gem to remember him by?
While most modern-day records tend to be woven together with an overlying idea or message, Exodus‘s 13 tracks pretty much stand by themselves. From 11 of the 13 songs containing features to DMX only having 45% of the vocals on the LP, it’s clear X’s goal was to unite with collaborators old and new and rejuvenate that collaborative spirit that’s faded away in modern times. From the menacing intro “That’s My Dog,” which features fellow Yonkers natives Jadakiss, Styles P, and Sheek Louch (aka The Lox) to the trap oriented “Money Money Money” with Moneybagg Yo, X unites three decades of hip hop history under his artistic jurisdiction. A definite standout was “Bath Salts,” which unites Simmons with New York’s God-level MC’s Jay-Z and Nas for a fierce and braggadocious anthem. Speaking of Nas, this is one of two appearances he makes, with the other being the 70’s soul-inspired “Walking in the Rain”. Opposed to the chaos X and Esco reak on their first collaboration, the easing instrumental and thoughtful bars about change and growth as a man shows the development in the two’s character and how rounded they are as poets in their twilight years.
Keeping up the classic Ruff Ryders energy, longtime producer Swizz Beatz is all over the project. Having a hand in the sonic direction of 12 out of the 13 tracks while also being the executive producer in charge of cementing X’s final vision, his signature screams, and adlibs bring us back to X and his crew’s glory days. “Dogs Out” excretes this the most with its pouncing drum-oriented beat and flashy verse from Lil Wayne, which perfectly contours the grime with DMX’s stronger toned outing.
Continuing to bridge the styles of old and new, “Hood Blues” teams X up Westside Gunn, Conway The Machine, and Benny The Butcher for a grimey boom bap anthem that undeniably embodies Griselda’s signature style. Stepping even further out of his comfort zone, DMX teams up with Verzuz TV opponent Snoop Dogg for a contemporary r&b track with “Take Control”. The cut is passable from a vocal and sonic standpoint but compared to the unpredictability a handful of the other tracks offer, this is definitely a low point.
Despite the chemistry between Swizz and wife Alicia Keys, “Hold Me Down” was very bland outside of its pair of introspective verses from DMX himself. Fortunately, its follow-up, “Skyscrapers,” is one of the best cuts on the entire project between its tear-jerking hook from U2 singer Bono and wartorn songwriting that unmasks the pain X walked with on his shoulders. Tying this all together with an instrumental that plays to both artists polar opposite artists’ strengths, and you have a masterful explosion of emotions on your hand.
Closing the record, the “Exodus Skit” sets things in motion for a heartbreaking finale as X’s youngest son Exodus Simmons exuberantly greets his father. Instantly after this, “Letter to my Son” becomes the emotional climax, with DMX giving heartfelt, passionate advice to his oldest son Xavier Simmons. The striking two-minute monologue from X is super powerful and thought-provoking. You hear X fighting, trying to save his son and make him better off in the long run. Hearing the pain, torture, and tremor within X’s vocals is a feeling like no other, and I don’t know how one gets through this moment of sheer love and vulnerability without shedding tears. Adding to the weight of this track, transcending vocals from Usher and a beautiful violin solo make up the song’s last two minutes as they heal the emotional rupture made from X’s most personal verse ever. Ending things once and for all, “Prayer” is an excerpt from one of Kanye West’s Sunday Service’s where X was in attendance and delivered a spiritual uplifting him about life and its virtues. Hearing X’s raw voice and emotions sheer out so many ideas, it makes for a satisfying end to the record and a rightful conclusion to his career.
While it’s emotionally rupturing to get through at times, Exodus is a very good posthumous release that perfectly sends off DMX, the rapper, and Earl Simmons, the man. From its raw collaborations to its heartfelt moments of weakness, we really see it all from X here. Aside from few due dull tracks and a lack of overall connection or cohesion, there’s nothing noticeably wrong about this album. Going forward, I’m sure there will be more posthumous releases from DMX, but with this one being a near-complete vision from the man himself, I doubt they’ll ever be this genuine or powerful.
- DMX has some of his most heartfelt performances here
- Captures classic DMX/Ruff Ryders feel
- Great collaborations
- No cohesion between tracks
- Slightly bloated tracklist
- Some guests drowned out X’s presence on certian tracks
Written By: Mr. Fantastic