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In a music industry that often specializes in manufactured stars-- neatly wrapped packages that look the right way and do and say all the right things--it is a rare event to witness the emergence of a true artist. DMX, rap's ruffest ryder, is of this rare breed of artists. He has held the hip hop world spellbound with his raw, unbridled energy, unyielding passion and lyrics of fury since his explosive arrival in 1998-the year that was unquestionably the year of the dog. After stand-out performances on tracks like LL Cool J's "", the Lox's "Money, Power, Respect", and Mase's "24 Hours to Live", DMX got the world's attention with his own, bonafied street anthem "Get At Me Dog." In May, he released his groundbreaking first effort It's Dark and Hell is Hot- which also featured the intoxicating, gritty joints "Stop Being Greedy" and "Ruff Ryder's Anthem"-debuted at number one and quickly went multi-platinum.

That summer, after a headlining stint on the Survival of the Illest tour, DMX retreated to the studio yet again, and in December he released the classic horror-film-on-wax, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood. Flesh, which included the poignant, autobiographical song "Slippin'", and released only six months after its predecessor, also held the top spot on the charts-making DMX the first artist ever to have two number one debuts in the same year. After spending the first part of 1999 on tour with fellow Def Jam artists Jay-Z, Method Man and Redman on the most successful hip hop tour ever, the Hard Knock Life tour, DMX split for the heat of Miami. There he set to work on his latest offering, And Then Was X. In true DMX style, And Then There Was X serves up yet another feast of driving beats, ferocious rhyme flows and tales from the dark side. "I feel good." DMX says about his new album, "I'm comin' with a lot of joints. It's the same type of X shit. I mean, I always touch on different subjects, tell different stories, but as far as the feel of the album, it's the same shit. Why switch up? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

"What lends to the familiarity to the album is the electric, hit-making chemistry of DMX and his longtime collaborator and producer, Swizz Beats, who served as executive producer on the project and worked on the blazin' tracks, TK. D explains his bond with Swizz by saying, "It's love, it's real. You know, we're like family. I knew this nigga before he was thinkin' about beats-when he was stealin' radios."

Also helping out on production is Murder Inc.'s main man, Irv Gotti, who laced DMX's murderous first single "What's My Name". Dame Grease, who provided TK on D's first album, also returns with TK. Dru Hill's Nokio dons the producer cap, providing the sexy track "What Bitches Want" which features the lusty vocals of Dru frontman, Sisqo. In the tradition of "Slippin'", DMX delivers a thoughtful track called "More to a Song", which explores the paradox of fame. The track's hook warns, "The game is a lot bigger than you think you know/and if you think you know/ than I don't think you know." "I wrote 'More to a Song' to explain to people that it's not all about just rhymin' on the corner all the time that makes you a successful rap artist," says the elusive star, "There's more to it than that. I thought it was just rappin'. Nah, you gotta be in the studio, you gotta do the interviews, you gotta do photo shoots, you gotta do this and that... It's more to it than bustin' a fuckin' rhyme."

There is no doubt that And Then There Was X, with its dramatic, fevered production, paired with D's growling delivery and raw, honest lyrics, is destined to become another Dark Man X classic. DMX sums up his formula of success by saying, "I'm real. And people like real. I haven't crossed them yet, I haven't been on no fake shit yet, no bullshit yet. And they feel my shit. People like a real person." Then he smiles. "Everybody likes a dog, though."

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