Some artists change for the better and progress through the years while others stay mired in the same repetitive pattern for their entire career. Dmx is an artist that fits into the second category, an artist with all the talent in the world, but one that has never grown or progressed over time. When X dropped his classic debut album “It’s Dark And Hell It Hot”, he proved to the entire industry why he was indeed one of the best up and coming artists in the game. However, from their on out, X has never really changed, and instead of growing with each album he has moved backwards, releasing sub par albums that unfortunately have gotten worse each time. This pattern once again continues on X’s latest and final LP “Grand Champ”, where we get an album full of the same tired old Dmx clichés.
While many hoped X would make a grand comeback for his final album, “Grand Champ” is just more proof of why Dmx should call it quits and leave his legacy as it is now instead of producing further damage. While X tried to bring it back to the streets for this release, as he caught a lot of criticism for his lack of rawness last time out on “The Great Depression”; X fails to recapture that gritty edge he once encompassed. What made Dmx a great artists was his ability to portray that gritty, hard-core NYC vibe while still managing to produce insightful and intimate tracks, as he did on such songs as “Slippin”, “Look Thru My Eyes”, “Let Me Fly” & “Ready To Meet Him”. All glimpses of such greatness are gone on “Grand Champ” as X runs through his usual thug tales, all of which are stale, generic & repetitive.
X definitely hits his creative low on “Grand Champ” as the album is without a doubt his worst to date, thanks to horrible lyricism, dated production and a complete lack of topics and concepts. Efforts such as “Bring The Noize”, “Fuck Y’all”, “Rob All Night”, “On Top” & “We Bout To Blow” are all horrific efforts from X that feature some of the worst production ever witnessed on a Dmx album. Whether you loved or hated the man, X always had a good ear for production, no matter his love for Swizz Beatz production. However, on “Grand Champ” the production is definitely one of the album’s main downfalls, as the stale, 5 years too late synthesizer production is unbearable at times. That’s not to mention X’s lyricism, which was never great, but always solid. However, this time around it seems as if Dmx was completely uninspired and plain lazy when it comes to constructing verses. As the only topic’s X runs through are one consumed with his hatred for “bitch ass niggas”, along with his usual dog barking antics. To make matters even worse we also get a couple of sappy R&B influenced joints such as “Don’t Gotta Go Home” featuring Monica & “Thank You” featuring the legendary Patti Labelle. Both of these tracks are uncharacteristic, softer sounds from X that sound too forced and generic.
Another big flaw in “Grand Champ” is the awful group collaborations featured on the album. “Untouchables” is a horrible group effort featuring Sheek, Syleena Johnson, Infa-Red & Drag-on that sounds like a bad left over from a Ruff Ryder’s compilation album than a noteworthy cut on a Dmx album. Even Jadakiss & Eve disappoint on “We’re Back” which features 3 bad verses from each emcees, not to mention a very soft and weak beat. And even when X gathers top-notch emcees like 50 Cent & Styles for “Shot Down” the results are still the same. With a decent, but simplistic beat each emcee, like all others on the album, drops a mediocre verse. Especially X, with generic lines like “all y’all niggaz is pussy, suck my dick”.
The only time X manages to shine on “Grand Champ” is when the production side finally comes through. The album’s “Intro” is one of the finest tracks featured on the album thanks to a nice piano loop, giving the song a spectacular melancholy, low-key vibe. “Where The Hood At” is X’s first single off the album and has been a nice hit for the dark man. The track is reminiscent of X’s earlier, more hard-core work, which has pleased diehard X fans everywhere. The Swizz Beatz production is of his usual caliber, but remains solid nonetheless. And even though X’s lyricism has taken a big hit, the cut is still one of “Grand Champ’s” finest.
However, X’s best effort comes from the heartfelt dedication to his lost friend Kato on “A’Yo Kato”. With a nice Spanish influenced beat, complete with mesmerizing flutes, X emotionally runs through the times he spent with his lost friend to the moment he heard his boy had passed. It’s these types of tracks that has always made X the great artist he used to be, its just a shame songs like these only come along once an album nowadays. Other noteworthy attempts from X come from the Cam’ron collaboration on “Go Hard”, the newfound club hit of “Get It On The Floor” featuring Swizz Beatz & “Dog Out” which features a nice vocal sample.
However, two tracks that are especially disappointing are “My Life” & “The Rain” both of which could have been outstanding efforts, only if X would have had better direction and focus on them. Production wise, both tracks are outstanding, however, instead of X actually putting forth good, insightful verses, he puts forth an extremely lazy effort by rapping a couple bars then having the hook come in right when you are begging for more. Both tracks don’t come off as songs, but more like intro's, as both feel incomplete. This repetitive nature of Dmx rapping 4 bars or so then playing the hook gets old real quick. X should have made 3 verses for each track instead of making them seem erratic and incomplete.
With “Grand Champ” Dmx proves that he is still the same old dog with the same old tricks and here in lies the problem. Dmx has never progressed as most great artists do; thus he has been left behind, waiting for his career to come to an end. And after witnessing his uninspiring and lazy effort on “Grand Champ” let’s just hope X either gets his act together or finally leaves the rap game alone, for his own sake.