The Great Depression, and the Road to Recovery
DMX’s The Great Depression is a great album from one of the greats of rap. The album contains 17 songs, and was his 4th album release, which was also his 4th consecutive album to debut at No.1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Released on October 3, 2001, the album was certified as a “Platinum” disc by the end of the year and it sold 440,000 copies in the first week of its release.
Following the success of his first album Its Dark and Hell is Hot, and the relative ‘failures’ of his next two albums, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood and And Then There Was X, people thought that he had to bounce back with this album, although each of the albums had commercial success.
Born Earl Simmons in New York, DMX led a life that would cause even the most hardcore rappers to flinch. He chooses to use his troubled past to bring emotion, and a narrative into his rap and into his music. His music is usually in reference to his past, to his struggles, and the pain he saw around his community. In that aspect, one can see him as similar to Tupac, both of whose songs made you feel their pain, and had you by their side, maybe as a friend, or maybe as someone who just listened to their sorrows.
The Real Life on the “Street”
This album was very good news for rap fans tired of listening to artists talk about their cars, money, and the platinum songs they have already released. “Who We Be,” for example, speaks about life on the street, and the emotions he feels about it. A simple beat with a simple rhythm, this song rightfully focusses on the powerful voice and lyrics. DMX showcases his allegiance with the record label, the Ruff Ryders, referencing this in the tracks “Who We Be,” and “We Right Here.”
People who have already listened to DMX, and call themselves fans of his would be very happy to hear “Damien III,” the third installation in a story that began from his very first album, in “Damien” from It’s Dark and Hell is Hot. In the first song, DMX befriends Damien, who is actually the Devil in disguise, and makes DMX do things which go against his sense of ethics, in return for fame and fortune as a rapper. The third song, filled with a haunting beat and melody has DMX finally understand the error of his ways and finally denounce the Devil.
In continuing the theme of Good vs Evil, DMX brings out “Prayer IV,” which puts any religious speaker to shame. In this DMX thanks those who were there with him during his pain, and vows to better himself and his life. He finally finishes the album in a conversation with God who carries the gift of inspiration, and one who transcends all religions.
The album also contains tracks like “Trina Moe” and “We Right Here,” which contain a much lighter tone and help balance the heavy themes the album bears. They are fun and playful tracks that listeners will like while going through the heavier songs. The only songs that don’t hold up to DMX’s pedigree and track record are “I’m A Bang,” and “Bloodline Anthem.” DMX attempts to cross rock and rap, with mixed results. The lyrics hold up but the mixing of the two genres doesn’t really work with the songs. One has to appreciate the thinking though, to introduce rock into a hardcore rap album.
Ultimately, The Great Depression is a journey through good and evil, through sin and repentance, through suffering and recovery, and it is a journey that listeners would willingly go through. With his rough voice, and his brilliant lyrics, DMX puts his sadness, anger, and reflection out for everyone to hear.