Eager energy and chants for “D-M-X” filled the Tribeca nightclub S.O.B.’s Thursday night in anticipation of the Yonkers rapper’s first New York City show in years; it was dark, and the venue was beyond hot. Uncertain of what to expect from the artist who barks, growls and is known for his well-documented turbulent past, concert-goers were pleasantly surprised when the star, slated to appear on VH1’s new show Couples Therapy this spring, pulled off an almost two-hour long gig full of heartfelt sincerity and animation.
In addition to performing a few new tracks (including Machine Gun Kelly-featured single, “I Don’t Dance”), X took us back to his heyday in the late 90s and early 2000s, performing a number of fan favorites like “Party Up,” “How’s It Goin’ Down,” “It’s All Good,” and “Get At Me Dog.” Joining him on stage for hit “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem,” a song that DMX revealed he wasn’t initially on-board to record, was a towel-swinging Swizz Beatz who then showed allegiance to his longtime comrade by remaining front and center for the duration of the show. “I didn’t want to do the ‘Anthem,'” admitted X to the crowd, explaining that it was the now Megaupload-tied NY producer whose plea he submitted to during their gritty Ruff Ryder era.
Reminding us of his untamed personality and raw artistic chutzpa, X’s antics throughout the show were entertaining, but by no means out of control. Hyper-sexual comments about his nether regions —that led to him, shirtless and sweating profusely, getting wiped down by a female fan— fell between powerful a capella verses and call-and-response interaction with the audience; X would shout “Flesh of my flesh,” and his disciples would answer emphatically: “Blood of my blood!” Reiterating comments made earlier that morning regarding both Drake and MMG ringleader Rick Ross, The Dog touched upon today’s boastful themes in hip-hop and took time to explain how tacky and redundant he feels that kind of bragging over bars can be. Lacking the filter that many of today’s artist strategically craft, X’s honesty was refreshing without being too overbearing; his intention was not necessarily to insult, but rather to take contemporary hip-hop overall to task. Just like he did 10-plus years ago.