Flesh Of My Flesh Blood Of My Blood is the second studio album by rapper, DMX. It, like his previous, debut It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot (1998), went straight to the top of the charts with little more than seven months between them.
The album eventually went triple Platinum in the US. He’s the second rapper to have two albums released in the same calendar year debut at number one on Billboard’s Top 200, the first being 2Pac with All Eyez On Me (February 1996) and The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (November 1996).
Technically, the latter album was released posthumously under the alias, Makaveli, making DMX the first to release two number one albums, alive and by the same name, in under a year.
Maybe the hellish and biblical themes on both X’s albums could be attributed to his apparent upbringing as a Jehovah’s Witness, like Busta Rhymes and numerous others, who believe in an afterlife, post annihilation of the world we live in, only for those who are adherents to their particular sect of Christianity.
Looking back in retrospect, to December 22 of 1998, that album’s matured well in its eighteen years. It spawned “Slippin’” and “No Love 4 Me”.
The album cover is very much to the point, as macabre as the debut. Red’s the colour, only this time it’s not the image filtered red, he’s seemingly covered in dripping blood, hands outstretched.
DMX incites “My N*ggas”, an introductory skit with X barking into the microphone before an electric beat rears its head. Rapping kicks in, just to get X and the listener warmed up.
X then wants you to “Bring Your Whole Crew”, featuring P. Killer Trackz. This one’s grave, with suitably tense strings thrown in to add to the drama. There also vocal overdubs aplenty, X hollering and barking into the microphone whilst, at the same time, imparting his unique street knowledge: “…so I paint the walls with his blood/Another d*ck in the mud”.
Second skit, “Pac Man”, is another skit detailing the idiocy of perpetrators claiming to be someone they’re not.
“Ain’t No Way” has immediacy, urgency and even, in some respects, a kicked back vibe. The soundscape’s akin to emergency service sirens sequenced to carry melody but, at the same time, underpinned by sparse drum and intermittent bass.
He throws down the gauntlet in “…after me, it’s over, I’mma take the whole verse/I’m tryin’ to keep it real that’s why I let y’all n*ggas go first”. His flow is similar, quite kicked back. He also handles the hook, singing so sombre it’s like a sea shanty sung by those on slave ships from Africa.
He and his crew declare “We Don’t Give A F*ck”, which features Jadakiss and Styles P. This one also evokes the words grave, also tense and dramatic. Jadakiss hooks the lamentable loss of so-called friends in “…used to be my dog, you was in my left t*tty/Screamed RIDE OR DIE, I thought you would die wit’ me”. That particular hook conveying, of course, perhaps, a square being schooled in street knowledge before flopping into cowardice.
He then proclaims that you “Keep Your Sh*t The Hardest”, which’s stomping, triumphant and almighty. Chopped up percussion giving it a hard sound. X’s verses are gritty, his gravelly tones doing their utmost to follow the nature of the track’s title. The hook he sings “What y’all want me to do/Keep your sh*t the hardest”, is equally irrepressible.
“Coming From”, featuring Mary J. Blige, hammers in with drum, before haunting and creepy piano plays its eerie melody. The cameo certainly prints her identity on what you could picture being a track produced by Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA.
X reveals, perhaps, an unsurprising insight into his volatile nature, nevertheless notable in “…let me travel, ‘cos my intentions are to travel in peace/F*ck around I lay you down, you hit the gravel and cease…some questions go unanswered, that’s what I’m afraid of/Sometimes I can’t show, but I know what I’m made of”.
“One by one they all went under, so I had the last laugh/They all thought it all was a joke, but I had the last laugh” then heralds witchy cackling from Blige before hitting a gutsy vocal high.
“It’s All Good”, has deep, fat bass, a song dedicated to recreational hook-ups with the opposite sex. “It’s all good, it’s alright/F*ck all day, f*ck all night/Call my b*tches, ‘cos wherever I go, y’all my b*tches/East to the West coast, all my b*tches”.
The song’s certainly a funky aside from what the listener has pictured X to represent over this particular time. You could suppose someone as serious as him has to breakout and reveal his inner clown. The chorus, however, is greeted with the ghostly female vocal. Ghosts of girlfriends past?
“The Omen (Damien II)”, featuring Marilyn Manson, opens with a crying mother pleading her child not be taken away from her. Then a pulsing hospital monitor heralds her screams as her nightmare comes true.
This very much takes off from similarly named track on X’s debut, the hook handled by shock rocker, Manson, to create a piece of eerie horrorcore rap: “The snake (snake), the rat (rat)/The cat and the dog/How you gonna live/When you’re in the fog”. It’s basically a running dialogue between what appears to be X’s conscience and inner devil, being granted all his wishes but paying for them in the long run.
The heartbreaking “Slippin’” is arguably the standout track on the album, very grave, earnest and from the heart.
The underpinning melody is mournful, tugging on the heartstrings, as X details his life, particularly his tragically difficult childhood and subsequent formative years: “That ain’t the half, sh*t gets worse as I get older/Actions become bolder, heart got colder…I’m possessed by the darker side living the cruddy life/Sh*t like this kept a n*gga with a bloody knife”.
He then reveals all-time lows, before rising from his ashes: “Wasn’t long before I hit rock bottom/N*ggas talkin’ sh*t was like damn look how that rock got him”. The last verse seems to reference the previous track, with “…so I get back lookin’ type slick, again/Fake n*ggas jump back on my d*ck, again”, as if to say he got himself together and rejected his inner devil.
Another cameo track, “No Love 4 Me”, featuring Drag-On and Swizz Beatz, seems like an aside akin to “It’s All Good”. This one, arguably, concerns X’s homeboys and figuring who’s genuine in this world, and who’s a fake. It’s actually a good workout, in terms of lyrical content, but more so in terms of expertly ridden flow.
Homeboys are “Dogs For Life”, which opens with a skit, what appears to be the Ruff Ryders snuffing out some suitably inadequate competition. Then kicks in shimmering wah-wah guitar and soulful bass weaving its own kind of magic. This also seems to link with the previous track, concerning itself with subject matter pertaining only to the loyalist of friends.
There are heavy hitting collaborations causing a “Blackout”, which features Jay-Z and The Lox. It’s big, bold and a soundscape akin to emergency service sirens. It’s grand, mighty and triumphant, with stomping production heralding some of the biggest names in rap. This builds up, however briefly, when Jay makes his entrance. Not one to be outdone, X sees the track out.
Title track, “Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood”, follows. The sound to this one’s massive: you have the stomping drum and bass; and yet flighty strings floating on top. Suitably cinematic muted guitar fades out the track.
It’s dark and hell is hot in “Heat”. It’s tense, strings plucked like Death nominating the next to die by his cold, cold hand. Or, as the track indicates, the flurry of shots from a rapid fire automatic. Eerie strings herald the song’s end, the unhappy conclusion as the protagonist is stabbed in the back and killed.
Flesh Of My Flesh Blood Of My Blood climaxes with heads upwards, “Ready To Meet Him”. X’s conversation with God, arguably, detailing his life’s journey, however tough, yet also thanking for all that’s turned out right.
The “I’m ready to meet him ‘cos where I’m livin’ ain’t right/Black hate white, white hate black, it’s right back to the same fight/They got us suspectin’ a war/But the real war is to follow the law of the lord” hook the most memorable part of the song proper. Haunting female choral arrangements go right through you, amidst what sounds like pan flute melody gracing the immediate plane above Hell and purgatory. Ending on a redemptive note?
Flashpoints on the album are “Ain’t No Way”, “Coming From”, “Slippin’”, “Dogs For Life” and “Ready To Meet Him”.
This solid effort was released well within a year of his smash hit debut album. It has that predominantly horrorcore, maybe even hellish, vibe yet also offers lighter moments proving DMX is indeed a human being. DMX’s Flesh Of My Flesh Blood Of My Blood can be heard on iTunes here.
Words by Andrew Watson