1998 was a banner year for hip-hop, and DMX was one of biggest drivers behind its crossover success. He not only released his debut album, It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot – a critical and commercial success that catapulted him into superstardom – but, six months later, on December 22, he unleashed his smash sophomore release, Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood. In doing so, DMX became the second hip-hop artist (following 2Pac, who pulled off the achievement in 1996) to earn two No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 in one calendar year.
One of the greatest accidents in hip-hop
Amazingly, Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood almost never happened. Now hailed as a classic, it was actually one of greatest accidents in hip-hop history. Attempting to capitalize on the significant momentum DMX had gained with his debut album, co-president of Island Def Jam Music Group, Lyor Cohen, offered a challenge.
According to an oral history by Fader magazine, Cohen tasked the rapper to complete a new album by the end of the year. If he succeeded, he would be awarded a million-dollar bonus. Reminiscing about the process, DMX said, “I wanted to get that bonus, so I wasn’t playing with that whole studio s__t. I wanted to get it out. The first album had 19 songs, so I already felt like I was cheating a little bit by giving them less songs than on the first one.”
Hip-hop’s newest icon
Before the era of surprise album drops and Kanye’s up-to-the-minute delivery, DMX was one of the first hip-hop artists to deliver an album immediately to the awaiting public, and Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood solidified his status as hip-hop’s newest icon. In an era dominated by commercialization, excess and opulence, DMX represented the unpolished, unapologetic grit of the streets, his authenticity appealing to hardcore hip-hop audiences while also launching him as the genre’s next megastar.
In addition to making DMX a household name, Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood was a coming out party for producer Swizz Beatz. The nephew of Ruff Ryder founders Joaquin “Waah” Dean, Darin “Dee” Dean, and Chivon Dean, Swizz expanded upon the massive success of his work on Jay-Z’s quintuple-platinum Vol.2… Hard Knock Life, producing nine tracks on Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood.
Swizz and DMX’s chemistry was truly organic. The former’s ability to produce music at a rapid pace coincided with the latter’s need to record an album in less than a month. Together they created unforgettable cuts such as “My N__as,” “Ain’t No Way” and “No Love For Me.” Off the back of Flesh Of My Flesh…, Swizz’s Triton keyboard-driven, techno-influenced sound earned him a place among the upper echelon of beatmakers, turning him into one of the most in-demand producers of the last 20 years.
Taking the industry by storm
In just seven months, DMX had taken the industry by storm, changing the standards for the way hip-hop was consumed. Dismantling the models of conventional thinking, his success proved not only that hardcore hip-hop was both marketable and profitable, but that the pace of music consumption was faster than record executives had thought. Far from oversaturating the market, dropping his second album so soon built upon his success, pioneering the idea that rappers could deliver multiple projects within the space of a year.
In betting on himself, DMX hit the jackpot. Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood ushered in an era of dominance for the rapper, setting him up for several more multi-platinum albums and a film career that launched with 1998’s Belly.
Prolific artists such as Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane and Future, who can turn out projects quicker than fans can listen to them, owe a debt of gratitude to Dark Man X for creating the modern-day template for album releases. Without the advantages of streaming, DMX stormed the charts with his charismatic personality, raw lyricism and uncompromising honesty. Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood sold an astounding 675,000 copies in its first week and went on to sell over three million records in total, pointing the way towards hip-hop’s seismic influence on the entire music industry.
Article originally published on uDiscoverMusic.com.