1999 was an eventful year for hip-hop. Everyone from The Roots (‘Things Fall Apart’) to Mobb Deep (‘Murda Muzik’) were dropping notable albums following the deaths of Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur.

After having dominated rap in 1998, with the success of ‘Its Dark And Hell Is Hot’ and ‘Flesh of My Flesh,’ both debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, Ruff Ryder artist DMX had the game in the palm of his hands.

So when news of his much-anticipated third album arrived, fans and critics alike were intrigued at what Dark Man X was going to bring on his new project.

On Dec. 21, 1999, ‘…And Then There Was X’ was released in stores. The collection moved nearly 700,000 in its first week of release, solidifying DMX as one of the hottest rappers in the game and the people’s champ.

The album may not get the same love as his timeless first two LPs, but '...And Then There Was X’ is a tutorial in the art of catchy, yet sonically and lyrically aggressive hit-making. Tracks like ‘What’s My Name,’ ‘What These Bitches Want’ and ‘Party Up (In Here)’ are all considered classic songs and were inescapable from late 1999 and the better part of 2000 as well.

Fifteen years have passed and while DMX is seen more as a cautionary tale than revered as a lyrical god, he is still rap royalty. With that in mind, we’ve gathered a few of our fellow rap pundits and critics to share their memories of X’s album and how it resonated with them personally.

  • 1

    Sean Lynch (Kidd Future)

    Marketing/PR/Social Media for Fila, Former Editor of The Source.

    Favorite Memory Involving the Album:

    "I have many memories of listening to DMX prior to youth sports competitions. However, my favorite memory was in high school. The seniors always got out two periods ahead of everyone else. We pranked a teacher who always nagged us to help him carry stuff into the school. We waited till he went back into the school, put the album in, turned his volume all the way up. We quickly shut the car off and hid the volume nob. When he came out to leave a half hour later 'Party Up (Up in Here)' was blasting and he couldn't figure out how to turn it down without the knob."

    Favorite Song on the Album:

    "'The Professional.' The track was made with pure imagery. X's lyrics seem to perfectly hover over the haunting production courtesy of P. Killer Trackz. That lyric of "I could be the UPS delivery boy (uh-huh) or the man workin at Toys 'R' Us handing yo kid a brand new toy (true)" still gives me chills somewhat. I may or may not have borrowed a few lines for a few after school battles."

    Favorite Beat on the Album:

    "'What's My Name' that beat was so crazy. Much of the production on this album matched DMX's style and lyrics. However, his tone and vocals coupled with the instrumental, made this one of my top hip-hop songs, period. I use to love watching the waveform of this track, it looked like a straight lie detector test going off the charts."

    Where You Feel the Album Ranks in His Catalog:

    "I would put this album right at number two behind 'Dark and Hell Is Hot' and in front of 'Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood.' The former is just X's best body of work, nothing he has done or will do will top it. That was X coming straight out of the gate and his presence was felt immediately upon arrival.

    An argument for the latter to be No. 2 could be made, but I always felt like it was cannibalized and always in the shadow of his first release, which made him the first artist since 'Pac to release two albums within a year and debut at No. 1. However, '...And Then There Was X' had a ton of commercial success, which only solidified X's presence in music, while foreshadowing his charismatic career in Hollywood."

    Twitter
  • 2

    AG the Coroner

    Artist

    Favorite Memory Involving the Album:

    "I cant really pinpoint a specific event but this was around the time me and my crew were running through the streets battling dudes from other hoods and I was in the process of moving down south. This album made the trip with me and help keep a piece of NY with me while living in the south."

    Favorite Song on the Album:

    "'What's My Name' because of the energy from the beat to the lyrics. X was at his peak here [and] he will always be 1 of 1."

    Favorite Beat on the Album:

    "Once again gonna go with 'What's My Name.' [It's] just a raw mid-tempo aggressive feeling to it, street shit which is right up my alley."

    One Track From the Album You Wished You Could've Had a Guest Verse on:

    "Definitely 'D-X-L.' Reason being you have the cream of the crop Ruff Ryder artist on this joint and this is the kind of competition any MC would love to test their metal against. I might be the biggest LOX fan in the world as well."

    Where You Feel the Album Ranks in His Catalog:

    "I would say it has its ups and downs. I don't love everything on this album, but the songs I do like are good enough to make up for what I didn't like. Not X's best album but definitely had his biggest songs on a commercial scale. God bless X. One of the greatest."

    Twitter
  • 3

    Al Shipley

    Journalist (Complex, Rolling Stone, Noisey)

    Favorite Memory Involving the Album:

    "I was a senior in high school at the time, and I remember how hyped my friend Jesse was about the new X album, although I was more excited about [Jay Z's] 'Vol. 3' dropping a week later.

    Jesse played guitar and I played drums and we occasionally jammed, but the music we had in common and talked about was always rap, and he couldn’t wait to play me a song off the DMX album with awesome drums. I was all ready to hear something crazy, because the drum programming on 'What’s My Name' was ridiculous, but then he played 'Party Up' and I was disappointed, it was so simple and straightforward. Still never really got into that song."

    Favorite Song on the Album:

    “'D-X-L (Hard White)' is one of the best DMX-LOX collaborations, although really pretty much all of them are great. They should have made an album together."

    Favorite Beat on the Album:

    “'Make a Move' is one of the only songs I can think of from that era that sounds like it took cues from Puffy’s 'Victory,' love those ominous horns."

    Where You Feel the Album Ranks in His Catalog:

    "The first three DMX albums are the only ones that matter, but they really matter: three multi-platinum albums released in the space of 20 months. Nobody in rap’s done that before or since.

    '...And Then There Was X' is the biggest of those three, but I think it’s also the weakest. It has hits, but most of the other cuts started to fall into a formula. But there’s no denying how big he was at that moment, and I think his catalog is a little underrated now."

  • 4

    Yomi Desalu

    MTV Jams

    Favorite Memory Involving the Album:

    "This came out during my internship at MTV, so this was probably one of the first free CDs that started my 15-year freebie run [laughs]. I was a huge fan of X in college and expectations where extremely high for this one."

    Favorite Song on the Album:

    "'D-X-L' everyone killed their verse. It really put me on to how much of a spitter Drag-On was, and how underrated Sheek Louch was (and still is) I mean there wasn't a weak verse on that record. Still bangs."

    Favorite Beat on the Album:

    "'What These N----s Want.' I think I was equally shocked and impressed upon reading the liner notes to discover that Nokio [of Dru Hill] cooked up this heat. It was definitely a far cry from any Dru Hill tunes at the time. The drums and synths on that were so perfect to create a dark yet palatable mainstream DMX classic."

    Where You Feel the Album Ranks in His Catalog:

    "Honestly, it's third or fourth. You already know 'It's Dark' and 'Flesh of My Flesh' are taking one and two, respectively. But for me, the next three X projects have a handful of gems versus a body of work. So it really depends on which gems shine the most. I'd put it ahead of 'Grand Champ' which would get five, but not before 'The Great Depression.' So I'll settle at fourth."

    MTV
  • 5

    Paul Cantor

    Journalist

    Favorite Memory Involving the Album:

    "What I remember most about this record was that it was a big drop-off, quality-wise, compared to his first two albums. In fact, I don't even remember buying it, although I definitely did. You have to remember that at this point in hip-hop, things starting getting very synthetic-sounding, so if you were very serious about rap, a song like 'Party Up' would be more grating than enjoyable.

    DMX kinda had all the ingredients to be an incredible artist, but by this album, he was rhyming, at least in my opinion, on beats that were far too hollow for the depth of his message."

    Favorite Song on the Album:

    "'Fame' -- I always thought the lyric "I'm gon' live forever, I'm never gon' die / Only thing I fear is that I'm never gon' fly" was one of the realest things any rapper, or any person really, could say on a record. It's essentially a song about being afraid of failure, but at the same time being apprehensive about everything that comes along with success. This is DMX having a pensive anxiety attack, for our listening pleasure. Powerful stuff."

    Favorite Beat on the Album:

    "As much as I hated 'Party Up' when it came out, in hindsight it's probably my favorite beat on the album now. Which is odd because I still think, musically-speaking at least, that it's an awful track. It's two syncopated notes that really don't go anywhere. That said, I think in many ways the beat for 'Party Up' showed that you could make great records that make people move and dance and be aggressive in a crowd without the song being needlessly complicated."

    Where You Feel the Album Ranks in His Catalog:

    "It's tough to say where it ranks because after DMX's first two albums, which are really just these landmark releases that he'll never top, it's all this big grey area. Plus, he really does have a large catalog, with even some of the newer material being remarkably enjoyable. In fact, I don't think it's even possible to really rank DMX's albums. He's such a strong, iconic character -- kinda like the Wu-Tang Clan -- that no matter what he releases, it speaks to this very specific, core audience of DMX fans. In an industry where every artist is trying to be some other artist who's trying to be another artist, I've always thought DMX's unique sense of self was admirable and very cool."

    Twitter
  • 6

    Khal Dub

    Blogger (Do Androids Dance/Complex)

    Favorite Memory Involving the Album:

    "My memory is dumb fuzzy when it comes to DMX albums, because he released a bunch of them in a short span of time. I always think it's funny that the intro to Dave Chappelle's 'Killin' Em Softly' special is 'Party Up.' The song doesn't really have anything to do with the special (it's not like Dave's losing his mind, acting a fool, or losing his cool during the special), but the energy worked."

    Favorite Song on the Album:

    "'D-X-L (Hard White),' primarily because I f--- with the LOX now a lot more than I used to. No diss to X at all, but spazz-out bars from Sheek and Styles over some easy, crispy drums is essential in life. 'Kiss of course stole the show ("Streets help n----s / N----s don't help the streets"), but it's always dope to hear X just going for broke without trying to make a single that people will try and sing along to."

    Favorite Beat on the Album:

    "I'd say it has to be 'What's My Name?.' While I never liked how X flowed on that ("WHATS... MY... NAME"), I love the way they dropped those piano stabs and kicks in time. Very 1999, smoking an L in the whip with your high school friends cutting class and trying to scheme on girls."

    Where You Feel the Album Ranks in His Catalog:

    "If I have to rank, third. Or fourth. 'I think The Great Depression' had better singles."

    Twitter
  • 7

    Eb the Celeb

    Digital Strategist

    Favorite Memory Involving the Album:

    "Moving from New York to North Carolina when this album was bumbling reminded me how much I missed the Northeast. It was a culture shock for me when it came to music and radio but DMX was one of those artists you couldn't deny no matter what the market. Being in a black college town though, I saw 'Party Up' start many a fight in the club [laughs]. But you could always throw on X's 'Prayer' after to calm the crowd."

    Favorite Song on the Album:

    "This is hard but I have to go with 'Here We Go Again' solely because he was vulnerable without coming off angry. We were so used to him yelling at us to get his point across but I feel you felt him more on this record then any other.

    If he had named-dropped Ebony in 'What These Bitches Want' then I might have went with that though. I was mad as hell when that joint dropped. You named like 50 bitches, including three Kim's and Ebony couldn't get no love? Crazy!"

    Favorite Beat on the Album:

    "I have to go with 'Party Up.' When a beat drops and it makes you feel like you're Superman no matter how weak you might be, that's something powerful."

    Where You Feel the Album Ranks in His Catalog:

    "'Its Dark and Hell Is Hot' will always be my favorite X album but '...And Then There Was X' is 2nd. Because 'Dark and Hell' had a vibe and was cohesive."

    Twitter
  • 8

    Sermons Domain

    Blogger/Journalist

    Favorite Memory Involving the Album:

    '...And Then There Was X' was the first time I ever heard of DMX. I was eight. The whole roll-out leading up to the album was great to me. 'Party Up' was the first single I can recall seeing. The video had so much energy in it. My Dad listened to mostly West Coast stuff, while my Mom was predominantly country (although she 'oves LL Cool J). So, DMX's sound was entirely new. There wasn't anybody like him."

    Favorite Song on the Album:

    "'What These Bitches Want' is my favorite. I'm a huge Sisqo fan. A sucker for a good Rap/R&B collaboration. It also showed DMX's commercial appeal. The record was huge. Also, has anybody successfully rhymed a verse full of women's names quite like the Darkman? I don't think so. It stands as a timeless record today. If I could've talked to them both in this era, I would've urged a best of both worlds type album."

    Favorite Beat on the Album:

    "There were so many notable beats on the album. Going through the album again, 'One More Road to Cross' stands out a lot. A great catchy hook can strengthen the actual production in my eyes, so it was one of the album's best beats. DMX had a talent for doing that. Being so animated as a rapper made the beats that much better. Thank you, Swizzy!"

    Where You Feel the Album Ranks in His Catalog:

    "DMX has had a lot of hot singles after this album. As far as a better body of work, it's debatable. Is it safe to rank '...And Then There Was X' as his third best album? I'm doing it. It's not better than his first two albums, but it certainly outranks anything he did after."

    Twitter
  • 9

    Boney Starks

    Writer (Complex)

    Favorite Memory Involving the Album:

    "I was in the 11th grade when this record dropped, I would go wherever I could to purchase CDs because I had a 40-second skip protection Discman and was pretty much untouchable.

    The thing I recall most about this record is that my father enjoyed it more than I. He's a child of Parliament-Funkadelic, he's always been a fan of as he says, "a good beat," so when 'Party Up' came out, he was all on it. In fact, I'm not sure if I even was the one to buy this album. I had followed X since 'Get At Me Dog' and believe I purchased 'Flesh Of My Flesh.' But, if you remember, around [1999 and 2000] everyone was going one of two ways, the jiggy, pop, Tone and Poke, Swizz and Timbo route, or the underground, heard on Rap City only and Mix Radio route. So I had dropped X a bit when I saw that he had a cut with Sisqo of all people."

    Favorite Song on the Album:

    "The lead single, 'What's My Name,' was the coldest song on the album, in my opinion. It was ferocious, it was mean, it was X. He was at his zenith here."

    Favorite Beat on the Album:

    "Again, 'What's My Name' has to be the one, Irv Gotti produced it, and sonically it just came correct, this was when folks started shifting from samples to more beats straight off the MPC, so when you start making your own drums, they don't bang as tough as when you take one from old work."

    Where You Feel the Album Ranks in His Catalog:

    "Again, to me this started to show the decline of X. This was his entry into pop culture, this was the album that had songs in commercials, on sports channels, on top 40. While it was probably his biggest check earner (I'm sure they'll do the stats), to me, it was the beginning of the end."

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