You Get Back Up
New York magazine|June 7 - 20, 2021
A posthumous album from DMX that feels like it was meant to be the start of something.
CRAIG JENKINS

RAP DOESN’T HAVE a retirement plan. For every Jay-Z or Nas, veterans known as much for the contents of their investment portfolios as their records, there are scores of beloved performers who aren’t doing as well. The hits dry up on everyone; either you’re prepared for that or you’re back hustling to make ends meet. In a field notorious for tall tales and expenditures, that fall can be subtle. Maybe your favorite rapper starts hawking offbeat products during their public appearances, or hosting motivational seminars, or popping up in commercials for local businesses. These awkward dealings often scan as funny, but they never bode well. When your audience loses interest, your bargaining power diminishes. We talk a big game about giving artists their flowers, but love doesn’t keep the lights on.

According to producer Swizz Beatz, it was in the days following the late DMX’s Verzuz battle—the online matchups between artists streamed over Instagram Live—last summer that the rapper got the drive to make a new album. It had been nearly a decade since his last official studio release (discounting a choppy compilation released against his wishes in 2015)—a rough patch marked by sporadic guest spots, money troubles, and worrying arrests. DMX wanted to prove he still had something to say, to own his status as a 50-year-old survivor, to match wits with peers and successors again. Swizz wanted to pay it forward for the man who helped put him on; DMX’s “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” was Swizz’s first successful beat.

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