Not many rappers can say they’ve had a career even remotely close to DMX’s. In 1998, the dog man filled a gaping void in rap to which hadn’t been the same since Tupac’s tragic death two years prior. His classic debut launched a new superstar into the hip hop world. Accompanied by his gritty street persona, the emotionally unstable dog-loving rapper effortlessly raised the stakes. 15 years later, lets take a look at his debut.

Cue the growls and dog barks; “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot” wasn’t packed with punch lines and witty wordplay. Instead, the lyrical passion and depth won over critics and fans alike. When he stole the show on The L.O.X’s “Money Power Respect,” that’s when ears began to perk. But it was his street single “Ruff Ryder’s Anthem” that not only put the crew on the map, but brought  New Yorkers together. The baggy jeans, cut off shirts, bandanas, and now infamous dirt bikes can be spotted in every scene, and managed to signify unity.

X easily brought new energy to a much more laid back music scene at the time. His mic persona mirrored real life events, which proved to be both admirable and unfortunate down the line. He warned his enemies about crossing him on “Fu*kin’ With D”, gave us a closer look at his menacing ways on “Look Thru My Eyes”, and straight up taunted us with “Get at me Dog”. X took the Dame Grease production to tell us about the lifestyle he has to live:

What Must I go thru to show you sh*t is real..and I ain’t never gave a f*ck about how n*ggas feel..rob and I steal. Not cause I want to, cause I have to. And don’t make me show you what the mac do

But remember “X-Is Coming”? The haunting track famously sampled the “Freddy’s Coming for You” theme song from the  ”Nightmare on Elm Street” films, and had the dog man serving some of his most grimey and brashest lyrics that would make even Lil’ Wayne or Rick Ross a bit uncomfortable. Although rough around the edges, women loved him, and what’s a classic album without a song dedicated to the ladies?

Featuring Faith Evans, “How’s it Goin Down” tells the story of X meeting a girl and carrying on an affair to which by song’s end he decides it isn’t the right thing to do. But that doesn’t stop him from getting the girl to pick up drugs for him. Confusing, I know but great listen!

Of course we know down the line, that DMX’s career completely spiraled out of control, but some of us forget sometimes why we loved him in the first place. The same thing we loved and accepted about him, is ultimately what became his low point. But credit him with bringing the best out of other artist (see Ma$e and The L.O.X on “N*ggas Done Started Something”) Or with being the first hardcore rap artist to surface after Big and Pac’s death because if it wasn’t for that, we’d probably be wearing shiny suits till this day, bruh. DMX brought hip hop back to it’s origins and is quite frankly what your favorite rapper aspires to be career wise. Def Jam 1998 was on to something big, and this album gave that year the start it needed.