DMX - Live at the SmokeOut Review
By Patrick Muldowney
In case the premise of this review is confusing in itself, a few things should be made clear. First of all, this is a new DVD review of DMX performing music, but before you either brim with excitement or groan with disgust about this resurfacing, understand that the performance is over two years old. The delay in its release was most likely due to the great deal of post production that goes into a 26-minute live performance. The other issue begging clarity it that the "SmokeOut" is not a club, but a festival promoting the use of pot, which is run by none other than The Grateful Dead of rap, Cypress Hill.
Now that the artist and title of this DVD is clarified, any review should begin with the appetizers or preliminary bouts to the main event, DMX's performance. The bonus features on this disc are comprised of snippets of an interview with the man himself, a documentary on the meaning of 4:20, and a photo gallery of the live show. The most valuable of these features is the interview, during which you find out that his movies have become so irrelevant, he is not even sure about the name of his next film (The Last Hour). It is yet to be released, but when it goes straight to Blockbuster, challenge yourself to find the one copy buried at the corner of a bottom row shelf. When you've met that challenge, call it a day, because renting it might present whole new realms you cannot digest. From another part of the interview, in discussing other rappers, he frankly admits he pays no attention to the rap scene. This is a breath of fresh air compared to all the new school rap artists who have created Rapology, a strict science to which all aspiring emcees must pay homage. He lives by the ancient that you can either communicate to and move crowds, or you cannot. Such a philosophy makes him rap's Billy Bob Thornton.
The "4:20" feature is completely ridiculous. Whoever edited this couldn't even get their time correct, since the length of the segment could not even follow the spirit of its title, and topped out at four minutes and twelve seconds. Also, the feature achieves the opposite of its desired effect. Considering that those interviewed are so intellectually handicapped, anyone who watches this should avoid drugs.
The last "bonus" is the photo gallery, a collection of still shots from the performance, scores a ten on the scale of uselessness. All DVD players have the pause feature, but for the truly lazy fan, who cannot process moving pictures fast enough to truly appreciate a bald man in camouflage, that elusive collection of disc paused shots finally exists. The idea for this feature must have been hatched after a long night hotboxed in a trailer at the "SmokeOut".
Thankfully, some quality does exist (approx. 26 minutes) in the form of the main feature, DMX's performance. He has always been considered one of the top performers in rap because of his energy and emotion, and this is no exception. DMX has a genuine, and rare, ability to blend the energy of gangster rap and club hip hop, with the emotion of a rapper willing to show a deeper side by sharing his tragic experiences and personal flaws. Regardless of the degree to which you enjoy rap or agree with the context of his lyrics, his willingness to bare both extremes of showmanship, as trying as the emotional side may be, should endear all audiences.
The experience at the "SmokeOut" lasts only eight tracks, an exercise in quality over quantity. The entire outdoor concert takes place in the pouring rain, and it's fairly clear at the beginning that the crowd is affected by it. Like a true soldier, no mention is ever made of the weather, and the seeming irrelevance of the situation for DMX brushes off on the crowd. It does not hurt that, like a professional, he seems to know that they need adrenaline. Four of the first five tracks, "We Right Here", "Who We Be", "Where the Hood At", and "Party Up (Up In Here)", are crowd movers. Once their attention is gained, the audience is treated to the more thoughtful lyrics featured in "Ayo Kato" and "Slippin'". These two songs are aptly paired considering "Kato" is an emotional tribute to a friend he lost. He struggles to complete the song with tears streaming down his face, and leaves the stage momentarily to gather himself. Upon his return, DMX immediately begins "Slippin'", which relates those times he feels like life is defeating, and needs help. From the publicity linked to his personal struggles, there is no question all the emotions are legitimate, although the way in which his sidekick covers him with a jacket as they leave the stage is strictly James Brown 101.
"Live at the SmokeOut" may contain the worst bonus features ever assembled on disc, but just as DMX carries his unoriginal sidekick and sub par deejay on stage, he carries the DVD. If you are even merely a partial fan of his work, you should enjoy owning this performance. In fact, do all of us a favor and help this disc outsell his movies, so we are more likely to see his talents onstage than onscreen.
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DMX - Live at the SmokeOut
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