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DMX's 'It's Dark And Hell Is Hot' Tracklist, Ranked

It’s anniversary has come and gone, but with the tracks aging exceptionally well, VIBE dived deep into the album by ranking it in its entirety.

Dreams of fame, fortune and a lavish lifestyle are common among many figures within the hip-hop community. But for some, the responsibility to stay true to the unwritten codes that govern the culture while maintaining street cred paramounts one’s reputation.

During the mid '90s, hip-hop’s identity became more varied, especially on the east coast as The Notorious B.I.G., Sean "Puffy" Combs and Bad Boy Records, steered the visual ship from 40 ounce malt liquor and army fatigues to champagne and high-end fashion.

However, in the wake of Bad Boy's success, there was a sizable contingent of the community alienated by the glitz and glamour. Enter DMX in 1998, whose brand of music spoke to the heart of the streets with an energy and aura that would make him one of the biggest stars in rap.

Just years prior, Earl Simmons battled with his career while in and out of prison. X found a home with Ruff Ryders, a management company founded by Joaquin "Waah" Dean and Darrin "Dee" Dean. After a failed stint on Columbia Records, DMX and Ruff Ryders would go back to the drawing board, with X building a buzz on Mic Geronimo's classic 1995 posse cut "Time To Build" featuring a young Ja Rule and Jay-Z.

The rapper would hit another stride in 1997, scoring high-profile guest spots on LL Cool J's single "4, 3, 2, 1," Ma$e's "24 Hrs. to Live," "Take What's Yours," and The LOX's "Money, Power & Respect."

The hype would lead to DMX inking a record deal with Def Jam Records in 1997, as well as the release of DMX's highly-anticipated debut album, It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, the following year on March 12, 1998.

Boasting production from Dame Grease, P.K., Lil Rob, Swizz Beatz and Irv Gotti, with guest appearances by Ma$e, The LOX, Faith Evans and additional Ruff Ryders talent, It's Dark and Hell Is Hot would make an immediate impact, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with 251,000 copies sold in its first week.

Led by the singles "Get At Me Dog," "Ruff Ryders' Anthem," "Stop Being Greedy" and "How's It Goin Down," It's Dark and Hell Is Hot dominated radio and would become the soundtrack to the streets, with many hailing the artist as a rap savior and an icon in the making. Selling over five million copies worldwide and shifting the paradigm of hip-hop, It's Dark and Hell Is Hot is regarded as one of the most impactful debut albums of all-time and a bonafide classic that's synonymous with one of the most exciting eras in rap.

It's anniversary has come and gone, but with the tracks aging exceptionally well, VIBE dived deep into the album by ranking it in its entirety.

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15. "For My Dogs"

X dials up Kasino, Loose, Big Stan and Drag-On for a show of crew love on "For My Dogs," a posse cut that finds the five pitbulls busting out of the kennel with a succession of rhyme spills. Produced by Dame Grease, the track trends towards the lower end of tracks from DMX's debut, but remains a serviceable cut worthy of an occasional spin.

14. "I Can Feel It"

Dame Grease reworks a sample of Phil Collins' classic "In the Air Tonight" for "I Can Feel It." The somber track catches Dark Man X in a state of reflection and introspect. X's rendition falls short of the original due to guest star Nardo's pedestrian vocal performance on the hook.

13. "ATF"

A vivid tale of an ATF sting operation is spun on the album, which finds X going toe-to-toe with law enforcement in a blaze of glory. Although the track is more of an interlude than a bonafide song, "ATF" is among the more explosive numbers on the latter half of the project and captures the Ruff Ryders grand champ in the heat of the moment.

12. "Crime Story"

A sample of Edwin Starr's "Easin' In" serves as the foundation of "Crime Story," an epic crime parable that finds DMX on the run during a murder spree and evading the capture of the NYPD. As far as storytelling goes, the song has it all. There's a precision-like attempt to the track that features sheer comedy with a mix of wit. It's one that will surprise a listener who's only jammed to the rapper's major singles.

11. "Look Thru My Eyes"

"Burning in hell, but don't deserve to be/Got n**** I don't even know that wanna murder me," DMX laments on "Look Thru My Eyes," a hard-boiled heater that finds the Yonkers heavyweight attacking with the vigor of a canine off it's leash. Add in subtle wrinkles like the whimpering dog at the beginning of the song and "Look Thru My Eyes" stands as an exceptional deep cut that helps make up the fabric of this classic.

10. "Damien"

On "Damien," DMX makes a deal with the devil in exchange for riches, but learns that the cost is too pricey to pay. Produced by Dame Grease, "Damien" is a testament to DMX's originality and imagery and ranks among the greatest storytelling songs of its era.

9. "The Convo"

"Somebody's knockin', should I let em in," DMX ponders on "The Convo," inspired by his relationship with God. Creating a dialogue with the man above with production by Dame Grease, X gets insight to the unanswered questions that have plagued his psyche on what is one of the more heartfelt and impassioned inclusions on his high-powered debut.

8. "X-Is Coming"

DMX gives fair-warning to his foes on "X-Is Coming," a menacing number that's equal parts grisly and sinister. Flowing over an eerie soundscape provided by PK, the entertainer shows little remorse, or boundaries. It's some of the more controversial lyrics of his career, a few of which would prove particularly problematic today. Political correctness aside, "X-Is Coming" is required listener for any fan of aggressive lyricism, to which DMX provides royally.

7. "How's It Going Down"

It's Dark and Hell Is Hot is known for bringing the hardcore element back to rap, but DMX smooths things out with "How's It Goin' Down," an addictive track that foreshadowed his unexpected turn as a hip-hop sex symbol. Produced by PK and released as the fourth and final single from the album, "How's It Goin' Down" would make a minor impact on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 70, but was a major hit with fans in large part due to its Hype Williams-directed music video, which has lived on to become one of the defining clips of DMX's career.

6. "Let Me Fly"

"Let Me Fly" is a composition that finds the rapper in search of freedom and independence in the spiritual and literal sense. Produced by Dame Grease, with additional production from Young Lord, "Let Me Fly" shines due to its hook, as well as X's lyrical guile and poignant transparency.

5. "F***in Wit' D"

It's Dark and Hell Is Hot's finest moments arrives when X is in a state of attack, which is the case on "F***in Wit' D," a rollicking number that captures the Ruff Ryder spitting with reckless abandon. "What's on y'all n****s minds, f***ing with me/Y'all know somebody has told you about f***ing with D," X barks, doing his bidding over production by P Killer Trackz and Dame Grease, putting all competitors on notice that him and his camp are nothing to be trifled with.

4. "Stop Being Greedy"

PK and Dame Grease flip a sample of Diana Ross' "My Hero Is a Gun" into the backdrop for "Stop Being Greedy," an ominous number that would play a major part in introducing him as rap's hottest newcomer. Released as the second single from the album, "Stop Being Greedy" would showcase DMX's various moods, from laid back and conversational, to aggressive and confrontational. It further enticed the rap populus to crown him as the people's champ and the grim reaper of the Shiny Suit era.

3. "N****z Done Started Something"

In an era where posse cuts were essential to completing rap albums, DMX rose to the occasion with his own, testing his mettle against affiliates Ma$e and The L.O.X. on "N****z Done Started Something," a bruising selection produced by Dame Grease. Known for anchoring battle royals during his rise to prominence, DMX holds court on the last verse in an awe-worthy moment.

2. "Ruff Ryders' Anthem"

When DMX proclaimed "something new" at the beginning of "Ruff Ryders' Anthem," even he probably had no idea how true that statement would prove to be. Released at the third single, the track would mark a changing of the guard, snuffing out the popularity of the sanitized brand of rap at the time. Despite posting modest numbers on the charts, "Ruff Ryders' Anthem" would help launch the careers of both DMX and producer Swizz Beatz, who crafted the track that would take Ruff Ryders to the top of the food-chain.

1. "Get At Me Dog"

The pinnacle of It's Dark and Hell Is Hot is the album's lead-single, "Get At Me Dog." The song would seemingly stop the entirety of the rap world in its tracks and become a cultural timestamps for anyone who was around to experience it in real time.

Originally a mixtape freestyle, "Get At Me Dog" was reworked using scattered verses from the rapper. The song peaked at No. 39 on the Hot 100 and won over video countdowns, where the Hype Williams-directed video televised the revolution. It also became a playlist to nightclubs like The Tunnel (R.I.P.), where it would become an all-time banger.

Although It's Dark and Hell Is Hot is greater than the sum of its parts, "Get At Me Dog" was the key component in the machine that manufactured DMX, and remains a certified classic til this day.

READ: 10 Years Later: Mariah Carey’s ‘E=MC²’ Tracklist, Ranked

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CIRCA 1980: Photo of Bill Withers
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Bill Withers' Greatest Hits: Remixed, Sampled And Covered

The recent loss of legends in jazz, soul and classical music have saddened the music industry and reminded us of their touching gifts to music. The passing of Manu Dibango, Krzysztof Penderecki, Ellis Marsalis Jr., Bucky Pizzarelli and Alan Merrill brought endless tributes from peers and fans with the recent loss of soul singer-songwriter Bill Withers doing the same.

With a mirage of hits, the iconic songwriter left his mark on music with the release of his debut album Just As I Am in 1971. "Ain't No Sunshine" put a spotlight on his songwriting while 1977's "Lovely Day" reminded the industry of his signature vocals. Withers released eight studio albums, one live album and garnered three Grammys for his powerful songs that gave hope and love to fans to this day.

Hip-hop and R&B have gained the most from Withers as his music went on to inspire records like "No Diggity" by BLACKStreet, "Roses" by Kanye West and other songs from UGK, Dr. Dre, Jill Scott and more.

Take a look at some of Withers' finest tunes covered, remixed and sampled below.

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8. “Lovely Day” | Menagerie (1977)

Sampled On: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999) LunchMoneyLewis - “It's Gonna Be A Lovely Day” feat. Aminè | Pets 2 Soundtrack (2019) Swizz Beatz - “Take A Picture” |One Man Band (2007)

Standout: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999)

Short for "The Whole Damn Yay," the group used Withers' sample while throwing a splash of The Bay's laid back flavor. With cameos from future legends like E-40 and Ray Luv, the single already embodied the best of R&B and hip-hop with guest verses from Too Short, Mac Mall and Otis & Shug. The mimosas and yacht are also a great touch.

Covered By: Jill Scott, The Original Jill Scott from the Vault Vol. 1 (2011) Alt-J, This Is All Yours (2014) Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio 2 (2013) Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Standout: Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Who was going to beat a chorus singing to the lordt? Franklin's take on the classic gives us stirring gospel and appreciation for Withers and God. There are plenty of covers that have lifted the same vocals as Withers, but the ones listed have put their unique spin on the track.

7. “Ain't No Sunshine” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001) Lil B - “Up And Down” | Based Jam (2012) 2Pac- "Soulja's Story" |  2Pacalypse Now (1991)

Standout: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001)

"No Sunshine" served as the only single from DMX's film alongside Steven Seagal, which gave everyone the perfect backdrop to the movie and X's intricate storytelling. Both the original and flipped version points out the dark elements of our lives. Withers penned the song after watching the film 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses, he pondered over the toxicity in his life. "Sometimes you miss things that weren't particularly good for you," he said in 2004 to SongFacts. "It's just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I'm not aware of."

Covered By: Soul For Real | Candy Rain (1994) Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972) The Boris Gardiner Happening | Is What's Happening (1973) The Temptations | Solid Rock (1972)

Standout: Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972)

At 14, the future King of Pop gave a riveting cover of Withers' hit for his debut album, Got To Be There. From his vocal control throughout the track to the instrumentation, his cover takes the song to another level of heartbreak.

6. "Grandma's Hands” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996) Big K.R.I.T. - “I Gotta Stay” | K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (2010) Brother Ali - “Waheedah's Hands” | Champion (2004)

Standout: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996)

R&B heads are well aware of BLACKstreet's neverending ballads and the genius of Teddy Riley. But the pivot of their sound for their sophomore album Another Level was due to Withers and the William “Stylez” Stewart. Speaking to Fact Mag in 2017, the creator of New Jack Swing gave credit to Stylez for bringing him the sample of "Grandma's Hands."

“If he hadn’t played that sample for me, there would never be a ‘No Diggity’ And if he didn’t write it according to the melody I gave him so it would sound that way because I wanted it to sound funky,” he said. “I wanted it to be appealing to everyone, but mostly to women. I wanted every woman to feel like they were the ‘No Diggity’ girl and that song was about them and it came across. And now, still, today, that song plays and people are on that dancefloor.”

Covered By: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981) Merry Clayton, Merry Clayton (1971) Barbra Streisand, Butterfly (1974)

Standout: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981)

Gil Scott-Heron's version of the soul classic reminded us of his versatile talents. From spoken word to his vocal abilities, the Godfather of rap music always came through with his own sound and style. Reflections was one of four albums the late artist dropped in the 80s with critics looking to it as one of his finest projects. Other cuts from the album included "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" and "B Love."

5. "Use Me" | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012) J. Cole- "Dollar And A Dream II" | The Warm-Up (2009) Leela James - “So Good" | Fall For You (2014) UGK - "Use Me Up" | The Southern Way (1992)

Standout: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012)

Lamar's take on "Use Me" blended right into the themes of his debut album, Good kid, Maad City allowing the artist to create another world on the project. To make things even better, Lamar also sampled Al Green's "I'm Glad You're Mine" for the track.

Covered By: Grace Jones, Indigo Nights, Live (2008) Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit  (2004) Issac Hayes, Dr. Dolittle Soundtrack (1998)

Standout: Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit (2004)

On his third solo album, Jagger linked with Rick Rubin to test his creative energy, allowing him to work with Lenny Kravitz on their version of "Use Me." Colliding worlds was one thing but to hear Kravitz's vocals come in on the bridge, set the track apart from the rest.

4. “Kissing My Love” | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: J. Cole - “The Cut Off" featuring kiLL Edward  | KOD (2018) Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992) Masta Ace- "Movin On" | Take A Look Around (1990) Master P- "Bastard Child" | The Ghettos Tryin To Kill Me! | 1994

Standout: Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992)

"Kissing My Love" is one of most sampled from Withers catalog, thanks to its feverish drums. It's also why it fits into Dr. Dre's single and the G-funk era.

3. Grover Washington's “Just The Two of Us” featuring Bill Withers | Winelight (1981)

Sampled/Covered On:  Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997) Eminem- "Just The Two of Us" | Slim Shady EP (1997) Keri Hilson- "Pretty Girl Rock" | No Boys Allowed (2010)

Standout: Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997)

Touching and soulful, Smith's dedication to his eldest son Trey is just too cute for words.

2. “Let It Be” | Just As I Am  (1967)

The Original: The Beatles - “Let It Be” | Let It Be (1968)

"Let It Be" is a pretty special record. Aretha Franklin recorded a version a year before the release of The Beatles' version and Withers gave his take on the record in the 70s. Slightly faster, his upbeat take on "Let It Be" just hits different.

1. “Rosie” | Menagerie Re-Issue (1977)

Sampled On: Kanye West - “Roses” |  Late Registration (2005)

As the somber part of Late Registration, "Roses" brings us into Kanye's world where he contemplates the mortality of a loved one. It's a sentimental take on the sample and one of the artist's most underrated songs. It's also a hidden gem for Withers as it isn't featured on Menagerie's LP. It was added as a bonus track on

Enjoy the jams in playlist form below.

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Remain Calm: 5 Ways To Curve Negative Effects Of Coronavirus Isolation

Self-isolation during the coronavirus outbreak seems to be best practice in keeping our families and peers safe but it's also a shift in our normal social behavior. As millions of families around the country get adjusted to self-isolation, the state of our mental health and how our bodies react to the practice are changing by the day, especially lower-income and marginalized groups.

Speaking with Wired, John Vincent, a clinical psychologist at the University of Houston, shared how apathetic behavior can rise to the forefront, making space for anxiety and depression.

“People start getting lethargic when they don’t have positive inputs into their small worlds,” Vincent says. “We can expect depression to kick in, and depression and anxiety are kissing cousins.”

But the biggest reason behind the uneasiness isn't the self-isolation but just how long it will last. Details of COVID-19 are changing by the day with the most cases now coming out of New York. Yet, there's still little to no information on what happens next.

“Open, transparent, consistent communication is the most important thing governments and organizations can do: Make sure people understand why they are being quarantined first and foremost, how long it is expected to last,” Samantha Brooks of King’s College London told the outlet. “A huge factor in the negative psychological impact seems to be confusion about what's going on, not having clear guidelines, or getting different messages from different organizations.”

Uncertainty hitting low income and marginalized groups is also a problem within itself. As virtual parties and celebrities opening up on social media happen on a daily, there are people who might not access fun distractions on the web.

“Some people have posited technology as a means of connecting people, but lower-income groups might not even have FaceTime or Skype or minutes on their phone,” Thomas Cudjoe, a geriatrician researching the intersection of social connections and aging at Johns Hopkins University says. “People take that for granted, using their devices can be a strain on people’s incomes.”

To make self-isolation less than a bore or a daunting task, experts suggest creating a schedule to dictate control in your home.

1. Work It Out

Gyms are closed, but your home can be transformed into a personal training center. Use heavy bags for weights and if you can, create a playlist of workouts on YouTube. For those who have memberships for Blink or Peloton, the platforms have streamed their workouts on apps.

2. Mindful Meditation

Meditation isn't about dumping your thoughts, it's about staying aware and mindful. AQUA has developed online that leverages the power of "Mindful Meditation and Mobility Movements" for flexibility and fluidity in the body. Classes are free of charge but feel free to donate.

3. Take It Back To High School

Give your friends a call or indulge in a FaceTime party. Feel free to use the Wifi in your home to reduce the amount of data used on your phone. Lala Anthony held a too-cute FT birthday party for writer Kiyonna Anthony with a 70s theme. You can also find creative ways to hop on the phone with friends and family instead of constantly chatting about 'rona.

 

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We made the best out of our quarantine situation🎉‼️FACETIME 70s Party💃🏽🎉HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY NIECE @kiyonnathewriter ❤️❤️💃🏽💃🏽SHOUT OUT TO ALL MY ARIES ♈️ MAKE THE BEST OF IT!!!😘

A post shared by ℒᎯ ℒᎯ (@lala) on Mar 23, 2020 at 7:14pm PDT

4. Start A Journal

Journals just aren't for kids. The practice not only gives you something to do, but it fuels creativity and a new level of self-awareness. Former First Lady Michelle Obama recently developed Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice, with over 150 inspiring questions and quotes that connect to key themes in her memoir. The journal will also help bring readers to terms with the importance of family and personal reflections as well as the goals they'd like to make a reality.

5. Have a Dance Party or Enjoy Lo-Fi Beats To Quarantine To

If you don't have data or battery power to watch a virtual DJ party, make your own. If you have to pull out your record player, do it! You can also hop on your favorite streaming service and create a playlist all your own.

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From Teen Sensation To Vocal Bible: Brandy's 15 Best Songs

September 27, 2019 marked the 25th anniversary of the multiplatinum self-titled debut album by one of R&B’s greatest voices, Brandy Rayana Norwood, or simply Brandy. She was already well on her way to stardom prior to her debut as a background vocalist for Immature and one of the stars of the short-lived ABC series, Thea. However, it was the album Brandy that set her on the path to tremendous success.

Since officially bursting onto the scene in 1994 sporting her well-known braided crown of glory, she has been a force to be reckoned with. She was handpicked by her idol, the late Whitney Houston, to portray the role of the first Black Cinderella in the 1997 film Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. Her show Moesha was one of the longest-running black sitcoms. Brandy was also a CoverGirl in 1999 and became a friend of Barbie that same year when Mattel released the Brandy Doll. In music, she’s released six studio albums, sold more than 40 million records worldwide, headlined three world tours, and won more than 30 awards including seven Billboard Music Awards, a Grammy and the Soul Train Lady of Soul Award. Brandy deserves her flowers.

Let’s check out the top 15 songs that helped solidify Brandy as your favorite singer’s favorite singer (just ask Solange) and earned her the title of the “Vocal Bible.”

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