Photo Credit: @shotbyjacques
The posthumous album as a memorial is a concept that has played out in public several times over the last two years. DMX was prolific and well-connected, but hadn’t released a proper album in nine years at the time of his death at 50-years-old. Exodus was executive-produced by Swizz Beats who collaborated closely with DMX in the studio before his untimely death.
In an interview with the New York Times, Swizz speaks of the diligence it took to keep their recording sessions going. “You need him during the daytime. The nighttime is just…a lot of people gathered around him. So I liked to catch him before that.” In turn, Swizz surrounded DMX with another gathering entirely: an A-list crowd of collaborators competing for attention, including Nas, Jay-Z, Usher, Moneybagg Yo, Alicia Keys, and Bono. Exodus has more features than any other DMX record, and he fades to the background as a direct result.
The Exodus album cover, lensed by Jonathan Mannion, captures the biblical tattoo DMX proudly sported on his neck. The verse (Exodus 1:7) reads: “But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.” The connection applies that profit to his fans, acknowledging that they fill up his tank. And receive from them he did, seeing massive success as the first artist to debut five consecutive albums at No.1 on the Billboard chart.
The biggest problem with posthumous records is the instant disconnection from the artist on the mic. Unless the album was finished before the artist passed, someone else has to step in to make creative decisions. Swizz was a close friend and confidant that knew better than most what DMX would’ve thrown at the wall, but his executive decisions still detract from the leading artist. Bono’s weak hook on “Skyscrapers” is better suited for a Chainsmokers single, while Jay-Z and Nas easily overtake DMX on “Bath Salts” with more engaging bars.
During the rare times when a guest’s energy matches DMX’s, the results are a time warp back to the late ‘90s and early 2000s when his music ruled at radio. “Take Control” with Snoop Dogg is a raunchy, horny jam set to a smart sample of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.” It’s instantly recognizable DMX, and it feels truer to the artist’s legacy than most of the material here.
Exodus is by nature a celebration of the life of a hugely influential rapper. It’s a remarkable achievement to see an album’s worth of material released from an artist who hadn’t dropped anything new in several years. The album might not spawn any hits or go down on any year-end lists, but fans have a piece of the artist to hold onto that wasn’t a given two years prior, and that’s something to celebrate indeed.