The barks were loud — even past midnight. When DMX hit the stage at Vulcan Gas Company in Austin as the headliner for REVOLT’s annual REVOLT House, an unofficial showcase that was open to the public during SXSW, his fans returned the same intensity he’s known for. After watching hours of performances from the likes of Ade, Cantrell, Childish Major, Posa, and Flipp Dinero, X was like the final rap lap before the finish line. Considering the event briefly was shut down by Austin police earlier in the evening, only to re-open it hours later, this performance came together with a bit of luck and patience. If you made it, you were there to witness a SXSW moment.
Twenty minutes after midnight, X, in shades and a Ruff Ryders ’88 football jersey, came out the gate with the first heavy-hitter, “We Right Here.” With decades of live performances under his belt, the Yonkers legend moved with purpose, commanding the crowd with his signature ad-libs and growls. After spending a year behind bars for federal tax evasion charges, X is making up for lost time. More focused, yet sounding hungry as ever, X had only one goal for the night: deliver the classics.
“The legends,” DMX said at one point during the show, bowing to the VIP section on the second floor. It was Atlanta’s very own Big Boi and CeeLo Green, who came out to watch X as fans. X would stop in between songs to kick a hybrid of freestyle and sermon. A lot of the lyrics were raw and unfiltered, delivered purely out of passion. “I’ve traveled the world,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of things. I fucked a lot of bitches. I say that to say that being on stage in front of a room full of people that love you is better than the best p***y that I ever got in my fucking life! I’m here because of you! I’m here because of you! I’m here because of you! Without you, there will be no me.”
If you’re a hardcore X fan, you know the setlist. He went all over his critically acclaimed catalogue, performing highlights “One More Road to Cross,” “It’s All Good,” “What’s My Name” and “Get It on the Floor,” which made X and Swizz Beatz’ recent studio pic together that much sweeter. At 48, X still wants to climb on top of speakers. And why wouldn’t he for “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem”? The song earned of many big reactions from the crowd, where everyone was engaged and shouted back his lyrics. “Stop, drop, shut ‘em down, open up shop…” And it goes on.
X also did “What These Bitches Want,” making sure to turn the volume down on the beat to whisper his second verse of all the partners he’s been with for dramatic effect. Of course, it isn’t a DMX show without “Party Up (Up in Here),” and in this club atmosphere, the song took the energy levels from 10 to 11.
Later, X asked, “How many of y’all copped the first album, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot?” nodding his head at the amount of true fans in the building.
“Where my dogs at?” he yelled before performing “Get At Me Dog,” his first single from that album. Tonight’s show was a preview of the album’s 20th anniversary tour announced in February, celebrating the milestone a year later because X was locked up at the time.
The aggressiveness on stage couldn’t be contained, and a small fight broke out in front of X. But he brushed it off. “It wasn’t a DMX show if there wasn’t one fight, “he said. “I wouldn’t feel right if there wasn’t one altercation.”
As the night concluded, X took another break to share his truth. “I thank God for my dark times,” he said. “I thank God for my obstacles. I thank God for my difficult situations cause it is during those times I become aware of what God is willing to do for me.” When the lights finally dimmed, he instructed the audience to “light this motherfucker up” with cellphone lights and lighters. The song, “Slippin,” is for God’s warriors, he said, and its lyrics about positively changing your life after hitting rock bottom have a way to lift the listener up. X pulled out a lighter as well, connecting with his fans as if he was rapping “Slippin” for the first time again.
DMX is a man of God and religion plays an important role in his creative project. It’s a theme in his set, leaving fans with just one more prayer that real X fans know by heart: The “Prayer” skit.
“Lord, give me a sign!/Please let me know you’re here, or at least let me know you’re near/Remind me to call you, when we need you/Remind me to call you, because we all need to/And give us the strength to just make it through just one more day/In Jesus’ mighty name we pray/Amen,” he said.
Throwing up an X, the Grand Champ, with a towel draped over his head, ended his service to cheers and applauds like he never left.