When DMX takes the stage at the 9 Mile Music Festival this Saturday, some audience members might experience a little cognitive dissonance. 9 Mile is historically a peace-and-love-friendly affair, a festival that requires attendees to donate canned goods to charity just to get through the gates. Meanwhile, DMX doesn't exactly exude the most peaceful vibes. This is, after all, a guy whose stage name stands for "Dark Man X"; who crossed over into film via action thrillers such as Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 the Grave; and who's well known for his assertive lyricism on chart-topping records like "Party Up (Up in Here)."
"If I gotsta bring it to you cowards, then it's gonna be quick, aight/All your mens up in the jail before, suck my dick." It's not exactly the "Come Together" of its generation.
But although DMX will almost certainly leave the hippie feels out of this weekend's gig, he's aiming to bring the hard-core hip-hop element that fans have come to love.
For his breakthrough role in the movie Belly alongside Nas, the Ruff Ryders frontrunner released the reggae/dancehall-inspired single "Top Shotter" with a young Mr. Vegas and Sean Paul for the film's superb soundtrack. Since he first made an impact on the world of music and film nearly two decades ago, it's become rare for the New York-born X to tap into his appreciation of island-based music. So will the 46-year-old embrace the various rhythmic genres of 9 Mile and possibly deliver something new during his anticipated performance?
"I don't really know if there will be anything different, because I think if it ain't broke, don't fix it," DMX tells New Times in a brief garbled phone call.
Last November, he performed at the LGBT-friendly House Nightclub. He gave Miami fans a decent show but in essence got little memorable in return except electrical feedback and light cheers from the scattered fans who knew his lyrics.
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This time around, though, DMX won't be performing at any average downtown Miami venue: He's tasked with headlining a fest that's become a staple event for local music lovers. X is set to bring his grimy flow and tough stage presence to the 24th-annual festival, but there's no guarantee of anything extraordinarily different.
"I don't bring anybody onstage," DMX says, promising to stick to his usual style, "no hype man, no dancers, none of that."
Let's hope he'll change his mind come showtime. Over the past year, the internet has been impatiently waiting for new music from the "Who We Be" rapper since his trusted producer Swizz Beatz revealed the news of DMX's first album in ten years on Instagram and fueled the fire by dropping the alleged album cover at the top of 2017. Last month, Beatz upped the hype by playing an unreleased collaboration with DMX, Jay Z, Jadakiss, and Nas during his DJ battle with Just Blaze on Instagram Live.
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With a catalog full of unforgettable records, X should be able to shock the crowd at the 9 Mile Music Festival. But to really leave an impression, he'll have to depart from his typical medley of hits. DMX would truly kill it at 9 Mile if he blessed the audience with a brief preview of what he's been cooking up with Swizz Beatz since his last official LP dropped in 2006. DMX has the opportunity to stand out on the main stage in a lineup of talented and buzz-worthy artists including Rick Ross, Sizzla, and Capleton.
However, according to X himself, only the crowd's energy will determine whether he'll increase the overall shock value of his set.
"I feel like if they're looking for it and it's a good crowd, then, you know, I'll hit them with something new."
9 Mile Music Festival
With Rick Ross, Julian Marley, DMX, Capleton, and others. Saturday, March 11, at Historic Virginia Key Beach, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr., Miami; 305-665-5379; 9milemusicfestival.com. Tickets cost $59.99 to $179.99.