DMX: What’s My Name?

what is eating at DMX? All that pent-up rage and aggression. The problem may be that he’s blessed with a pesky sense of conscience, which does not sit comfortably with his need to vent anger in violent fashion. DMX is not a sociable chappie—he’s an insular family man, but that’s not to say that he gets much happiness from that way of life. He’s scary, but he’s also scared and lonely. "What's My Name?" is simultaneously terrifying, and a cry for help and understanding.

The fact that he once collaborated with Marilyn Manson just confirms what I already suspected—DMX is a goth. Listen to this track—lavish, mysterious, yet with an undeniably dark heart. This is as gothic as anything the Cure ever released.

The opening: eastern chimes—two DMX’s on top of each other, one mumbling “My niggas”, the other screaming “YOU THINK THIS IS A FUCKING GAME???!!!” And some dog-barking— (DMX’s barky dog schtick hadn’t become quite so tiresome at this stage). It’s a crude but effective scene-scetter: DMX is as separate from the rest of humanity as a dog. All is clear.

Then the beat kicks in. It doesn’t have any momentum—but that’s good. This is a frustration track, so the music reflects this. The drum track frequently threatens to really kick and go over the top, but never does. The beats stutter and hesitate, just when you expect them to build to a climax.

"What'cha really want?"

From the off, it's clear that DMX is locking himself in a dialogue with his audience.This track is an attempt to lay out ground rules: he is demanding we maintain a respectful distance (he will later insist that we "get to the bottom of this shit / if it takes all night"). Can we accept this? What do we really want?

"I be the best / you see the rest? / they lookin' like they need a rest."

DMX is boastful, yes. Assured, but justifiably so. The delivery on this track has a melancholy power that few MC’s are capable of re-producing. He may be a formidable man, but his refusal to hold back on the mic frequently causes his deeply-buried sensitive side to peep through.

"How many times I have to tell you rap niggas / I have no friends?”

While DMX is very confident of his own abilities, he rarely boasts about possessing a great quality of life. Overwhelmed by regret and sadness; DMX's musical prowess brings him little relief. The boiling rage has driven everyone away—all there is left to do is turn this loneliness into a beautiful piece of music. A deeply religious and spiritual man—his violent actions have too troubling an effect on him to enjoy life.

"Here we go again! "

He's well aware of the inevitability with which he will lapse into violent confrontation again. Frustration builds, leading to more violent actions, leading to greater guilt—which only builds up more frustration. It’s a vicious circle, and one that the song’s structure, and lyrical content, ape.


DMX’s rawest, greatest line ever. He is guilty about his inability to be nice—yet also scornful of those who suggest he should behave differently. The line is aimed at both himself and the listener: simultaneously demanding our understanding, yet also berating his own inadequacies.

"I'm a cruddy nigga / leave you all bloody nigga / service with a smile"

The only sign of happiness on the track: delivering a physical beating "with a smile". "What's My Name?" may be the sound of DMX grappling manfully with his deepest emotions, but he remains curiously enigmatic at the song's end. He's ultimately doomed to live out a guilty existence, but at least he has managed to turn this into great pop music.

By: Kilian Murphy
Published on: 2004-04-29
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