Class of ’98: How DMX & Big Pun Saved HIP HOP Music

by Rafeal Crawford
Class of '98: How DMX & Big Pun Saved HIP HOP Music

Class of '98: How DMX & Big Pun Saved HIP HOP Music

DMX took HIP HOP back to the streets

September 13th 1996 and March 9th 1997 will be forever engrained in the minds of HIP HOP historians and fans alike. Because those two dates was when the entertainment industry lost two musical geniuses Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G aka Biggie Smalls. Both artists were iconic and impacted the HIP HOP culture and the entertainment industry with their poetic lyrics, style, and their charisma. When Pac and Biggie were tragically murdered the HIP HOP culture and rap music felt like there was a dark cloud looming over it.

After Pac and Biggie’s untimely deaths Puff was coming through with the shiny suits, Nas & AZ was gearing up for the long-awaited Firm album, Hov was starting to get in his lane, and Snoop was exiting Deathrow to be a No Limit soldier. Then we enter the year of 1998 and two MC’s removed that dark looming cloud and shed some light on the culture. One artist is dog loving MC that represented the grit and the hunger of the concrete jungle the other was/is a fast spitting lyrical 300 pound plus titan that was a ladies man and wig splitter.

The two artists I am referring to are Dark Man X bka DMX and Big Punisher bka Big PUN. Pac and Biggie’s shoes cannot be filled whatsoever, but DMX and Big Pun simply took the baton and took what they started.

DMX struck like a comet with his debut album “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot” with the lead single ‘Get at Me Dog.”  The line that constantly sticks out “We taking the streets back motherf*@!$r” from there X was letting HIP HOP know don’t worry and he was putting other rappers on notice. Pac was and still is ahead of his time, and X is just the manifestation of Pac. Both artists make you feel their joy, pain, struggles, and sheer energy through their presence whether it was music or film. The way Hov made people disregard their throwback jersey and put on a button up, DMX made people lace their timbs with baggy jeans and cop pitbulls and do away with the versace shirts.


DMX did not come alone he had a crew of Ruff Ryders (The LOX, Eve, Drag-On, & Swizz Beatz), who had the hunger and drive as he did to take over the music industry. Who knows who influenced who, but your average rap fan was captivated by DMX’s energy so imagine being apart of the Ruff Ryders camp or a HIP HOP head. Because it seems like they were feeding off X’s energy in my opinion, The LOX came with We Are the Streets, Eve with her Eve-Lution album, and Swizz was the most sought out producer.

Yet alone, in 1998  DMX was the first HIP HOP artist to release two multi-platinum albums in the same year and make his acting debut in the HIP HOP cult classic Belly starring alongside Nas. The Ruff Ryder frontman saved Def Jam Recordings from going bankrupt from his albums “It;s Dark and Hell is Hot” & “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood” albums.

Like most MC’s  in the ’90’s X bubbling on the mixtape circuit shout out to those Clue tapes and was featured on memorable features such as Ma$e “24 Hours to Live,” “Take What’s Yours,” The LOX’s “Money, Power, & Respect,” & LL Cool J’s “4,3,2,1.”

At the time of their release “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot” sold 4 million copies, “Flesh of my Flesh, Blood of my Blood” sold 3 million copies, “And Then There Was X…” sold 5 million copies, and ”The Great Depression” sold 3 million copies. To remind people this is just in the US alone not including singles or foreign sales.

DMX has appeared in countless films such as Belly, Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds, Cradle 2 the Grave, and Never Die Alone to name a few.

The Class of ’98 was a special and unique group with DMX and Big Pun putting HIP HOP on its back after the culture lost two iconic figures Pac and Biggie. Even though X and Pun may have not been trying to heal the wombs of the HIP HOP music scene by trying to get their voice heard, but by them being a 100% authentic in their craft they made other artists step their game up. Because whether you were a veteran or new artist you had to come with it i.e Hov’s In My Lifetime Vol.2, Cam’Ron & Nore’s debut, and Blackstar just to name a few.

1998 was a great year in HIP HOP because of artists like DMX, who was/is 100% authentic pure raw uncut MC like the late great iconic legendary artist Tupac Shakur. Stay tuned for part two for on how Big Pun saved HIP HOP the Class of ’98.

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