Exodus is the sound of sparks rekindling, of friends reuniting. X is scrubbing off the rust. Swizz is striking a precarious balance between raucous ’90s street rap, smooth R&B, stadium-rap bombast, and modern minimalist boom bap. The loudest songs recall the Ruff Ryders’ heyday. Up top, “That’s My Dog” unites X with his former labelmates the LOX, proving that the still-hot chemistry of last summer’s “Bout Shit” was no fluke. Lil Wayne is in rare form on “Dog’s Out,” a follow-up to Tha Carter V’s Swizz collab “Uproar,” where the Louisiana veteran again skates effortlessly across an East Coast production. “Bath Salts” — the Jay-Z, Nas, and DMX song Swizz has been teasing ever since the battle with Timbaland seen as the inspiration for Verzuz — appears here minus the Jadakiss vocals we heard in a 2017 snippet, though it’s no less potent. (Nas runs off with it, making up for saying shit like “I’m Coinbase’d, basically cryptocurrency Scarface” on “Sorry Not Sorry,” the DJ Khaled single where he and Jay last squared off.) DMX holds his own in every scenario, though he’s not quite at a level to give Jay a run for his money, as he did 20 years ago on classics like Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood’s “Blackout” and Busta Rhymes’s “Why We Die.”
Tread deeper into the album and the flurry of creative threats of violence over abrasive beats cools, but the emotional intensity ramps up. This is where Swizz’s smarts as a pop-rap producer and X’s knack for making unique personal trials feel universal sync up. “Skyscrapers,” a track that has been floating around in some form since at least 2012, is the perfect fit for the pained perseverance DMX expresses in his deep cuts — and the rare occasion that taking Kanye off a song results in a more soulful one. “Take Control” is cut from the same cloth as “It’s All Good” and “What These Bitches Want,” the overly horny “song for the ladies” that flirts with outright offensiveness but sneaks into your good graces thanks to a smooth hook, this time on loan from Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.” (Yes, the sample cost a chunk of the publishing.) Retracing his steps seems to reinvigorate DMX, and that makes Exodus sting. It was the groundwork for a new career path, not the unexpected end of the road, though Swizz notes that his friend had at times referred to this album as his last one, either voicing an eerie premonition or a serious commitment to disappearing into gospel music in the years to come, as was the rapper’s stated intention in his final days.
|A1||That's My Dog|
|A4||Money Money Money|
|A5||Hold Me Down|
|A7||Stick It Up Skit|
|B3||Walking In The Rain|
|B5||Letter To My Son (Call Your Father)|