DMX: Don't Try to Understand

DMX: Don't Try to Understand ★★★½

I heard rap’s greatest preacher and he growled and howled through his sermons with the gruffest gravitas ever heard. A complicated series of contradictions stood behind his every utterance on record. There was nobody more spiritually alive in a rap record from the late ‘90s because there was nobody who had to search so painfully and connect to some higher spirit, some greater belief that his atrocious childhood was not the whole story. DMX offered absolution for anyone who ever felt the same way. Anyone who burned their childhood and looked back and wondered if this was the only stage of life.

Don’t Try to Understand realizes how difficult of a figure DMX was to understand. This isn’t about the music, particularly, but the late stages of addiction and pain for the man who made the music. And it plays, somberly, as the last chapter of DMX’s life.

We could not say it’s wholly revealing nor enlightening. As the title might indicate, we may get further away from clean answers the longer we spend with the figure. We get no closer to his music. But maybe we begin to understand this final act, as the musician we thought we knew shows us the side of himself we almost certainly don’t and won’t get to know.

And it’s all so sad. Sometimes it’s beautiful, though, when DMX tours Yonkers and talks to people who are from where he is from. That’s the stuff we need. A hero who can go home again. A rapper who offers a new contradiction and a general unease for every answer.

Don’t Try to Understand shows us his pain. And it hurts.

Calvin liked this review