DMX Went To Hell And Back On "Stop Being Greedy"
With countless hits to his name, DMX delivered a career-defining record with the morally complex and haunting "Stop Being Greedy."
Duality is one of hip-hop’s most rewarding themes. It presents the artist as a flawed and complex human being, gray in a spectrum of black and white. It allows the same artist to lay out their values and darkest urges as equals, forcing themselves to analyze both with thorough care. For some, the right path can be difficult to discern. Temptations can prove devastating. DMX knows that better than most. Fans of his debut album It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot understand his struggle, his ability to stay fixated on the Lord’s light. Songs like “Damien,” itself a masterclass in horrific storytelling, brilliantly outline DMX’s duel with evil incarnate. Yet that story unfolds in a traditional sense, one man’s encounter with the devil's physical form. On “Stop Being Greedy,” that same conflict occurs from within.
There are two parallel manifestations of conflict on “Stop Being Greedy.” One comes courtesy of Dame Grease and P Killer Tracks’ instrumental, which alternates between two segments. The first, slightly mysterious yet relatively benign; the second, a hellish descent reminiscent of The Exorcist’s “Tubular Bells.” DMX uses both backdrops to bring his proverbial “angel” and “devil” to life. Like in “Damien,” his voice plays a pivotal role in fleshing out both perspectives. The former is almost approachable in its delivery, higher-pitched and even slightly tentative -- only prone to react when provoked. The latter is the epitome of savage, a violent growl liable to snap in a violent fashion. As both the instrumental and cadential elements combine, “Stop Being Greedy” becomes somewhat of an emotional roller coaster.
“I don't like drama, so I stay to myself, keep focus with this rap shit and pray for the wealth,” he raps, his light side shining through. “I want the money, just give me the honeys with big asses, the most expensive champagne you got in big glasses.” His ambitions are basic, simple, admirable if a little shallow. An introvert dedicated to pursuing a rap career. Yet dark X returns immediately thereafter; “with a vengeance” is an understatement. “I'm broke so I'ma bash his head wide open, beggin' me to stop, but at least he died hopin',” he snarls, providing one of the most brutal punchlines of his career. “Didn't get his wish, and now he's a dish for the pack / two glowin' red eyes, everything else is black.” The two sides couldn’t be further from one another. Yet somehow, X sounds more comfortable embracing the violence; it’s the reason why those sections are the payoff, while the lighter sections are the set-up.
“Stop Being Greedy” also benefits from having a few notable interpretations. As established, it can be seen as two sides of a man’s desires. His desire to thrive and excel in his environment, earning rap game success and material dominance. One of his earliest lines is most telling: “But when it gets dark, it's like a n***a's having dreams.” The first segue into the “darker” version of himself, these moments can be understood as light X’s nightmares, his fears that his devilish impulses might sabotage everything he’s earned thus far. Another interpretation is one viewed through the lens of foreshadowing. After all, this is the same album in which “Damien” walks away victorious, having secured X’s soul for his collection. In that case, “light” X is point A and “dark” X point B. The journey is linear, and his inner demons ultimately seize control of his destiny. While examining It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot as a conceptual whole, this interpretation explains how songs like “X Is Coming” can coexist alongside “The Prayer.” The story is not being told chronologically.
Remaining one of DMX’s defining works to this day, “Stop Being Greedy” highlights many of his strongest artistic assets. His ability to establish and develop different aspects of his personality. His mastery over cadence, an underrated aspect of emceeing. A brutal pen game, one that respects the gravity of violence. And most importantly -- a complex character, unafraid to present his flaws and succumb to them. There’s a reason he’s considered so widely regarded in the pantheon of hip-hop greats. Whether you’re rooting for X to defeat his demons and gravitate toward the light, or eagerly beckoning him to embrace Damien like an old friend, “Stop Being Greedy” presents both paths as equally viable options.