Raymond Fiore
October 03, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Four albums after his auspicious 1998 debut, ”It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot,” DMX is still barking about street survival, inner demons, and his canine fixation. But while his fiercely agitated flow was once positively galvanizing on a string of rugged hip-hop anthems, the X-Man’s grating lyrical redundancy throughout this disc reeks of laziness, and his self-derivative hooks and beats hint at complacency and stunted growth. Sadly, the ”Champ” seems to have lost his old bite.

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