10 Years, 100 Songs: #76. “Y’all Gon’ Make Me Lose My Mind…”
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on July 16, 2009
Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.
As Michael Jackson initially proved, and has since been confirmed by the careers of Axl Rose, Rivers Cuomo and Eminem among countless others, pop stars are simply much more interesting when their lunacy is not merely the result of inspired roleplay, but something more closely resembling outright dementia. Earl Simmons, better known to hound afficianados worldwide as DMX, was no exception to this. Even before the weirdness really started–the on-stage meltdowns, the imitating police officers at airports, the renouncing of hip-hop in favor of the church, the horrifically bad guest verse on Busta Rhymes’ “Touch It (Remix)”–one needed to do no more but look into the man’s eyes as early as the “Ruff Ryders Anthem” video to know the level-five storm that raged behind them. And if you had any doubt as to X’s mental state, he made things real clear with his career-defining ’00 hit “Party Up (Up in Here)”–quite possibly the most bonkers song released in the 00s.
If I had to guess what it felt like in Tony Montana’s head when he buried his face into a gigantic pile of yayo, I’d say it probably felt something like the first five seconds of “Party Up”. Before DMX even enters the song, the thing is already a cacophonous nightmare, all whistles and blaring synths and pounding beats, like an extremely panicked alarm clock. And that’s the entire song, pretty much–a paranoid, red-eyed, treble-soaked burst of egomania, where X lashes out against fakers and enemies, warns against assaults on his person or credibility, and invites the world at large to suck his dick. It’s uncomfortable, it’s a little disturbing, and it’s utterly incomprehensible (even the title seems redundant and inaccurate), but it’s also one of the most invigorating (and fascinating) singles of recent times.
One thing DMX could never be accused of is insincerity. In fact, his overwhelming passion and complete inability to censor himself stood in stark opposition to the laid back, observational approach of most prominent East Coast rappers of the late-90s, and seemed a near declaration of war against the shallow, goal-oriented hip-hop that Puff Daddy seemed intent on taking over the world with. It was a uniquely forward approach, and though it left him looking ridiculous on more than several occasions throughout his career, it also made of each of his videos a must-see, and helped him cultivate a surprisingly devoted fanbse–one which sent each of his first five albums to #1 on the charts. Ja Rule was probably a poser. Nelly was likely an idiot. Jay-Z may or may not have sold his soul years earlier. But DMX was always just DMX.
“Party Up (Up in Here)” was likely his purest-ever blast of X Givin’ It to Ya. He spits out insults and threats at 500 words per minute, so consumed with rage that it all seems to come out of him in an inspired, almost tongue-speaking fury. The only time that he takes a second to slow himself down is when he actually wants to list the reasons why fakers who supposedly want his fame and his name are unworthy of the honors: “You wack, you’re twisted, your girl’s a ho / You’re broke, the kid ain’t yours, and everybody know.” Before the song’s over, countless unnamed bodies have been shot, buried (possibly alive), and found disfigured by fishermen in the river. And all the while, that totally nutso beat keeps blasting in the background, the perfect musical accompaniment to (and embodiment of) X’s delusional fantasies.
It all culminates in that chorus, which writes large the mental unbalance clearly implied throughout the song. “Y’ALL GON’ MAKE ME LOSE MY MIND! / UP IN HERE! UP IN HERE! / Y’ALL GON MAKE ME GO ALL OUT! / UP IN HERE! UP IN HERE! / Y’ALL GON MAKE ME ACT A FOOL! / UP IN HERE! UP IN HERE! / Y’ALL GON’ MAKE ME LOSE MY COOL / UP IN HERE! UP IN HERE!” Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the chours is not how incensed DMX sounds, but rather, how much fun he seems to be having in his unhinged fury. And though thematically, it’s somewhat troubling to envision “Party Up” as any actual sort of party song, the truth is that if you get any number of males between the ages of 18 and 29 together, give ’em a couple of shots and play this song, within 20 seconds you’ll have a riot of drunk assholes screaming the chorus together at the top of their lungs, ready to go out and pick a fight with anyone who looks at them crosseyed (or at all). Even typing those lyrics out just now, I could feel a jolt of adrenaline through my system. It’s some contagious shit.
As if we needed further evidence of DMX’s stone cold craziness, he also did us the favor of giving us one of the most nonsensical, preposterous and throughly hilarious videos of the decade in the “Party Up” clip. Friend of the blog Victor Lee has already done an impressively comprehensive job of breaking down the plot holes, inconsistencies and bizarre skips of logic that comprise the “Party Up” music video, so I’ll spare you another thousand words here, but I’ll attempt to sum it up in a couple of sentences: Angry at a bank’s ATM being out of order, DMX storms into the bank, unaware that it was recently held up. He gets mistaken for the robber himself, so he climbs to the roof, calls his friend to assist him by bringing SUV-loads of hot chicks to distract the cops, and bungees to the bottom. Problem solved. (All it was missing? A chorus of kids at the end, individually declaring “I Am DMX!“)
Several more #1 albums, certifiable hit singles, and unforgettable movie roles (seriously, if you’ve never seen Exit Wounds, Cradle 2 the Grave or Never Die Alone, you better be hitting up Blockbuster by the end of the week) later, X indeed bowed out of the rap gone to better study the bible and serve the lord. Unsurprisingly, he returned a few years later, a little more serene perhaps, but basically the same Earl Simmons as ever. We haven’t heard from him much late, but I know I’ll be excited for his simultaneous double-release of Walk With Me Now and You’ll Fly With Me Later, supposedly coming next summer. There won’t be anything as good as “Party Up,” and there might not be any listenable songs on there at all, but as these last few years without him have proven, pop music is just a much more interesting place with DMX’s crazy ass in it.
The List So Far:
100. Green Day – “Jesus of Suburbia”
99. The Ying Yang Twins – “Wait (The Whisper Song)”
98. Crazytown – “Butterfly”
97. Taylor Swift – “Teardrops on My Guitar”
96. The Fray – “Over My Head (Cable Car)”
95. Fergie – “Fergalicious”
94. Lidstrom – “I Feel Space”
93. Chevelle – “Send the Pain Below”
92. T-Pain f/ Yung Joc – “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)”
91. The Arctic Monkeys – “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor”
90. Cassie – “Me & U”
89. Nelly Furtado – “Maneater”
88. Mike Jones f/ Slim Thug & Paul Wall – “Still Tippin’”
87. Bat for Lashes – “Daniel”
86. The Darkness – “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”
85. Dynamite Hack – “Boyz n the Hood”
84. DJ Khaled f/ T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman, Lil’ Wayne & Akon – “We Takin’ Over”
83. Matchbox20 – “Bent”
82. The Game f/ 50 Cent – “Hate It or Love It”
81. 311 – “Amber”
80. 3 Doors Down – “Krptonite”
79. Nas – “Made You Look”
78. Royksopp – “Eple”
77. The Pussycat Dolls – “Don’t Cha”
76. DMX – “Party Up (Up in Here)”