It’s the battle of the dogs for the next edition of Verzuz. Snoop Dogg and DMX will have a friendly face-off and make internet history as part of the first Verzuz battle to be simulcast live on Apple Music and Beats 1. Apple Music announced on Monday that it’s now an exclusive Verzuz partner. Moving forward, battles will live-stream on Apple Music and Beats 1 at the same time as they do on the Verzuz Instagram, so everyone can still spectate for free as per usual.
— Verzuz (@verzuzonline) July 15, 2020
This week’s pairing between Snoop Dogg and DMX is interesting because they are musically different, but thematically the same. However, they have a lot more in common than people may think. One thing both their respective career trajectories have taught us is always to expect the unexpected.
Here’s a breakdown of the pit bull and the Doberman.
Origin story: DMX
DMX (Earl Simmons) is one of the most distinct personalities hip-hop has ever seen. His rugged demeanor, raspy voice, penchant for dogs, and barking as his rap ad lib sets him apart from anyone else. DMX spent most of his childhood growing up in Yonkers, New York, and has stated that he was the product of an abusive household. As a result of his unstable home life, DMX spent a lot of time living in group homes, surviving on the streets by robbing people, and having several run-ins with the law.
X’s two saving graces in life were befriending stray dogs, especially pit bulls—and hip-hop.
He started out as a DJ and human beatbox before moving into rapping. His name comes from the classic DMX digital drum machine, but he has also interpreted the acronym as “Dark Man X.” He first made a name for himself as a battle rapper in the early 1990s and was featured in The Source‘s highly coveted “Unsigned Hype” column in 1991. He signed to Ruffhouse (a Columbia imprint) the following year. He released his first single, “Born Loser,” in 1993, and then “Make a Move” in 1994. The latter single was remade and appeared on 1997’s album . . . And Then There Was X. His early music was still hardcore and typical of what East Coast hip-hop sounded like in the early to mid-90s.
However, it didn’t sound like the DMX that blew up in 1997 after his album debut.
DMX’s deal with Ruffhouse didn’t work out, as he was held back by some of his legal woes, but he continued to make a name for himself despite his personal drama. In 1997, DMX landed another record deal, with Def Jam, and had also teamed up with Ruff Ryders Entertainment, who did a lot of his production and management (before it officially became a label).
He came out swinging with his guest appearance on LL Cool J’s “4,3,2,1,” and then he made more stand-out guest appearances for Mase (“24 Hours to Live”) and the LOX (“Money, Power, Respect”), which kept his buzz going.
In early 1998, he released “Get At Me Dog,” his debut single on Def Jam, followed by his debut album, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, that spring. X’s debut album went on to sell over 4 million copies and solidified DMX as the next big rap star. His most recent album, Dog Eats Rabbit, was released in 2017.
A surprising twist in DMX’s career was that he made the leap to TV and film. He got his start as a lead in Hype Williams’s 1998 film, Belly, and landed roles in Cradle 2 the Grave, Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds, Never Die Alone, and more.
Origin story: Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg (Calvin Broadus)—Cali’s very own—came on the scene in the early 1990s. The Long Beach representative helped set the tone of the nascent g-funk era taking hold of hip-hop at that time. He was introduced to the world via singles such as Dr. Dre’s “Nothing But a G Thang, “Let Me Ride,” and more, from Dre’s 1992 classic album, The Chronic. People gravitated toward Snoop’s unique voice, laid-back drawl, gangsta appeal, and affinity for weed.
He released his debut album, Doggystyle, in 1993 and immediately made history as the first artist to have his debut LP enter the Billboard 200 album charts at #1. Since then, Snoop has given the world some of hip-hop’s most memorable songs, such as “Gin and Juice,” “Beautiful,” and “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?”
Snoop has also proven to be a chameleon—despite the association with dogs—by being able to pivot his sound and remain relevant when gangsta rap started to wane in popularity in the late 90s. He even morphed into Snoop Lion for a brief reggae phase before returning back to Snoop Dogg.
In addition to music, Snoop has built a diverse portfolio of business ventures. He coaches football, owns Leafs by Snoop, teamed up with 19 Crimes for its first Cali red wine, has a cooking show with Martha Stewart, and also joined the rapper/actor’s club. He has landed roles in movies where he played himself, such as Half Baked and Paulie Shore Is Dead, but also played memorable characters in Baby Boy, Bones, Training Day, and The Wash.
Snoop experienced a public brush with the law at the beginning of his career. In 1993, he was charged with first-degree murder after a scuffle led to the shooting of a member of a rival gang. Snoop maintained his innocence throughout the three-year ordeal and was ultimately acquitted in 1996. He was also dragged into the infamous East Coast versus West Coast beef that ultimately saw the loss of Tupac and Biggie. Most recently, Snoop came under fire for some misogynistic comments he made about Gayle King. He didn’t like her line of questioning in an interview about Kobe Bryant following his death, so he took to social media to rant. Snoop has since apologized to King.
DMX has been in and out of jail since his youth, and he has been open about his struggles with drug addiction. He also did a year in prison for tax fraud and has been arrested for owing thousands of dollars in back child support.
Religious Views: DMX
Both rappers have experienced their share of turmoil in life, but they’re both also vocal about leaning on religion for their hopes for redemption. DMX has recorded a number of spoken-word gospel poems that have appeared on his albums as skits throughout his career, as well as a full-on song, “Lord Give Me a Sign.” He is also a deacon and has held Bible study on Instagram Live shortly after COVID-19 quarantine began.
Religious Views: Snoop
When Snoop became Snoop Lion in 2013, he stated that he had converted to Rastafarianism after spending some time in Jamaica, and he released a reggae album and documentary titled Reincarnated. At that time, he said he was tired of rapping and talking about hustling and negativity, so he wanted to make a non-hip-hop album. Bunny Wailer—among others in the reggae and Rastafarian communities—expressed doubts about Snoop’s sincerity and asked him to drop “Lion” from his name. Reincarnated was still released under the name Snoop Lion, but Snoop reverted to Dogg for the release of Bush, his 13th studio album, released two years later. Then, in 2018, he released a gospel album titled Snoop Dogg Presents Bible of Love.
Both seem unlikely candidates for Christmas-themed recordings, but it’s worth checking out Snoop’s version of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and DMX’s versions of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” DMX’s “first version of Rudolph” started out as an impromptu a capella during a Breakfast Club post-interview serenade. It got so popular that DMX recorded it over music, and it’s a contender for the best version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” ever.
Tune in on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET.