Recording information: Bishop Powerhouse Studis, Yonkers, NY; For The Specialist's, West Hollywood, CA; The Saltmine Studios, Mesa, AZ.
Photographer: Jordon Nuttall.
Six years off for the mega-platinum DMX meant that his 2012 release, Undisputed, was dubbed "comeback album" the day it was announced, but don't unleash the dogs on account of that. Granted, superstar producer Swizz Beats is here with the radio-worthy bangers -- the like-minded two-fer "What They Don't Know" and "Ya'll Don't Really Know" -- plus "I Don't Dance" hits hard with its J.R. Rotem-helmed techno beat and a very 2012 appearance from upstart-of-the-year MGK, and while the meter stops shy of the "Ruff Ryders Anthem" mark, it comes close during these boss cuts. "Frankenstein" is an interesting step into Insane Clown Posse territory with shuffling drums, Mike E. Clark-ish studio tricks, and a horror-show allegiance to its title, and as "Cold World" embraces the pain with slow soul and mournful moments of clarity, the one they call Dog Man X has turned in one of his most poignant ballads to date. Don't call it a comeback when there's so much evolution to absorb, and if Undisputed could shake its "official album" status it would be much better off, as the overstuffing (16 tracks with filler instead of a worthy ten or 11 that are here), the iffy construction (from the lightweight "Sucka for Love" to the Neptunes-like "I'm Back," there's a big lump of chilled tracks stuck together), and the unevenness of the production (some cuts are by Swizzy or Rotem; some are by never-heard-of-the-dude) beg to be considered by "street release" terms, where experimentation and left turns are more accepted and expected. Don't hold it up next to his early streamlined classics, but on a "street release" level, Undisputed is a great "welcome back," where veteran artist kicks it like the old days, does well with some new flavors, and drops some non-embarrassing leftovers into the mix, just because they fit. ~ David Jeffries