Various Artists

Cradle 2 the Grave

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No matter his acting abilities, DMX is a natural for the silver screen. Ever since his album debut, It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, the former Earl Simmons has flaunted a flair for the dramatic, and his work ethic is one of the toughest in hip-hop. He must have been especially busy filming, since the soundtrack for Cradle 2 the Grave, his first starring turn (with Jet Li), has only three features for DMX himself. Taking up the slack, fortunately, are some of the hottest rappers circa 2003: Eminem, with a track featuring DMX as well, plus 50 Cent, Foxy Brown, Clipse, and Drag-On. The leadoff track is DMX's own "X Gon' Give It to Ya," a typically grandiose contribution that compares pretty well to the rest of his work but doesn't sound too special. Eminem's self-produced "Go to Sleep" is an extremist (even for him) murder fantasy that goes down in a hail of screams and bullets, while "My Life (Cradle 2 the Grave)" finds Foxy Brown turning curiously reflective (and more than just a bit poignant). Surprisingly, amidst the raft of big names, DMX affiliate Drag-On steals one of the best tracks, "Fireman," an off-kilter track that blows through a pair of contrasting percussion lines, borrowing from "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" and "Pusherman," but sounds completely original nevertheless.

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