Sunday Night Sample: "Slippin'" By DMX

We lost a real one this week. DMX passed away after complications from a drug overdose last weekend and left fans worldwide mourning. 

Covered his meteoric rise and his battles he faced as a young child that haunted him throughout his life. If you didn't catch it, it's worth a read.

For tonight, in honor of the late rapper, I figured a great track of his to highlight for Sunday Night Sample would be "Slippin'"

Slippin' was released as the first single from his second 1998 studio album, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood

His entire first album spoke of the harsh upbringing and circumstances he had overcome and still faced, as a true street hustler.

He used "Slippin'" as the lead single not by mistake, but to further put his inner demons on full display. In the song he opens up about his childhood trauma; his abusive mother, drug addiction, group homes and juvenile detention centers he was in and out of, among just a few of the obstacles he faced. The autobiographical detail of the verses, particularly the surprisingly uplifting third verse, gave “Slippin’” a resonance beyond the usual DMX bravado and intensity. The third verse takes on a positive tone about self-motivation. He vows to begin making positive changes in his life and to strive to become the person he wants to be. He is a man who has hit "rock bottom", bearing his soul, who finds the courage from within to uplift himself. 

It's also motivational for listeners in that it emphasizes that life is tough not only for himself but everybody, that we have to not only “survive” but also “find meaning in the suffering”.

His connection to dogs felt closer than to people, an admission he’d make on the song as well as in this amazing GQ featured article from 2019 I highly recommend reading.

His ability to showcase his vulnerabilities and be raw and honest touched listeners and “Slippin’” went gold in 2017, almost 20 years after the fact.

The incredibly poignant instrumental was created years prior to 1998 by Michael "DJ Shok" Gomez, an in-house producer for Ruff Ryders. It featured back-up vocals from future American Idol contestant from season 1, Tamyra Gray.

DJ Shok took a record, near and dear to his heart, “Moonstreams” by Grover Washington, Jr., and used the sample as the base for the track "Slippin'"

Medium- (In 1994) I was working hard trying to break into the music business but nothing was panning out the way I wanted it to. I would listen to that track “Moonstreams” by Grover Washington, Jr. and I loved the emotion in that track — especially the piece that I sampled. It really hit home for me.

I used an Akai S950 as my sampler, Roland MC-50 for sequencing and the Korg X5DR for all of the percussions besides the kick and snare drums which were sampled from vinyl. The sample was from a CD because my vinyl copy had too many pops — which works sometimes but I wanted a cleaner sound for this track. The Korg percussions were so clean that the gritty vinyl sample didn’t really match the track, so I re-did the beat with the CD sample instead.

I did that track and never expected anything from it because it wasn’t the kind of boom-bap track I usually made; it was a really mellow, deep track that I never thought would work in hip-hop. I liked it, but had little hope it would become a classic.

Shok was sent to LA to help finish DMX's sophomore album, and only brought the instrumental for "Slippin'" with him because his wife forced him to. He thought DMX and his team would never be interested in it, and that they were looking for tracks more aggressive. 

When he arrived in LA he found that Swizz Beatz and DMX had already been recording non-stop for the last month and had the album already 90% done.

Swizz came in the room and when I played the beat from “Slippin’ ” he stopped me and said, “Hold on — I will be right back.”

He came back with DMX and it seemed like they had been looking for the right track for those vocals.

I could see him mouthing some of the words quietly and then he looked at me and said, “How soon can you lay that?” I said, “Right now.” Back then, we laid the track down to 2" tape before recording the vocals.

Once I laid the track, X went straight into the booth. At that point, I was just happy to have a placement. I would be lying if I said I thought it would be the single that carried the album because I didn’t — I was disappointed because I thought a slow mellow track from X would get overlooked. But in goes X and lays the vocals all in one pass, then doubles, then adds and Def Jam was already clearing the sample while we were listening back. That song took literally about an hour-and-a-half from him hearing it to becoming a song — and most of that time was me laying the beat split out to the 2. I kid you not: everyone there knew something special had just happened — including me.

Come to find out, the song appeared clean on the album and is edited for curses due to an issue with cursing that Grover Washington Jr. had. In clearing the sample, Washington requested that no curse words appear on the track, so Def Jam obliged.

In my tribute blog I mentioned at the bottom how I had always thought Def Jam had made a huge mistake in printing copies of the CD. 

p.s. - for YEARS I was convinced Def Jam fucked up an entire shipment of orders to the northeast and accidentally pressed CDs and vinyl with a mistaken clean version of "Slippin" on them. Could never figure out why the entire disc was explicit except that song. Still don't know the answer but the first time I heard the dirty version of it and my jaw dropped.

The song went on to be a hit for both DMX and Shok.

It was a turning point in my life. X spoke to my wife and told her how talented I was and how powerful the song we had just made was. I remember I went to a mall with X once and a woman walked up to him, hugged him and said that song had gotten her son through the worst time. X pointed at me and said, “That’s the guy who did that beat right there.” She gave me a hug as well; that was something I never forgot.

It also saved him in court.

BBC- The US rapper was in court for dodging $1.7m (£1.2m) in taxes and could have been given up to five years in prison.

After listening to the song, the judge said DMX was a "good man" and gave him one year in prison. The rapper's lawyer said that the significance of the song Slippin' was that it shows how DMX's difficult upbringing meaning he wasn't prepared for the responsibility of having lots of money.


h/t @jgmoney55