It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot is the debut album by American rapper DMX. It was released on May 12, 1998, by Def Jam Recordings and Ruff Ryders. It was supported by four singles—”Get at Me Dog”, “Stop Being Greedy”, “Ruff Ryders Anthem” and “How’s It Goin’ Down”, in order of release—and their accompanying music videos.
It primarily includes production from Dame Grease (13 tracks) and PK (8 tracks), in addition to production from Irv Gotti and Lil Rob (2 tracks), Younglord (1 track; add.), and Swizz Beatz (1 track). The album is widely considered a classic among hip hop fans and critics.
It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot was met with positive reviews from music critics. AllMusic commented that “Unlike so many other hardcore rappers who are more rhetorical than physical, DMX commands an aggressive aura without even speaking a word.” Leading hip-hop magazine The Source described the album as “a mind-gripping opus that fully encompasses the appeal of one of rap’s newest sensations.”
It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 251,000 copies in its first weeks. This became DMX’s first US number one debut on the chart. In its second week, the album dropped to number three on the chart, selling an additional 123,000 copies. On December 18, 2000, the album was certified four times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipments of four million copies in the US.
Andrew R. Chow from TIME Magazine published a article about the album on the day of DMX’s passing (April 9, 2021) saying, “Then 27-year-old Earl Simmons, better known as DMX, released his debut album It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, and everything changed. The album was full of violent nihilism, hair-raising tales of betrayal and revenge, and his emulations of dogs barking and whining; the beats were rugged and skeletal. Rather than being rejected or pigeonholed, the album immediately skyrocketed to the top of the charts, selling 251,000 copies in its first week in the U.S as songs like “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” rang out of every car stereo in New York City and beyond.” He also wrote the album was catalyst for American producer Swizz Beatz’s career and influenced artists later on like American rapper Denzel Curry, who listed it as one of his favorite albums. Nas reminisced in 2013, “that was the year DMX took over the world.”
In 2015, Pitchfork wrote, “The debut album from DMX is the Dante’s Inferno of rap. His infamous stage presence and aggression gave a voice to the voiceless in the streets of New York and overnight changed the course of hip-hop.”
Canadian recording artist Drake interpolated “How’s It Going Down” on his 2016 song “U With Me”. He personally asked DMX for his permission.