JAY-Z Reminisces About DMX: ‘My Fondest Memory Is He Improved My Stage Show’

Between JAY-Z’s recent interview with U.K.’s The Sunday Times and his appearance on The Shop: Uninterrupted, fans are digging the opportunity to hear directly from him.

He usually stays under the radar, but the rapper-turned-mogul has been getting candid about parenthood, work, and life in general. JAY-Z joined the conversation as a guest on LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s The Shop and spoke about DMX’s personal impact on him.

Jay-Z attends ‘The After Party’ at SL Lounge on August 25, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia
Jay-Z attends ‘The After Party’ at SL Lounge on August 25, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia | Prince Williams/Getty Images

JAY-Z remembers DMX making him step his game up

Longtime hip-hop fans who are familiar with the history of Jay-Z and DMX know that the two used to engage in rap battles. Call it a beef, call it a friendly rivalry, but the two emcees constantly challenged each other over who was the best. It was the 1990s, a glorious time in hip-hop.

While speaking in the latest The Shop episode, JAY-Z recalled going on tour with DMX and watching him from backstage. “My fondest memory of DMX is he improved my stage show,” he said.

He recounted a story from their first tour. The late rapper had a mesmerizing command on the crowd. JAY-Z said when DMX entered, he growled, and everyone went wild.

“First of all, it’s deafening and I’m like, ‘Ohhh s*it,’” said Jay-Z. He shared that X had a Hennessy mixed drink in his cup that looked like blood, and he kept zipping across the stage, pumping up the audience.

“Halfway through the show, then he takes his shirt off. All the girls are screaming, ‘Aaaah.’ He had the dog chain and then he’s going nuts, right. And I’m like, ‘S*it.’ First the guys are going crazy, now the girls are going crazy,” JAY-Z laughed.

JAY-Z said at the end of his set, DMX started praying, “And now they’re crying. The whole arena is crying.” But that first night on tour taught him something about stage presence, and he had to learn to make his own mark during a show.

JAY-Z had The Shop rolling when he said he did his rhymes acapella as a way to challenge DMX. He called him the most competitive person he’s ever met in his life.

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JAY-Z is referencing the ‘Hard Knock Life’ tour

JAY-Z is not the only artist who has fond memories from that tour, dubbed the “Hard Knock Life” tour.

In addition to him and DMX in the lineup, Method Man and Redman performed as a duo, and Ja-Rule and the Lox also hit the stage. Clips of DMX and JAY-Z battling backstage still live on the internet, but those scenes are part of the footage from the Backstage documentary.

Redman spoke to HipHopDX in September 2020 and recalled that all the artists were on the same label, and because of that, there was a mutual respect and sense of family.

They packed arenas with tens of thousands of fans, and Redman said he and Method Man opened for JAY-Z and DMX. They made sure to give it their all.

“We came out there and we shut the building down. Even from the top tier, from JAY-Z and them, they would hear about our show,” said Redman.

“They even watched our show one time, like, ‘Let me see what these guys doing, what people are talking about.’ They’ve seen us flying through the air on our harness and all this s*it. They was like, ‘Oh, we got to turn up.’ We actually competed in seeing people shows turned up for the better because of each other. We looked at their show and we’re like, ‘You know what? We’re going to have this in our show too.’ It was a great competition.”

Fans can relive the historic tour that united legends DMX, JAY-Z, Meth, Redman. Stream Backstage via Amazon Prime or Paramount+.