Raymond Fiore
July 31, 2006 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Yonkers, N.Y., rapper DMX scored five consecutive No. 1 albums primarily on the strength of a hyper-aggressive flow and straightforward, barklike chants. His latest, Year of the Dog…Again, doesn’t stray far from that trademark grimy style, though recent troubles with the law (including a two-month prison stay) seem to create a fresh well of angry inspiration. When consumed by paranoia and spiritual crises, DMX can still play the conflicted protagonist with conviction, proving there’s truth to his boast that ”dog got his swagger back.”

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