Monday, December 11, 2017

Putting DMX in XMas... or How I Created a Viral Moment

Some people are lucky enough to create a viral sensation once, but as I listened to DMX’s officially recorded rendition of the Christmas classic, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” for the first time, I couldn’t believe the outlandish idea I had during an iHeartRadio digital department meeting was now in its second life.

Let me backtrack and recount my role in the making of this “modern classic” (truly, it’s frightening how proud I am of my involvement in hatching this idea). I’m obsessed with DMX and his tenuous understanding of reality. Don’t get me wrong, in a perfect world, the Ruff Ryder should always be known for his gravel-voiced flow on some of the darkest hip-hop classics this side of the Gravediggaz—but you gotta admit, Dark Man X has been known to raise an eyebrow when he opened his mouth, particularly during a rash of Breakfast Club interviews he’d treated us to during my tenure at IHR.

Who could forget the time DMX detailed his mindset prior to being arrested for impersonating an FBI agent in an Arizona airport parking lot? “I was rushing for a flight, and this dude in the raggedy-ass Honda, he’s driving wild slow. Now usually if I’m in a rush and I’m in that truck, I hit the lights and throw [up] the sirens and they get out the way, but he was just totally disrespecting my authority. NOT that I really had any authority. I didn’t really have the authority, but what if I really had the authority?"

When asked if perhaps having a black-on-black Supercharger with tinted windows and police-style lighting might have added to his bravado, X threw in: “Well, I might have asked for his license…” before being busted by a parking lot guard.

And now, back to that digital department meeting. Having to create daily content around five radio stations and their wide-ranging audiences wasn’t always easy, especially when it came to keeping things fresh for Lite fm’s monumental Christmas-themed ratings juggernaut – which I was conditioned to begin thinking about sometime around Halloween. As we sat there discussing the various guests that would be coming in the following week—DMX among them—the latest of his bon mots remaining fresh in my head. “What if we get DMX to rap 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' or something?” I blurted.

Little did I know, our Power 105.1 junior producer, Vanessa Denis, took it upon herself to follow up on my idea implicitly, going as far as printing out the lyrics to the classic song. Vanessa, too, had experience with X’s ways, having asked him to Google himself just months earlier. Not only did DMX respond positively to the request, he eschewed the carefully-printed lyric sheet, bragging: “I know this, I GOT this,” before launching into the beat-boxed rendition in the Breakfast Club studio.

Sure, I was amused, but I was really excited that planting the video on all my applicable sites (sorry not sorry, Q104.3 fans!) meant making the lofty KPI goals set by the IHR national leadership. What I hadn’t expected were so many hilarious mash-ups and remixes, including a hilarious Claymation version created for The Soup.

But imagine my surprise when five years (and many more X ordeals) later, news dropped that the rapper would finally be releasing an official version, replete with beats by Divine Bars. When I heard the short single, and moreover, watched DMX perform it on Showtime at the Apollo’s Christmas special, there was a strange sense of pride mixed with the hope that perhaps this wholesome act might balance out for some of his troubles. If we can keep the DMX in Xmas, surely there is hope for all of us.