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The Life and Legacy of DMX
By Bertram Keller, Contributing Writer
Published April 15, 2021

DMX performs in Chicago.

A vigil for DMX was held outside White Plains Hospital in New York where hundreds of people gathered to support the iconic rapper / actor in prayer. Each person fully conscious that one of Hip Hop’s most enigmatic artists was close to death. A crowd of people put their hands in the air, showing the signature “X” sign in solidarity and shouting, “D—M—X!”

“Either let me fly or give me death, let my soul rest, take my breath—If I don’t fly, I’ll die anyway, I’ll live on, but I’ll be gone any day,” said DMX on the song “Let Me Fly.”

Earl Simmons, globally known as DMX, died Friday morning, April 9. He was 50-years-old. Simmons experienced a massive heart attack and spent his final days on life support; reports say that his heart attack was “triggered” by a drug overdose.

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A tragic close to the life of an artist who is considered one of the great song writers. Tragically, a brilliant talent, a genius, who likely, fell victim to drug addiction.

Simmons was in and out of group homes as a kid, which led to him being caught in the street life. As an adolescent, he committed robberies, he stole cars, and even stole dogs in search of love.

DMX gives iconic performance at Woodstock ’99 music festivial.

At age 14, Simmons’ life changed when he beatboxed for older rapper, Ready Ron at age 14. “Blessed with a curse” he often said of himself, evoking past childhood traumas and using his life experiences as a source for inspiration.

“I’m not an industry artist, I am an artist in the industry,” said DMX at Def Poetry. “The industry … wanted dead or alive! New artists sell their souls in the way they survive. The industry … don’t give a f*** about you! The industry … couldn’t make a dime without you.”

In 1991, Hip Hop magazine, The Source, wrote a column on DMX, highlighting him as one of the top unsigned Hip Hop artists; and soon after, DMX collaborated with Ja Rule and Jay-Z for Mic Geronimo’s song “Time to Build.”

DMX recorded songs from 1996 to 1998 for his debut album. He did songs with Hip Hop artists such as—The LOX, Mase, Lil’ Kim, and LL Cool J’s classic record “4,3,2,1.”

In 1999, a sea of 400,000 people surrounds a stage, while actress, Rosie Perez announces, “Hip Hop is coming to Woodstock! Are you ready? Here we go, D—M—X!”

Aaliyah and DMX together on set of their music video “Come Back in One Piece.”

The massive crowd explodes, mosh-pits open up, bodies are launched into the air, flocks of fans crowd surf, women freely go topless while sitting on someone’s shoulders just to see the stage, all waiting for DMX. It’s the Woodstock ’99 music festival in Rome, New York. A hot summer’s day with heat so oppressive it reached above 100-degrees.

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The crowd hears, “What!” Then, DMX rushes the stage like a dog that hasn’t had a meal in days, growling at the mic, “Come through, run through—Gun who? Oh, you don’t know what the gun do? Some do, those that know are real quiet.”

“It’s Dark and Hell is Hot,” DMX’s debut album, with songs like “Get at me Dog,” “N****z Done Started Something,” and the “Ruff Ryders Anthem,” which sold 250,000 copies its first week to eventually go multi-platinum.

X’s second studio album, “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood,” was released less than one year later and sold over 600,000 copies in his first week. For a moment, DMX was the only artist alive to have two different number one albums in the same year. Since then, 2Pac, Led Zeppelin, Jay-Z, Garth Brooks, and System of a Down have joined this rare milestone.

“See, to live is to suffer, but to survive; well, that’s to find meaning in the suffering,” said DMX in the intro of the song “Slippin,” the first single from his second studio album, “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood.”

Longtime friend and Ruff Ryder Music Producer, Swizz Beatz, said “DMX took everybody’s pain and made it his.”

DMX’s subsequent albums “And Then There Was X” and “The Great Depression” were regarded as instant classics. The album produced worldwide hits like “Party Up,” “What’s My Name,” and “We Right Here.”

In his prime, DMX was the hottest artist in the world. He starred in a string of unforgettable box office films, such as, “Belly” (1999), “Romeo Must Die” (2000), “Exit Wounds” (2001), and “Cradle 2 the Grave” (2003). Despite the rags to riches success, Dark Man X’s demons would follow him along the way. Having had many career and personal setbacks because of drug addiction.

“The Snake, the rat, the cat, the dog, how you gon’ see them if you living in the fog,” said DMX in the song, “Damien.” A song that portrays DMX’s conversation with Satan, verbalizing a deep introspection of fighting his personal demons; as if he was the one trying to escape a dark fog.

DMX’s fifth and final album on Def Jam titled “Grand Champ,” was released in 2003, and had big hits like “Where the Hood At?” and “Get It on the Floor,” produced by longtime producer Swizz Beatz. The album also featured artists like Kanye West, 50 Cent, Jadakiss, Eve, and Patti LaBelle. It debuted at number one on the Billboard top 200 charts and sold over 300,000 copies in the U.S.—it’s first week.

DMX was arrested multiple times and has made headlines throughout his career, mostly for his odd antics and cocaine abuse.
“Wasn’t long before I hit rock bottom. Like damn, look how that rock got him. Open like a window no more Indo look at a video, saying to myself that could’ve been you on the TV,” said DMX in “Slippin.”

Snoop Dogg believes, “God chose this angel to come back home with him… He did what he was supposed to do. He influenced, he inspired and he represented. So, DMX, his soul will live on and his music will live on.”

It was two and half years since his last release. Commonly misunderstood, X released his sixth studio album called “Year of the Dog … Again” to reestablish his road to salvation. “Lord Give Me a Sign” and “We in Here” were released as the album’s lead singles for DMX’s first studio album released on Ruff Ryders Entertainment, Sony Urban Music, and Columbia Records. The music was heavily about his relationship with God, quoting scriptures, and fighting his demons with the word of God.

DMX said in his opening verse in “Lord Give Me a Sign” and “Devil I rebuke you, for what I go through, been trying to make me do, what I used to, what?!”

Throughout his career, DMX collaborated with music artists such as Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z, LL Cool J, The Lox, Eve, Snoop Dogg, Bono, Faith Evans, Ice Cube, Eminem, and many others. He has shared the big screen with actors like Jet Li, Steven Seagal, Gabrielle Union, Chris Rock, and of course the late R&B singer, Aaliyah.

In 2016, DMX stopped breathing and had no pulse after suffering a drug overdose in a Westchester, New York parking lot. Luckily, DMX became “semiconscious” and was rushed to a nearby hospital, beating his demons and death. However, his battle with drugs was long from over. “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,” especially for someone who was one of the hottest artists on the planet.

DMX knew all the songwriting tools—key modulation, bridges, intros, and outros, and how to use them for maximum effect. He could write a cinematic verse about a robbery to a gospel spoken word set with sophisticated chord progressions. If anything, his knack for a catchy mainstream crossover record like “Party” or “X Gon’ Give it to Ya” is underrated.

DMX died at age 50. Tragically, before making his big comeback to the stage.

However, as he said, to be “blessed with a curse.” Perhaps the conflicted rapper was suggesting that the very thing that killed DMX was in parallel to the very thing that sparked his genius.

Before his death, DMX was prepared to make his comeback. He re-signed with his past label Def Jam, did various interviews, podcasts, reported to have a new album coming, and participated in an online Hip Hop battle “Verzuz,” against legendary act Snoop Dog.

During a February interview with the REVOLT series Drink Champs, the 50-year-old MC enthusiastically talked about his upcoming project. DMX said “I got Lil Wayne, I got Snoop [Dogg],” he said. “I got The LOX. I got Bono.” DMX’s longtime friend and producer, Swizz Beatz, whom DMX called a “magician” also influenced features from Alicia Keys and Usher.

Earl Simmons, Dark Man X, DMX dedicated his life to music, and then gave his life to God. A statement from the family said, “Earl was a warrior who fought till the very end. He loved his family with all of his heart, and we cherish the times we spent with him … Earl’s music inspired countless fans across the world and his iconic legacy will live on forever. We appreciate all of the love and support during this incredibly difficult time.”

“So, I pray that you open our eyes, give us the anointing to recognize the devil and his lies … In Jesus’ mighty name we have prayed, amen!” said DMX on his album “Year of the Dog … Again.”

Categories: Celebration of Life | Entertainment | History | Legends | Music | National | News (Entertainment)
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