DMX: Rest In Power To The Hip Hop Legend Ordained By The Streets

DMX, the gravel-voiced rapper who took over the hip hop scene in the late 90s and early 2000’s died last week at the age of 50 after being taken off life support following a heart attack.

DMX – Dark Man X – was born Earl Simmons on December 18, 1970 in Mount Vernon, New York. As a child he suffered from bronchial asthma and his mother would have to take him to the hospital almost nightly due to him waking up unable to breathe. Simmons had a rough upbringing suffering abuse at the hands of his mother and her boyfriends. At the age of five years old, Simmons and his family settled in public housing in Yonkers, New York. He was a smart kid in the classroom though behavioral issues led to him spending 18 months at the Julia Dyckman Andrus Children’s Home. He recalled that as a defining moment of betrayal in his life as his mother tricked him into thinking they were merely visiting and then enrolled him and left him there.

Once he returned to Yonkers, Simmons found himself on the streets where he befriended stray dogs and his passion for canines was birthed. He quickly learned the loyalty of dogs and the protection they provided in the streets. When he turned 14, his mother sent him to a juvenile asylum where he discovered his passion for hip hop. DMX began performing that year making a name for himself in the underground rap scene first as a beatboxer for Ready Ron who was impressed by his beatboxing skills, and later with his own mixtapes and demos.

Throughout the 1990s, DMX collaborated with New York rap legends Jay-Z, Ma$e, LL Cool J and Lil’ Kim and was eventually signed by Def Jam Recordings. In May 1998, DMX’s debut album, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, featuring the hit single Ruff Ryders Anthem, was released and reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. In December 1998, DMX’s second album, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, was released and also topped the Billboard 200 chart, securing his place within an elite group of artists to have two or more No. 1 albums in a calendar year.

It is no secret that DMX fought a lot of battles throughout his life from legal issues to drug addiction. What never wavered was his Faith. DMX filled his music with spiritual and theological references and was never afraid to call on God. In a profile for GQ, Dark Man X: The Resurrection, Mark Anthony Green wrote, “[a]s a believer in God, DMX looks at the bad, all of it, as testimony.”

Photo by Awol Erizku

In 2020, DMX led an Instagram Live Bible study with over 14,000 people tuning in to listen to him speak. “There are no words more powerful than the book,” he said holding his Bible. As he read different verses in his iconic cadence, he spoke directly to those who have not yet given their life to God and led them in prayer to surrender to Jesus. His passion can be felt so strongly through the screen and it was clear he had an anointing to use his platform to spread the word of God.

The passing of DMX is untimely and has shocked us all leaving a gaping hole in the hip hop community. Swizz Beatz who is a close friend of DMX delivered a moving eulogy about his brother,

“My brother was a different type of brother, different type of artist, different type of creative, different type of spirit, different type of zone, different type of soul. Since the day that I met him, he lived his life for everyone else. I’ve never seen him live life for himself. . . DMX was the biggest. He was the biggest because he prayed for everybody else more than he did for himself. He’d get on that stage and pray for 15,000 people knowing he needed more prayers than everybody he was praying for.”

Swizz Beatz and Timbaland established the Verzuz battle on Instagram Live last year while we were all stuck in quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What started as a virtual DJ battle has grown into an immensely popular series where two musicians are invited to highlight their discographies in two 10-song rounds during a three-hour session. Last July we were lucky enough to witness the legend DMX partake in the battle series going up against Snoop Dogg for what was one of the most viewed installments in the series at the time. Many Twitter users reflected on how wonderful it was to experience that moment and really witness DMX receive his flowers.

DMX is survived by his mother Arnette, his two sisters Bonita and Shayla, his ex-wife Tashera Simmons, his fiancée Desiree and his 15 children.

Rest in Power to one of the greatest rappers to ever grace our stage, Earl “DMX” Simmons. You will be missed King.

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