arl Simmons, better known as DMX (an acronym for Dark Man X), was more than just a rapper. He was a street preacher with a firm faith in God, whose story of rag-to-richness gave hopeless hope and inspired a new generation of rap fans.
DMX, who died at the age of 50, was forced to grow up fast. An only child born in Mount Vernon, New York in 1970, he was abandoned by his father at a young age and his mother struggled to raise him. He hopped between a violent household, boys’ homes and youth institutions in Yonkers. His journey from a smart and vicious child to a troubled teenager involved car chases, robberies and periods of homelessness. But a passion for rap gave him purpose. His love for stray dogs gave him camaraderie and later he inspired his trademark barking record.
Known for his high-octane anthems and deeply introspective rap, DMX gained attention after appearing in Kildemagasinet̵
Sales of over four million copies in the US in just two years and topped the Billboard chart, It’s dark and hell is hot created the classic Swizz Beatz-produced “Ruff Ryders Anthem”. It served as a rallying cry for DMX’s label, Ruff Ryders Entertainment, and his extended music family, which included colleagues Eve and The Lox.
That same year, DMX released his second album, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, which also reached the Billboard top spot. It marked the first time a rapper had released two No. 1 albums under the same name in less than a year. Over the next decade, he would release five more albums. Three of them also debuted at No. 1, including 2003 Large field, where DMX sparked controversy with “Where the Hood At?”, which featured one of rap’s most obvious homophobic diatribes, but also some of the genre’s most homoerotic lyrics.
What struck people most about DMX was his honesty. As with 2Pac, you never doubted the message in his music. He shamelessly carried his heart on his sleeve, even though it meant confessing to his personal struggles. He understood that he was an ongoing work and a product of his environment. He felt it was important to register it, not only as a form of therapy, but as a guide to others for life’s many obstacles. X was not afraid to step into the darkness and tackle his demons on his head, trusting that God was by his side. Each of his albums contained a prayer that softened his harsh growl – partly caused by asthma. It attracted people to him. The suffering he exposed in his music helped others understand the feeling of pain in their own lives.
DMX was also a talented actor starring alongside Aaliyah and Jet Li in the 2000s Romeo must dieand in the movies Finish wounds (2001) and Cradle 2 grave (2003). However, his most memorable role was his very first: the cult-hip-hop movie Bug. Directed by music video guru Hype Williams, the 1998 film – which also played rapper Nas and TLC singer T-Boz – saw him deliver an impressive and engaging performance as Tommy “Buns” Bundy, a gangster undergoing a spiritual transformation.
He married his childhood sweetheart Tashera Simmons in 1999, with whom he had four children. They divorced in 2010. DMX was the father of a total of 15 children, some of whom came from outside marital relationships during his marriage to Simmons. He later filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing his child support obligations as his priority claim.
DMX’s long history of drug abuse began when he accidentally smoked a stump laced with cocaine at the age of 14. In the ensuing years, he was in and out of jail for a series of drug-related charges. Other driving with the law saw him arrested for reckless and unlicensed driving, resisting arrest, possession of drugs and identity forgery.
In the opening lines of his 1998 hit single “Slippin ‘”, X said he could see a brighter day on the horizon. “I’ve been through different stages, like labyrinths to find my way / And now I know that happy days are not far away,” he raps and promises everywhere that he will lift himself and become a better person.
He appeared to be on the verge of redemption when he was released from prison in January 2019 after serving time for federal tax evasion charges. His comeback included a 20-year anniversary tour to his debut album, and at the time of his death, he was working on a follow-up to the 2012s Undisputed. In various interviews, he said the record was set to include features from Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, Alicia Keys, Usher and the late Pop Smoke. He also revealed that he had collaborated with U2s Bono on a track called “Skyscrapers”.
All DMX wanted to do was soar, as he said on his 1998 album “Let Me Fly”. But while he hit heights of fame that very few ever reach, his spirit was often founded by childhood traumas, internal demons and ongoing health problems. . For as much as he gave the world, he deserved better.