RIP DMX

A week after he was first hospitalized for a heart attack brought on by a suspected drug overdose (that has yet to be confirmed), DMX, one of the rappers who defined the sound of hip-hop in the 00’s, has died at a hospital in White Plains, New York, after several days on life support. He was 50.

According to various reports, his brain was deprived of oxygen for 30 minutes after what doctors called “catastrophic cardiac arrest” when he collapsed at his home. In that kind of situation, you don’t have a prayer. DMX was scheduled to undergo brain function tests, but he died before they could be administered.

Here’s the statement from the family.

We are deeply saddened to announce today that our loved one, DMX, birth name of Earl Simmons, passed away at 50-years-old at White Plains Hospital with his family by his side after being placed on life support for the past few days. 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. Please respect our privacy as we grieve the loss of our brother, father, uncle and the man the world knew as DMX. We will share information about his memorial service once details are finalized.

DMX grew up under tough circumstances in Yonkers, New York. Things were bad at home and he ended up in both boys’ homes and juvie. It was during a period of juvenile detention in about 1984 that he started writing music, apparently taking his name from an Oberheim DMX drum machine. When he got out, he started performing at the local rec centre. It took another stint in jail in 1988 before he really got serious about a music career.

As hip-hop exploded in NYC in the early 90s, he was one of the rappers given wide exposure in the “Unsigned Hype” column of The Source magazine, just like his early contemporary, the Notorious B.I.G. That 1991 column did wonders for him.

His first singles arrived in the early 90s but were largely ignored. But by 1998, and after guesting on tracks by other rappers and singers, he was signed to Def Jam who released his first albums, It’s Dark and Hell is Hot (which debuted at #1 and sold five million copies) and Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood. Things got even better the following year with the multi-platinum …And There Was X which was nominated for three Grammys.

With a string of number one albums, he, along with Jay Z, Ja Rule, and Biggie is considered to be one of America’s most important rappers of the late 90s and early aughts. The New York Times writes: “[DMX] had no imitators because there was no way to falsify the life that forged him.”

His gruff, raspy voice (a product of asthma) helped him stand out. His rhyming style, punctuated by “WHAT!” and growls, influenced many other rappers.

More albums followed along with an acting career in films like Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds, and Cradle 2 Grave–a total of 40 film and TV credits. The albums stopped after seven with Undisputed being the last in 2012.

DMX had plenty of problems, too. He had addiction issues, starting with a coke-laced joint when he was 14. He ended up in jail on tax evasion charges (over US$1.7 million in unpaid taxes), drug charges, DUIs, resisting arrest, failing to pay child support (word is that he had 15 children), and animal cruelty (he raised and fought pit bulls in Phoenix.) In 2004, he faked being an undercover federal agent and drove his SUV through a security fence at Kennedy Airport. He went bankrupt in 2013. In 2016, he was found unconscious in a parking lot. “Asthma,” he said.

Despite all his run-ins with the law, he managed to continue performing live right up until the end of 2019. Last July, about a half-million fans tuned him to see an online event called VERZUZ, a DJ battle featuring Snoop Dogg. It should be mentioned that he also would lend a hand to those in need, including homeless support groups.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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