DMX paired toughness with gentle soul searching

Categories:  Music    The Arts
Thursday, April 15th, 2021 at 11:48 AM

Multi-platinum hip-hop artist and movie star Earl Simmons, better known as DMX, died on Friday, April 9. After suffering a heart attack induced by an apparent overdose, he moved to a hospitalized, vegetative state for about a week. His family decided to pull the plug after his condition didn’t improve.

DMX was a national treasure, entering the rap game shortly after the losses of hip-hop juggernauts Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. Nicknamed “the dog,” DMX brought the ruckus! Hip-hop originated with those that could rock the mic and move the crowd, and DMX was the epitome of that. His adlibs of barking, growling and yelling “what” on every song was infectious and he became a crowd favorite immediately.   

In 1998, DMX became only the second hip-hop/rap artist to release two studio albums that would go platinum in the same year (Tupac is the other). He would go on to release 10 solo albums in all. His last record, “Dog Eats Rabbit,” was released in 2017.   

DMX was a club record megastar, with songs like “Party Up (Up in Here)” and “Ruff Ryders Anthem” still actively on your local DJ’s playlist though they were released over 20 years ago. One of the most memorable moments of DMX’s career was when he rocked the crowd at Woodstock 1999, a crowd that grew larger than 400,000 people. He had an energy that was unmatched, and no matter how old he was, when he had a mic in his hand his energy was infectious. His latest performance, in July 2020, a “Verzuz” battle (NSFW language on both videos linked) with West Coast legend Snoop Dogg, was livestreamed and watched by over 2.7 million people, according to producer and co-creator of “Verzuz,” Swizz Beatz.

There was a time in the late ‘90s to early 2000s where everything DMX touched was gold. Apart from his albums, DMX also appeared in over 20 movies. “Exit Wounds” (2001) and “Cradle 2 the Grave” (2003) both starred DMX and each debuted at No. 1 at the box office. The natural grittiness of his voice and demeanor was perfect for the roles he played, which can also be seen in the hood classic, “Belly,” where he played a hot head thief and drug dealer on the run from the law.

Although he was globally recognized for his toughness, DMX wasn’t shy to express his gentle, soul searching side. Many of the interludes on his albums included him praying and talking about the challenges of navigating his lifestyle. We all got to witness this on a national stage when up-and-coming superstar Aaliyah died unexpectedly in 2001. He was on the frontline of all tributes and memorial songs. In his music, he spoke about struggling with drug habits. On his song “Slippin’” he spoke on the struggles of raising his children. X discussed his mentality of always looking over his shoulder and “frenemies” with bad intentions. He discussed growing up in poverty and how he had to figure it out on his own from a pre-adolescent age.

Over the past few years, DMX could be seen performing his adlibs in Tik-Tok videos with his goddaughter actress Paige Hurd, laughing in candid videos with his girlfriend, speaking knowledge in volumes on talk shows like “Drink Champs” and “The Breakfast Club,” holding Bible study on Instagram Live, or joyous as fans ran up to him to take pictures. During his final few months, it seemed like DMX was in a good place in a very hard life.

DMX’s hometown of Yonkers, New York is honoring his legacy by building a statue or naming a street after him, according to the Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano. DMX is survived by 17 children and millions of fans sad to see him go. But those fans are happy the dog can rest peacefully.

Terrique Johnson is a staff writer for The Spectator. He can be reached at

Tags: music

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