On April 9, 2021, the world of rap was hit with sudden grief as it was reported that Earl Simmons, better known as DMX, had passed away. His music relayed a message about his experience of trial and tribulations of pain. As he was lyrically recognized for his hardcore but at times uplifting lyrics, his music remains an example of pain turned into expression. DMX was no stranger to making history on the charts as he would be the only rapper ever to have five albums hit the number one charts such as albums such as It's Dark and Hell is Hot (1998), Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood (1998), And ThenThere Was X (1999) The Great Depression (2001) and Grand Champ" (2003). His triumphal lyrics and timeless music are what will hold up the legacy he leaves behind.
Growing up in Yonkers, life wasn't easy as it was a constant battle and struggle. In past interviews, Simmons mentioned on multiple occasions the abuse he endured from his mother, Arnett Simmons. In a GQ interview, he states, "[My mother] beat two teeth out of my f*cking mouth with a broom." Things would continue to go downhill as his mother decided it would be best to send him to a group home due to the discovery of his homelessness. Although it seemed like a bad situation, Simmons would eventually discover his passion for music as he would perform with friends and begin to write his lyrics. His dedication and consistency to music would lead to the start of his career at the age of 14.
Start of Something New
After solidifying a name for himself by creating mixtapes rapping on other artists' instrumentals and his talented skill of beatboxing, DMX would go on to be signed by Columbia Records and release his debut single "Born Loser" in 1992. In 1997, he would then sign with Def Jam after being unsuccessful with Columbia. DMX would reach major success when in 1998, he released not one but two albums in the same year. It's Dark and Hell is Hot debuted on May 19, 1998, with hit singles such as "Get at Me Dog," "How's It Goin Down," and "Ruff Ryder's Anthem." His single "Get at Me Dog" received an accolade as it was awarded RIAA Gold certification. The album also charted number one on the Billboard 200 and went on to sell over five million copies. The following album, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, debuted on December 22, 1998, which resulted in commercial success that included the hit single "Slippin'." "I wanted to get that bonus. So I wasn't playing with that whole studio sh*t. I wanted to get it out. The first album had 19 songs, so I already felt like I was cheating a little bit by giving them fewer songs than on the first one," stated Simmons on the process of his sophomore album to Fader Magazine. The following album would also become number one on the Billboard charts for three consecutive weeks and later become a 3x platinum album.
As DMX's career became successful with top-charting hits and becoming a household name, music wouldn't be the only thing to keep his name recognizable. Simmons would run into various legal troubles that would at times require him to spend lengthy amounts of time in jail. In a GQ interview, he stated, "Before I really had a life, jail was a playground. I'd be like, 'I'm going to jail and have fun.' Jail used to be fun." His arrests would include various charges such as driving under the influence, tax evasion, animal cruelty, possession of drugs, and many other charges. Unfortunately, his act of trouble would not be the only problem that would stand in the way of his career. He revealed on Talib Kweli's show People Party that at the age of 14, he was given a blunt laced with crack from a former mentor in what would eventually be the start of his long journey with drug abuse. Emotionally, he would go on to say, "I never felt like this before it f—ed me up. I later found out that he laced the blunt with a crack… Why would you do that to a child? He was like 30, and he knew I looked up to him. Why would you do that to someone who looks up to you?". His music would demonstrate evidence of struggle with drug use as he states in his single "Slippin':" "Used to get high just to get by used to have/In the morning before I get fly" to indicate how the use of drugs would be a constant battle in his life.
Legacy After Death
As we reach one year into his untimely passing, DMX still upholds his undeniable legacy through his way of life and music. Just a month after his death, his eighth and posthumous album, Exodus, would be released. In his final interview on TV One's Uncensored, speaking on the album, he states, "I really feel like my love for the craft has been restored." Exodus charted number eight on the Billboard 200 and received a Grammy nomination for best rap song "Bath Salts," featuring Jay-Z and Nas. On November 23, 2021, HBO Max released DMX: Don't Try to Understand, exploring the life of DMX after he was released from prison in 2019. It goes in-depth about Simmons returning to his love of music, his role as a father, his traumatic childhood, and as well as his mental health struggles. DMX left behind the authenticity of what it means to be raw and uncut and be oneself. The impeccable words that he left behind in his music would be the ones that fans from past, present, and future will continue to feed off for all time.