DMX Dead At 50

Scott Gries/ImageDirect

DMX Dead At 50

Scott Gries/ImageDirect

Earl Simmons, the rap legend known to the world as DMX, has died. Last weekend, DMX was rushed to a hospital in White Plains, New York after suffering an overdose and a heart attack. Although he remained on life support last night as rumors of his death spread on social media, his family has now confirmed his death. DMX was 50.

“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,” his family said in a statement. “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.”

Earl Simmons grew up in Baltimore and in Yonkers, New York, and he had a rough childhood, suffering from poverty and abuse. He turned to crime as a child and spent time in group homes. During his time in juvenile centers, Simmons discovered a love of rap music, and he beatboxed for local rappers. He took the name DMX, naming himself after a drum machine. He got more serious about rap while serving a late-’80s prison sentence for carjacking, and he started to develop a following in the early ’90s by releasing mixtapes and battling other rappers on the New York circuit. In the early ’90s, DMX was briefly signed to Ruffhouse Records, and he was dropped after releasing one single, 1992’s “Born Loser.” But in the late ’90s, DMX went on a guest-verse spree, doing scene-stealing work on songs from rappers like Mic Geronimo, LL Cool J, Mase, and the Lox.

Irv Gotti signed DMX to Def Jam in the late ’90s, and he released his landmark debut album It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot in the spring of 1998. The album was an immediate success that debuted at #1. Before the end of the year, DMX released a second album, Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood, and that one also debuted at #1. In an age of flashy rap excess, DMX came off as an antidote — a raw, erratic, desperate figure who radiated anger and determination in every bar. DMX came with his own ready-made iconography — the dirt bikes, the pit bulls, the prayers. DMX was an enormously charismatic figure, and his success went beyond his album-sales numbers. People loved him. He represented darkness and struggle at a moment when rap seemed like it was trying to distance itself from those things. His mere presence was revolutionary.

DMX released a few more successful albums in the late ’90s and early ’00s, and he also became a movie star, starting with his magnetic work in Hype Williams’ 1998 film Belly. From there, DMX moved into action movies, working with martial-arts stars Jet Li and Steven Seagal on Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds, and Cradle 2 The Grave. But X also suffered from crack addiction, and he was arrested many times in the ’90s and ’00s. He served a number of prison terms, and he also had to be resuscitated with Narcan after a 2016 overdose. Those issues quickly took a toll on DMX’s career, and he parted ways with Def Jam after releasing 2003’s Grand Champ, his last platinum album. He’s released more music since then, but it hasn’t been anywhere near as successful.

In 2018, DMX was sentenced to a year in prison for tax evasion. After his 2019 release, DMX seemed to be in a good headspace. He had a fun Verzuz battle with Snoop Dogg last year. More recently, he returned to Def Jam and got to work on a new album. In an interview on NORE’s Drink Champs podcast in February, DMX said that the album was almost done and that it featured appearances from Bono, Usher, Alicia Keys, and Lil Wayne.

Below, check out some of DMX’s work.

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