Hip-Hop Legend Earl “DMX” Simmons Has Passed At 50

    The Hip-Hop world lost a cultural giant on Friday as Earl “DMX” Simmons passed away at the age of 50 following an overdose that caused a heart attack and left him in an unresponsive, vegetative state on life support.

    I credit X with keeping the game gutter in the ’90s . As rap culture began to become commercialized and watered down, he gave us real street music. Simmons blessed us with two multi-platinum albums in the same year, straight from the streets. In all, he became the first hip-hop artist to have his first five initial albums, and almost his sixth top the charts.

    His death signifies the end to a glorious era of hip-hop. He sold over 75 million records worldwide, not streams or downloads.

    Simmons debut single in 1992, “Born Loser” went nowhere fast, but within a couple of years the Yonkers-raised DMX was popping up on albums by Jay-Z, Ja Rule and LL Cool J, while garnering a ton of major-label interest. His gravel-voiced, sometimes-staccato delivery set him apart from other MCs. Word of the power of the unsigned DMX’s live shows spread fast, and the rapper became a very hot  ticket when he performed anywhere in the Tri-State Area in the mid-90’s.

    Fueled by the single “Get at Me Dog” and a distinct public persona, DMX dropped his major-label debut “Its Dark and Hell Is Hot” in May 1998, and watched it rise to No.1 on the Billboard 200.

    That masterpiece would go onto sell 5 million units, again not streams or downloads, but physical copies of the album. The now-classic “Hell Is Hot” was followed later that same year with DMX’s sophomore release titled “Blood of My Blood and Flesh of My Flesh.” That multi-platinum banger also climbed to No.1 and X couldn’t miss in his first year as a major-label artist.

    In 1999, we got his career-defining album “And Then There Was X,” followed by 2001’s “The Great Depression”, and 2003’s Grand Champ in a stellar and still-unmatched run to this day in the rap game. No hip-hop artist had hit No.1 with his first three albums, let alone five. DMX never enjoyed much radio success, with his 2000’s “Party Up (Up in Here)” being his only single to reach the Top 30 on Billboard’s Hot 100. But he did amass eight Top 20 singles on the Hot Rap Songs chart, four which went Top 10.

    Simmons, who faced his share of legal difficulties, including animal-cruelty charges, stints behind bars for drug possession and parole violations, and a move to a new label, the now Grammy nominated-DMX took another hit with his sixth album, when his 2006’s “Year of the Dog …. Again” failed to make the top of the charts upon it’s release, but it was close. DMX earned three career Grammy nominations, four MTV VMAs nominations, and one Soul Train Award win for “Male Entertainer of the Year” in 2000.

    Just another sign that his music was just too real for the talking heads who vote on these awards.

    DMX was also an actor and although he didn’t see the same success on screen as he did in the charts, his acting career actually took off right around the same time as he achieved hip-hop fame. He made his acting debut in Hype Williams’ 1998 flick “Belly” with rapper Nas. He then went on to star alongside Jet Li, and the late great Aaliyah in the 2000’s Joel Silver-produced “Romeo Must Die.”

    In 2001 he teamed with Steven Seagal in “Exit Wounds.”The duo reunited in 2019 for the VOD release of “Beyond The Law.” He had a few other on screen roles in some smaller films, and even appeared as himself on Season 2 of “ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat.”

    In the past decade, the father of 15 had some run-ins with the law, and who can forget his infamous verbal attack on Drake. He even walked out of a court-ordered drug rehab program for his addiction to opioids and cocaine.

    In 2016 he had to be resuscitated at a motel in his hometown of Yonkers, by paramedics and rushed to the hospital. Back then the beat-pounding musician survived that brush with death, but much to the chagrin of his family, friends, and fans everywhere this time he didn’t.

    I remember the 1999 “Hard Knock Life Tour” and subsequent documentary “Backstage” on HBO. I drove to Pittsburgh to see it live.

    DMX was a cultural phenomenon that didn’t sugarcoat anything in or about his life. He gave his all in embracing life and its complications.