By Jhantu Randall
Those words described rapper DMX to a tee. Everything this man spit seemed to connect with and speak to an entire generation of kids who, like him, were looking for an identity in an era that existed between the deaths of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. and the more recent losses in the rap world.
Coined the “Bling Bling” era, artists like Lil Wayne, Juvenile, Eve, Cash Money Records and Master P’s No Limit Records were really making a push as the sound started moving South. While successful, endless content focused on money, riches and material was getting tiresome, DMX’s words and music was the antithesis of what was being promoted nationally
Sadly, April 9 marks the date that 50-years-old DMX passed away from this life after being pulled off life support after spending days in the hospital due to a heart attack. Initial reports say different on what caused it but with no official cause, this article is not a place to speculate rather is more or less a way to share what kind of man DMX was and about what he gave as a musical talent to us all.
DMX was born Earl Simmons on December 18,1970 and through moving around in his early childhood, his family set their roots in Yonkers, New York. He was the son of Arnett Simmons and Joe Barker, a street painter from Mount Vernon. At a young age, Barker took his art and moved to Philadelphia remaining absent from young Earl and his older sisters’ lifes. Struggling in Yonkers due to his mother’s abuse, Earl left home living on the streets and at the Salvation Army before being put in a group home. At the age of 16, DMX discovered Hip Hop as he used to beatbox for Ready Ron as well as other artists coming up, one being a young Jay-Z as well as Busta Rhymes; before his career in the group Leaders of the New School. He was signed to Columbia Record’s subsidiary Ruffhouse Records where he released his first single “Born Loser” in ‘92. In ‘95 he was featured on the song “Time to Build” alongside Jay-Z, Ja Rule and Mic Geronimo but that was only a taste of things to come.
In 1996 X, as he was nicknamed by fans and friends was signed to Def Jam where he started recording for his first album “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot” which would go on to garner both critical acclaim and commercial success. One of his biggest breaks came from featuring on LL Cool J’s “4,3,2,1” alongside Redman and Method Man. It was at this point a larger audience was beginning to take notice of how enigmatic he was. From there it seemed like the early 2000’s belonged to X. His energy in the tracks connected with the emotions of an entire group who were driven but constantly angered by the circumstances. The honesty in his songs allowed fans to connect with the inner workings of a person and seeing themselves in his legal troubles.
So as April 9 announced the loss of an icon in Hip Hop and a musical great in terms of depth and songwriting at large, these same people who DMX spoke to stopped and looked at what they had become. Through all the successes that could be, should we be as honest about our struggles as the artist we admired? DMX changed his life around for GOD to make better decisions in his life after he had fallen off and this should be what people remember him for.
Collectively, let us just say we’ll get back to you on that, right now X’s song “I Can Feel It” is playing in the headphones as me and my dog go for one last walk at sunset.
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