Rapper DMX is dead at 50, family confirms
The rap star born Earl Simmons passed away on Friday after reportedly suffering a heart attack caused by an overdose.
In yet another sad blow to hip-hop, the rapper DMX is confirmed dead at 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. Earl was a warrior who fought till the very end,” his family said on Friday in an official statement.
“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.”
Over the Easter holiday weekend, TMZ first reported that the Ruff Ryders star had been hospitalized last Friday night in ‘grave condition’ and was on life support after an overdose triggered a heart attack.
Born Earl Simmons on Dec. 18, 1970, in Baltimore, DMX was raised in Yonkers, N.Y., spending most of his young life experiencing abuse at the hands of his mother and several of her boyfriends. After periods of homelessness and stints in a boy’s home, Simmons developed his rapping and beatboxing skills. He and Ready Ron, a local rapper, became partners in music with DMX beatboxing for him.
By 1991, DMX was focusing on his rap career in earnest. His efforts got him noticed in the Unsigned Hype column in The Source magazine, then the hip-hop authority. He ultimately was signed to RuffHouse Records (also home to the Fugees) but his first single, “Born Loser” went nowhere.
The signing did have its impact on his career by increased his visibility, leading to appearances that included his unforgettable verse on The L.O.X. hit “Money Power & Respect” while he was still without a label deal.
That would change when DMX signed to Def Jam. His 1998 debut It’s Dark and Hell is Hot and his association with Ruff Ryders, the biking crew out of Yonkers, led to the classic hit “Ruff Ryder’s Anthem” produced by a young Swizz Beatz. Though it was his first smash, DMX didn’t want to do the song, according to his interview with GQ for their ‘Iconic Tracks’ series.
“I wrote it in 15 minutes,” DMX told the magazine. “I actually didn’t want to write it. I didn’t want to do that song. The beat was simple and repetitive. So many other songs had so much substance, and this song was like, f— ABCs, like elementary.”
DMX released Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood the same year making him the first hip-hop artist to score two #1, multi-platinum albums in the same year. He went on to release three more #1 albums in a row, becoming one of the most popular artists of the ’90s with Ruff Ryders Entertainment, a label founded by siblings Joaquin “Waah” Deen, Darren “Dee” Deen, and Chivon Dean who also grew up in Yonkers.
The label’s acts included their nephew Kaseem “Swizz Beatz,” Dean, Eve, The LOX, and Drag-On. The tight-knit crew included the bikers that affiliated with the label in several of their videos as their artists became among the era’s most solid hitmakers.
DMX also broke into acting starring in the 1998 classic hip-hop film Belly, with Nas, directed by acclaimed video director Hype Williams in his feature film debut. He appeared in Romeo Must Die with Aaliyah and in Cradle to the Grave, among other film and TV appearances. In 2014, he played himself in a hilarious cameo in Chris Rock’s Top Five.
As DMX’s fame grew, though, so did his problems. DMX struggled with addiction and infidelity throughout his eleven-year marriage to Tashera Simmons. The couple, who have four children, separated in 2010 and divorced in 2014. DMX fathered eleven other children with multiple women.
Despite his success, DMX experienced financial issues and was arrested multiple times from 1998-2018 for everything from animal cruelty, to driving and probation violations, to failure to pay child support. He filed for bankruptcy in 2013, though it was dismissed later that year.
He did a year in jail starting in January 2018 for tax fraud. In October of 2019, he announced that he was checking himself into rehab for substance abuse, missing scheduled performances at Def Jam’s 35th anniversary and at Rolling Loud.
“In his ongoing commitment to putting family and sobriety first, DMX has checked himself into a rehab facility. He apologizes for his cancelled shows and thanks his fans for their continued support,” Billboard reported.
DMX revealed in a 2020 interview with rapper Talib Kweli on his ‘People’s Party with Talib Kweli’ podcast that it was Ready Ron, the rapper he worked with and trusted, who first gave him a crack-laced blunt. He was 14 at the time.
“Why would you do that,” an emotional DMX said in the interview. “Why would you do that to a child? He knew I looked up to him? Why would you do that to somebody who looks up to you? The monster was born,” he said “I wouldn’t do that to my worst enemy.”
Despite the support of the hip-hop community who tweeted prayers and well wishes to DMX and his family, and prayer vigils outside the hospital in White Plains where he remained on life support for several days Simmons passed on Friday.
“DMX’s legacy will endure and one of the few artists in music that forced the game – the entire game to change based solely on the energy and passion behind his music, says Chuck Creekmur, co-founder of Allhiphop.com. “He’s was a one of one, a true authentic person which is why people love him so.”
“I first interviewed DMX in 1998 and his rise is indelibly tied to my company’s success, as that was also the year we started our business. I don’t have a bad memory about DMX, only classic tales and interesting stories. He walked about this world in the midst of kings, but unwilling to give up the common touch with us regular folks. He was flawed, but we all are flawed. He was imperfectly prefect and he had the love of the people, the love of the hood. He’s always have that, in life and death.”
“And although he sold more records than most, that’s not what we are going to remember him for. We are going to remember him for how his music touched us, helped us get through life. We will remember his faith in God and how he fought those damn demons every step of the way while he was super-serving the fans.”
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