World, Americas

Rap Star DMX dead at 50

Earl Simmons shot to fame with mix of violence and heart

Andy Roesgen   | 09.04.2021
Rap Star DMX dead at 50


He may have been a rap star with a long rap sheet, but Earl Simmons, DMX to his fans, will be remembered for using a troubled life to fuel mega-success in music.

Simmons died in his boyhood home in upstate New York on Friday morning, five days after suffering a heart attack. He was taken off life support after showing little brain activity.

His family released a statement, saying in part: "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."

Simmons was known for a booming, gravelly voice that seemed to reach through the record and grab his fans by the throat, a style that made him one of the most influential rappers of the 1990's, and 2000's and also landed him roles in hit movies, including "Romeo Must Die" and "Exit Wounds".

Simmons seemed to fill a hard-edged music void, not long after the death of rap star Tupac Shakur. Like Shakur, his music came from a raw, masculine, aggressive place, unlike the glossy sheen that hip hop would develop into the 2000's. But Simmons also injected a healthy dose of Christianity into this music, at times sounding like a preacher himself.

“People believe you can only catch the Holy Ghost in church,” DMX told Vibe in 1998. “I get it onstage."

One of his biggest mainstream hits was the dance anthem "Party Up (Up in Here)", the lyrics of which have been heavily redacted for radio, to the point they are barely recognizable.

But in the song, he still tried to get a message to young men about the perils of a life of crime: "That's why you laying on your back, looking at the roof of the church," he growled, "Preacher telling the truth and it hurts."

Simmons released seven official albums in his career; his fifth album in 2003, "Grand Champ", established him as the only artist in history to have five consecutive albums debut at No. 1 on the Billboard charts.

Simmons talked openly about the crimes he committed as a youngster, including robbery, in his attempt to escape an abusive upbringing. And in recent years, he fell back into so many legal troubles -- from tax evasion to animal cruelty to wildly excessive speeding and cocaine abuse -- that his story became more of a tabloid punchline.

The end of a prison stint in 2019 was followed by a successful concert return at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, but ensuing plans for a concert tour were derailed by another trip to drug rehab.

His family said they are still working on plans for a memorial service.

Until then, their statement said, "Earl’s music inspired countless fans across the world and his iconic legacy will live on forever".

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