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DMX, 1970-2021

DMX, the superstar rapper of the late '90s and early 2000s who set a record by having his first five albums hit #1, died Friday (4/9) at White Plains Hospital in  New York, a week after suffering a heart attack. He was 50.

His family said in a statement, “Earl [Simmons] 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.” 

DMX’s former lawyer of 25 years, Murray Richman, said the rapper was in a vegetative state on 4/4 after suffering a heart attack at his home in White Plains, N.Y., on 4/2.

Following the heart attack, Twitter was full of artists praying for his recovery, among them Chance the RapperLL Cool JMissy ElliottMaxwell and Ice T. A prayer vigil was held outside his hospital on Monday, 4/5.

DMX was one of the first rap artists, along with Jay-Z and Ja Rule  to demonstrate the commercial potency of music steeped in street-smart grittiness, ushering in a new era in hip-hop that dawned with the new millennium. Collectively, his first five albums sold more than 17m copies, proving his staying power as other rappers disappeared after one or two breakout hits.

The hardcore rapper's debut, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot (Def Jam), which included “Ruff Ryders Anthem,” opened at #1 and would go on to sell 5m copies. His best-seller was …And Then There Was X, released in December 1999; it contained the single “Party Up (Up in Here)” and would garner him two Grammy nominations.

Through a gruff, barking delivery that was most often aggressive, DMX thrived by releasing his emotions unrestrained. He had a physicality to match his explosively delivered rhymes: muscular, tattooed, intense. 

Def Jam issued a statement that read: “DMX was a brilliant artist and an inspiration to millions around the world. His message of triumph over struggle, his search for the light out of darkness, his pursuit of truth and grace brought us closer to our own humanity. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and all those who loved him and were touched by him. DMX was nothing less than a giant. His legend will live on forever.”

A member of the Ruff Ryders family, his success in the late 1990s led to his managers’ expansion of their company as a label that became a dominant force in hip-hop via The LOXEveSwizz Beatz and others.   

Dogged by legal issues nearly his entire life, the rapper born Earl Simmons learned beatboxing and rapping while in juvenile detention facilities in the 1980s. He signed with Ruffhouse/Columbia in 1992 and was dropped after his one single flopped. After guesting on songs by LL Cool JMic Geronimo and others, he signed with Def Jam, where he had a hit straight out of the gate with “Get at Me Dog.”

After his successful run at Def Jam, he would return to Columbia for his sixth album, Year of the Dog…Again, which opened at #2, just a few hundred copies shy of the week’s top seller, the NOW 22 collection.

After 2006, he released only two more albums, focusing on an acting career that saw him appear in nearly 20 films, among them  Belly, Romeo Must Die and Never Die Alone, between 1998 and 2020. He also starred in the reality series DMX: Soul of a Man.

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