DMX, rapper and actor, dies at 50 - CNN

Sad news from the hip hop community broke over the weekend. Rapper DMX, who helped turn the Ruff Ryders label into a powerhouse in the 1990s, has died. He was 50. DMX, born Earl Simmons, died on Friday following a heart attack triggered by a drug overdose. One of rap’s biggest underdogs, DMX rose to fame in 1998 when the East Coast crown was up for grabs. After the passing of the Notorious B.I.G. in 1997, New York yearned for a new king. With Nas and Jay Z considered promising replacements to the throne, a young, spirited DMX pounced on the opportunity to spar with the city’s elite. Before releasing his major label debut album “It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot”, X proved his competitive fervor when he and Jay Z first battled in the mid 1990s. As legend has it, X took a cab from Baltimore to New York to partake in the main event. To this day, the contentious Bronx royale highlighted X’s bruising delivery, scrappy wordplay and grit-and-grind mindset. The Darkman’s dog-eat-dog mentality continued when he was signed to Ruff Ryders/Def Jam Records. Like his Bronx battle against Jay Z, X didn’t shy away from the competition. Out the gate, he blitzed the hip hop game with hard hitting features, most notably Ll Cool J’s “4, 3, 2, 1 (Remix)”, Mase’s “24 Hrs To Live” and The Lox’s “Money, Power Respect.” Then, in 1998, his signature growl and bark found a home on his debut album “It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot.” After flexing his aggressive aura on such singles as “Get At Me Dog” and “Stop Being Greedy”, he put the rap game on notice when he and a young Swizz Beatz carved out “Ruff Ryders Anthem”, an ode to their burgeoning crew. The album peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, cementing his status as a superstar. Following the release of “It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot”, X’s pursuit of rap dominance continued with the release of his sophomore effort “Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood” later that year. While juggling a music career, X segued into acting. He proved he was a natural when he starred opposite Nas in the film “Belly.” He went on to appear in the films Romeo Must Die (2000), Exit Wounds (2001) and Cradle 2 The Grave (2003). Seven months after the release of “It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot”, X scored his second No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 with “Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood” in December 1998. That feat made him the second rap artist after Tupac Shakur to have two albums released in the same calendar year go No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Though X’s tough exterior lured listeners in, it was vulnerability and bone-chilling honesty that served as his best attributes. Tracks like “Slipping” and “I Can Feel It” offered glimpses into his mindset when he encountered difficult times in his life. Those rough patches were often his double-edged sword. As a child, he was abused by his mother. He was sent away to children’s homes. At 14, he tried crack cocaine. And though his troubled youth served as great material for his songs, it would later take a toll on his adult life, where he would struggle with substance abuse. After being charged with tax fraud in 2017, DMX spent a year in prison. Upon his release, he canceled a slew of shows to check into rehab. In 2019, he struggled with drug addiction again and went into a rehabilitation facility. Those moments strengthen X’s resiliency. He leaned on his faith as a Jehovah’s Witness to carry him on. The power of prayer was one of X’s hallmarks, especially throughout his albums and performances. Before he exited a set, he fittingly placed a bow on his performance with a heartfelt prayer. With five No. 1 Billboard 200 albums to his credit, X wasn’t just a rapper. He was a fighter. He fought demons. He fought the odds. He slept on floors. He did whatever he needed to do to push on because that’s all he knew how to do. Now, with him finally at peace, he no longer needs to fight. The dog can finally walk away, knowing his legacy will always be remembered and respected.