Artist News Obituaries

DMX dies

By | Published on Monday 12 April 2021


Rapper DMX – real name Earl Simmons – died on Friday, aged 50. He had been in a coma for a week following a heart attack.

In a statement, his family said: “Earl 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”.

Meanwhile, his label Def Jam said: “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 huge force in hip hop in the late 90s and early 2000s, the rapper’s later career was stalled by drug addiction and numerous legal issues, which saw him repeatedly spend time in jail and rehab.

He released his debut album, ‘It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot’, in 1998, going to number one in the US. He went on to become the first artist in Billboard chart history to have all of their first five albums to go to number one – the first two in the same year. That run was broken by his sixth album, ‘Year Of The Dog… Again’, in 2006, which went to number two.

At the same time, he carved out a successful career as an actor, appearing in numerous films – most notably starring roles in Hype Williams’ ‘Belly’ and ‘Romeo Must Die’ with Jet Li and Aaliyah – as well as TV shows.

However, drug problems that preceded his success began to cause his career to falter. The rapper said that his first experience of hard drugs came at the age of fourteen when he was given a blunt laced – without his knowledge – with crack cocaine by his rap mentor Ready Ron. “Why would you do that to a child?” DMX lamented in an interview with Talib Kweli last year. After that, he said, “a monster was born”.

Having become involved in robbery and petty crime, the growing media interest in his music looked set to help him out of that lifestyle in the early 90s. However, a failed first single in 1993, followed by a conviction for drug possession the following year, stalled this. But eventually he signed to Def Jam in 1997 and began his rapid rise to fame. Although he left the label in 2003, he signed a new deal there in 2019.

In a statement, former Def Jam boss Lyor Cohen said: “DMX gave me the inspiration to keep going at Def Jam when rap became soft and silly. Unfortunately, Dark Man X took over and ran amok, tormented and struggling to find the light”.

Since the mid-2000s, the rapper became more known for his legal problems. He appeared in court on charges relating to dangerous driving, assault, theft, animal cruelty and drugs, some of which resulted in jail time. In 2018, he was sentenced to a year in jail after being convicted of tax evasion, having been found to owe nearly $2 million in taxes and penalties.

Although he claimed to have beaten his drug addiction in 2011, there were several stays in rehab in subsequent years. Most recently, in 2019, he cancelled a number of live shows, with a rep saying: “In his ongoing commitment to putting family and sobriety first, DMX has checked himself into a rehab facility”.

Following his early, prolific run of album releases, only two more emerged during his lifetime – 2012’s ‘Undisputed’ and 2015’s ‘Redemption Of The Beast’. However, the latter resulted in yet another legal battle, as DMX said that it had been released by the Seven Arts label without his authorisation.

Having re-signed to Def Jam, recently he had spoken about a new album featuring a range of guests, including Bono, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, Alicia Keys and Usher.