DMX’s complicated, beautiful legacy is remembered

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1992
DMX
(DMX | CREDIT: JONATHAN-MANNION)

By: Guest Columnist Psalm One

“The beauty in the world, you have to just appreciate it. You can’t just keep it for yourself.” I watched the last known DMX interview, on iconic east-coast rapper-turned successful podcaster N.O.R.E.’s show “Drink Champs,” trying not to completely break down. Interviews have always been “make or break” for many artists, but knowing this may have been the last interview DMX, born Earl Simmons, granted really hurts.

DMX was merely 10 years older than I am and lived the life of many men. Old by rap standards, young by “civilian” standards; DMX was that super gritty artist who never sugar coated. He was absolutely more than a rapper. Referring to X as something as limiting as a rapper isn’t respectful. He was an actor, an advocate, a prolific songwriter, a record label savior, a father and so much more. I honestly believe we hadn’t even begun to peel back all the layers of this man, but damn if we didn’t get plenty to sift through.

During (arguably) the second “golden-age” of Hip-Hop, X was still sharpening his skills as a relatively unknown battle rapper. By 1998 we were entering the shiny suit era of the genre, with huge rap tracks playing pop, bubbly, radio-friendly artists dominating the charts and, of course, Puff Daddy. Enter DMX. The first time I ever saw him, something stirred my soul. His video came on the television, black and white, grimy and menacing. “Get at Me Dog” was the first introduction of DMX as a solo artist to most.

This was cutting through. This was hard. This was different. And…this man was literally barking like a dog. To be honest, I was kind of scared. He was the type of rapper I’d have been afraid to meet in 1998. I was into the less gritty stuff. But DMX commanded my attention on screen. Every. Single. Time. At that point in my life, I wasn’t rushing to buy DMX’s music, but I was absolutely running to the television every time I saw his videos and I was MOST CERTAINLY purchasing movie tickets to see him on the big screen. That didn’t matter, DMX sold millions of records and was the first rapper to release two platinum albums in one year. Unprecedented stuff.

DMX had a charisma you can’t ignore. He played a starring role in one of the most iconic Hip-Hop movies of all time, the Hype Williams’ directed opus, “Belly.” So many rappers making successful turns as convincing actors; DMX stole every scene. As the years rolled on, DMX became a more fascinating figure to me, forcing me to listen to his discography. He was a witness for the Lord — his music filled with cries and pleas to God for forgiveness for not only him, but everyone. He cried during performances and interviews. You knew he was dealing with so much internally, but he still showed up for his fans.

DMX admittedly faced a lot of obstacles. But he was a spiritual man and shared his experiences of finding God during many interviews. He experienced so much hurt during his life but still managed to stand above it all. A Twitter user posted a thread about meeting DMX on an airplane and him inviting her to his 2016 San Diego concert later. He even let her and her daughter ride with him and his entourage to the venue.

According to an Associated Press article: “Besides his legal troubles, DMX took the initiative to help the less fortunate. He gave a group of Philadelphia men advice during a surprise appearance at a homeless support group meeting in 2017 and helped a Maine family with its back-to-school purchases a couple years later.”

He understood the beauty of his plight. And he shared his beautiful plight with all of us. May God rest his soul.

DMX died at age 50 on April 9 in White Plains, New York, after suffering a “catastrophic cardiac arrest” and being on life support.

Psalm One is a writer, chemist, advocate and Hip-Hop artist originally from Chicago’s Englewood community. She is now residing in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Committed to art as well as service, she helps run a mutual aid organization and is currently finishing her first book.

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