by Tariqah Shakir-Muhammad, Shawntell Muhammad and Jihad Muhammad
Father. Soon-to-be husband. Hip hop prophet.
These are the names most will remember for hip hop icon DMX. The legendary artist passed away in New York, according to a statement released by the family. He was 50 years old.
“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,” the family said in the April 9 statement. “[He] inspired countless fans across the world, and his iconic legacy will live on forever.”
Born Earl Simmons, he grew up in Yonkers, N.Y., and began writing music at a young age despite a turbulent childhood and struggles with addiction. His transparency about his struggles and past shared in his music helped inspire millions worldwide.
“DMX didn’t hide behind the pain, he was very transparent with the pain,” said national community organizer, activist and rap artist YoNasDa LoneWolf.
“That’s why everyone is feeling like, ‘man, this was someone that was just so open and vulnerable.’ … So, a prophet died this week, but in the holy scripture we look at them as testimony and carry on.”
The man behind the songs “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” and “Party Up (Up in Here)” used his distinctively gruff voice and thoughtful messages in his rhymes to become one of rap’s biggest stars.
The Grammy-nominated performer died after suffering “catastrophic cardiac arrest,” according to a statement from the hospital in White Plains, New York, where he died. He was rushed there from his home April 2.
His family’s statement said DMX died with relatives by his side after several days on life support.
Memorial plans were not yet set at Final Call press time.
He rapped with a trademark raspy delivery that was often paired with growls, barks and “What!” as an ad-lib—built a multiplatinum career in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but he also struggled with drug addiction and legal problems that sometimes put him behind bars.
“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,” his record label, Def Jam Recordings, said in a statement describing him as “nothing less than a giant.”
Fellow hip hop artists remembered him likewise, with Eve praising him as “one of the most special people I have ever met” and Nas calling him “Gods poet” in an Instagram post.
DMX made a splash in 1998 with his first studio album, “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot,” which debuted No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The multiplatinum-selling album was anchored by several hits including “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem,” “Get At Me Dog,” “Stop Being Greedy” and “How It’s Goin’ Down.”
DMX followed up with four straight chart-topping albums including “… And Then There Was X,” “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood,” “The Great Depression” and “Grand Champ.” He released seven albums, earned three Grammy nominations and was named favorite rap/hip hop artist at the 2000 American Music Awards.
DMX arrived on the rap scene around the same time as Jay-Z, Ja Rule and others who dominated the charts and emerged as platinum-selling acts. They were all part of rap crews, too: DMX fronted the Ruff Ryders collective, which helped launch the careers of Grammy winners Eve and Swizz Beatz, and relaunch The Lox, formerly signed to Bad Boy Records. Ruff Ryders had success on the charts and on radio with its “Ryde or Die” compilation albums.
DMX made his way as an actor. He starred in the 1998 film “Belly” and appeared in 2000′s “Romeo Must Die” with Jet Li and Aaliyah. DMX and Aaliyah teamed up for “Come Back in One Piece” on the film’s soundtrack.
The rapper would later open Aaliyah’s tribute music video, “Miss You,” alongside her other friends and collaborators, including Missy Elliott, Lil’ Kim and Queen Latifah, after Aaliyah’s 2001 death in a plane crash at age 22.
The rapper starred in 2001′s “Exit Wounds” with Steven Seagal and 2003′s “Cradle 2 the Grave” with Jet Li.
The Hard Knock Life Tour in 1999 featuring Jay-Z, DMX and others, was one of the most successful hip hop tours ever. The tour was secured by members of the Fruit of Islam. Hashim H. Muhammad, a Chicago hip hop artist himself and F.O.I., helped secure DMX throughout the multi-city event. He shared how during a stop in Milwaukee, DMX want to go to the city. Hashim Muhammad accompanied him visiting ’hoods. DMX gave and received love as “an extremely humble, spiritual, and fearless brother,” he said.