Influential rapper DMX has died, according to a statement released by his family (per the AP). He was 50 years old.
On April 2, the musician was rushed to the hospital following a heart attack reportedly caused by a drug overdose. His family’s statement reads:
We are deeply saddened to announce today that our loved one, DMX, birth name of Earl Simmons, passed away at 50-years-old at White Plains Hospital with his family by his side after being placed on life support for the past few days. 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. 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.
Born Dec. 18, 1970 in Mount Vernon, New York, DMX’s early love for music was born in the streets of nearby Yonkers that he traversed to escape a tumultuous childhood. After being sent to a group home in his teenage years, he was encouraged to nurture his musical talents that he further developed when he met fellow rapper Ready Ron.
DMX’s magnetic stage presence and personality carried on with him throughout multiple prison stints, bookended by local performances and selling mixtapes on street corners that garnered a loyal fanbase. In 1991, pioneering hip-hop magazine The Source highlighted the rapper as an artist to watch for, and within a year DMX found himself signing with Columbia Records’ Ruffhouse imprint. He quickly became close with fellow New York rap mainstays such as Jay-Z and LL Cool J until the release of his landmark 1998 debut It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot.
Characterized by his gruff, dog-like delivery that he embraced after a lifelong struggle with bronchial asthma, DMX’s first five albums debuted at number one on the Billboard charts, a feat no rapper has matched since. Despite being surrounded by controversy for his satanic imagery, jail time and drug use, DMX has maintained a legacy that started at the turning point of musical history when hip-hop rose into mainstream consciousness.
DMX was a renaissance man. He founded the iconic New York rap collective Ruff Ryderz that included fellow classic hip-hop icons Eve and The Lox. He also starred in multiple movies, such as Hype Williams’ Belly and the 2003 action film Cradle 2 The Grave alongside martial arts legend Jet Li. He created his own reality show DMX: Soul of a Man on BET, and published a memoir, E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX, in 2003.
Throughout his life, DMX remained open about his struggles with addiction. In a candid interview on People’s Party hosted by Talib Kweli, he reflected on how it’s viewed by the public, saying, “Talking about your problems is viewed as a sign of weakness when actually it’s one of the bravest things you can do. One of the bravest things you can do is put it on the table, chop it up, and just let it out.” He was also a devout Christian and expressed the desire to become a pastor upon leaving prison.
DMX is survived by his 15 children and his mother. Further memorial plans are yet to be announced.
Revisit DMX’s performance at Woodstock 99 via the Paste archival video and audio below.