Earl Simmons (December 18, 1970 – April 9, 2021), known by his stage name DMX (“Dark Man X”), was an American rapper, songwriter, and actor.
He began rapping in the early 1990s and released his debut album It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot in 1998, to both critical acclaim and commercial success, selling 251,000 copies within its first week of release.
He released his best-selling album, … And Then There Was X, in 1999, which included the hit single “Party Up (Up in Here)”.
His 2003 singles “Where the Hood At?” and “X Gon’ Give It to Ya” were also some of his most popular. DMX was featured in films such as Belly, Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds, Cradle 2 the Grave and Last Hour.
In 2006, he starred in the reality television series DMX: Soul of a Man, which was primarily aired on the BET cable television network. In 2003, he published a book of his memoirs entitled, E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX.
Earl Simmons was born in Mount Vernon, New York, on December 18, 1970, the son of 19-year-old Arnett Simmons and 18-year-old Joe Barker, and was raised in nearby Yonkers.
He has no middle name and was simply named Earl at birth. Earl was the second child of Arnett, who had given birth to a daughter, Bonita, two years prior, as well as one daughter, Shayla, and two stillborn sons after Earl. Barker did not want Simmons to keep custody of Earl and cut off almost all contact with the family as soon as Earl was born.
As a child, Simmons suffered greatly from bronchial asthma, being taken to the emergency room almost nightly due to him waking up unable to breathe.
He was raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses but became disillusioned with the faith after his mother rejected a possible settlement stemming from an incident where he was hit by a drunk driver while crossing the street and in which he suffered minor injuries.
A while after the incident, a representative of the insurance company representing the driver who had hit him went to his house to try to reach an agreement with his family so that they would not sue. He claims his family could have received as much as $10,000 from the legal settlement but that his mother refused to open a case as she claimed the faith taught them to be self-sufficient.
Simmons went through a disjointed childhood that included being beaten by his mother and her various boyfriends so badly that he lost teeth and sustained numerous bruises and cuts on his face.
When Simmons was five years old, his family settled in Yonkers, New York. At the end of the fifth grade, Simmons was kicked out of school and sent to the Julia Dyckman Andrus Children’s Home for 18 months. When he was 14, Simmons began wandering the streets of Yonkers to escape his mother’s abuse and eventually found comfort in befriending stray dogs that walked the streets at night.
1991–1996: Career beginning
DMX got his start in the music industry in 1984, when he would beatbox for a local rapper named Ready Ron. After serving time in prison, he began writing his own lyrics and would perform at the local rec center for younger children.
After going to prison again in 1988, he began taking rapping more seriously, dedicating almost all of his free time to writing lyrics and also meeting and rapping with K-Solo while incarcerated. When DMX was released that summer, he began producing and selling his own mixtapes where he would rap over instrumentals from other songs and sell them on street corners, which helped him build a local fan base all over New York.
In 1991 The Source magazine praised DMX in its Unsigned Hype column that highlighted unsigned hip-hop artists. In 1992, Columbia Records signed DMX to their subsidiary label Ruffhouse, which released his debut single “Born Loser”. He released his second single, “Make a Move” in 1994, and made a guest appearance alongside Jay-Z, Ja Rule, and Mic Geronimo on the classic underground track “Time to Build” on Mic Geronimo’s debut album in 1995.
1996–2000: Signing with Def Jam and commercial success
DMX recorded tracks from September 1996 to January 1998, for what would be his debut album. During this time, his guest spot appearances on Mase’s singles “24 Hrs. to Live” and “Take What’s Yours”, The LOX’s single “Money, Power & Respect”, and LL Cool J’s single “4, 3, 2, 1” created a strong buzz for the then-unsigned rapper. In February 1998, DMX released his debut major-label single, “Get at Me Dog”, on Def Jam. The single was certified gold by the RIAA.
His first major-label album, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, which included the single “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem”, was then released in May 1998. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart in the U.S and sold over five million copies. Later that year, in December, DMX released his second album, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and went multi-platinum. DMX released his third and best-selling album … And Then There Was X, on December 21, 1999.
It was his third album to debut at number one on the Billboard 200. Its most popular single, “Party Up”, became his first Top Ten hit on the R&B charts. The album was certified six-times Platinum.
In 2000, DMX also made a cameo appearance in the Sum 41 music video for “Makes No Difference”.
2001–2004: Legal troubles and return to music
After improving his legal situation (see section “Legal Issues”), DMX returned to the studio to complete his fourth album, The Great Depression. Released October 23, 2001, it was his fourth album to debut at number one on the Billboard 200, featuring the singles “Who We Be”, “We Right Here”, and “Shorty Was The Bomb”. Despite the album’s triple Platinum certification, its commercial and critical success was lower than his previous album.
His fifth album, Grand Champ, once again debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 charts, placing DMX as the only musical artist in history to release five consecutive albums (his entire album catalog at the time) that debuted at number one. Singles include “Where Tha Hood At” and “Get it on the Floor”. After its release, he informed the public that he planned to retire and that Grand Champ would be his final album.
2005–2011: Year of the Dog…Again and The Definition of X
DMX signed to Columbia Records in January 2006. He recorded his next album, Year of the Dog… Again, while switching record labels, which caused numerous delays.
It was finally released on August 1, 2006, and missed the number one Billboard spot by only a few hundred copies. He released two more singles, “Lord Give Me a Sign” and “We in Here” On June 12, 2008, Def Jam released a compilation of his greatest hits, The Definition of X: The Pick of the Litter.
Def Jam released another compilation album, The Best of DMX, in 2011 which features hit singles including “Where the Hood At?” and “X Gon’ Give It to Ya”. In 2009, DMX claimed he would pursue preaching in Jersey City, New Jersey but will also continue to produce music. He completed a Gospel album prior to his incarceration. According to MTV, he had semi-retired to study the Bible more in an effort to give messages behind the pulpit.
On October 11, 2011, DMX performed at the 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards. He stated that he has been working “nonstop, every day” on his seventh album, which was later titled Undisputed.
A video for a new track entitled “Last Hope” was released via the Internet on September 24, 2011, and was later included on The Weigh In EP released digitally on May 5, 2012. In late February 2012, Seven Arts Entertainment Inc. acquired United Music Media Group’s music assets (which included a catalog of DMX’s music), and signed DMX to a two-album deal.
During a performance at New York’s Santos Party House on December 25, 2011, DMX stated that the new album will be entitled Undisputed and would be released on March 26, 2012. After numerous delays, the album was eventually released on September 11, 2012, and featured production from Swizz Beatz and J.R. Rotem with a guest appearance by MGK.
2013–2021: New albums and Def Jam Reunion
In 2013, DMX announced he had begun working on his eighth studio album. He has been seen collaborating with producers Swizz Beatz and Dame Grease. In December, after regaining his passport, he embarked on a world tour with performances in Bulgaria and Kosovo.
On January 7, 2015, it was announced by DMX’s label Seven Arts Music that DMX would be releasing a new album next week entitled Redemption of the Beast, but later during the day close personal friend and recurring collaborator producer/rapper/entrepreneur Swizz Beatz confirmed that this was false, DMX’s management would also confirm it was false as well. On January 13, 2015, Seven Arts Music released Redemption of the Beast, without acquiring a legal artist contract.
Feud with Ja Rule
During the 1990s, DMX formed a close bond with fellow up-and-coming rappers Jay-Z and Ja Rule. The three collaborated many times and formed a group known as Murder Inc. The group was short-lived due to internal issues between DMX and Jay Z. After the breakup of Murder Inc., DMX disparaged Ja Rule in interviews, accusing him of being a copycat, drawing comparisons between himself and what he saw as Ja stealing his signature “gruff” style of delivery.
DMX released a diss track, “They Want War”, on a 2002 DJ Kay Slay mixtape; Ja Rule would never directly respond. As time passed and the feud faded into obscurity, DMX said that he wanted to officially bring it to an end when he was released from prison in 2005: “Gotti came to me in jail and said I want to make peace with you and him. I was like, ‘Alright Gotti, let’s do it.”Despite this, DMX and Ja Rule would not officially end their feud until 2009, at VH1’s Hip Hop Honors.
DMX had spoken openly about his addiction to crack cocaine, which began when he was 14 years old after he smoked a marijuana cigarette laced with the drug. He also said that he had bipolar disorder. On February 10, 2016, DMX was found unresponsive in a Ramada Inn parking lot in Yonkers.
He was resuscitated by first responders and given Narcan before being rushed to the hospital. A witness said he ingested some type of substance before collapsing, but police found no illegal substances on the property.DMX stated that it was from an asthma attack.