DMX, the sensationally talented and gruff-voiced rap artist and actor who rose from the hardscrabble streets of Yonkers, New York, to become one of hip-hop’s most prolific stars, died Friday after suffering a heart attack last week. He was 50.
The Grammy-nominated rapper, whose real name is Earl Simmons, had been at White Plains Hospital since suffering the heart attack at his New York home on April 2. He was in a coma and on life support for several days as doctors attempted to revive him, but reportedly never regained brain function.
“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,” his family said in a statement.
“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 wrote. “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.”
The superstar had struggled with drug addiction for decades and recently explained his long battle to stay sober.
He said someone who served as his mentor tricked him into smoking crack cocaine when he was 14.
“I later found out that he laced the blunt with crack,” DMX told fellow rapper Talib Kweli. “Why would you do that to a child?”
Raised by his aunt, DMX took hip-hop by storm in the late 1990s following a false start to his career. After being featured in The Source magazine’s Unsigned Hype column in January 1991, he signed to Columbia Records and released a relatively unsuccessful single “Born Loser.”
Following a yearslong hiatus, DMX reemerged on the New York mixtape scene, creating a major buzz with a slew of guest appearances, including on LL Cool J’s “4, 3, 2, 1” in 1997.
After signing a contract with Ruff Ryders/Def Jam Records, DMX recorded his hit “Get At Me Dog,” which quickly rose up the rap and pop music charts.
His seminal 1998 debut album “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot” cemented his legacy as a rap music genius.
The website AllMusic.com noted that, following the deaths of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., DMX took over as the undisputed king of hardcore rap.
“He was that rare commodity: a commercial powerhouse with artistic and street credibility to spare,” editors at AllMusic.com wrote. “His rapid ascent to stardom was actually almost a decade in the making, which gave him a chance to develop the theatrical image that made him one of rap’s most distinctive personalities during his heyday.”
Hype Williams’ motion picture “Belly” was among the first to cast DMX in leading roles.
The 1998 film also included Nas, Taral Hicks, Method Man, R&B singer T-Boz, and National Newspaper Publishers Association President and CEO Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.
Before the end of 1998, DMX completed his second album, and a pending buyout of Def Jam pushed the record into stores that December. Featuring a controversial cover photo of the rapper covered in blood, “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood” entered the charts at number one and eventually went triple platinum.
Though his legal issues dominated the headlines in the later years, DMX was one of the most successful recording artists ever, selling millions of albums and winning several awards. His first five albums all debuted atop the Billboard 200, the first artist in history ever to do so.
He also went on to star in a myriad of motion pictures and television shows, including “Any Given Sunday,” “Gone in 60 Seconds” and “Cradle 2 the Grave.”
DMX reportedly is survived by a fiancée, his mother and 15 children.