As many of you will know by the time this post runs, Earl Simmons AKA DMX passed away on Friday, April 9. His death was met with widespread sadness and grief. But it also have resulted in an immense remembering and celebration of his life.
And DMX had a profound impact on my life.
Some of you may be surprised to hear this but it is very true. I’ve shared my love for rap and hip hop music many times on this blog. Anyone who spends any time with me in the OR also quickly recognizes this.
So how did a white middle to upper middle class kid from the suburbs of Buffalo, NY come to love rap?
DMX. That is the answer.
While he started rapping in the late ’80s to early ’90s, his first mainstream album was It’s Dark and Hell is Hot released in 1998. This album featured Ruff Ryders’ Anthem and other classics. These songs introduced me to rap.
The in 1999, he released the album …and Then There Was X. This was the first rap album that I ever bought. Actually my mom bought it since I was in 5th grade I think.
I listened to this album over and over again on my Sony Walkman (Yup!). I fell in love with his gruff, raw, and authentic style. His lyrics were conflicted. They reflected the struggles he had been through growing up in an unstable environment. What I loved more was how he transformed these struggles. His verses also reflected the resiliency of rap that I came to identify with.
It’s also true that his lyrics were explicit. I think it’s important to note that this does not take away from their beauty. And it certainly was not corruptive (as has been suggested by many) to a young white suburban boy. In fact, here I am now, as a successful adult writing about his profound positive impact on me.
DMX was flawed
So are all of us.
He struggled with addiction, first being exposed to crack cocaine at age 14. From piecing together reports of his death, it appears it was the result of cardiac arrest after a cocaine overdose. This resulted in cerebral hypoxia and ultimately life support measures were withdrawn. He also had run-ins with the law.
However, like all of us, the measure of our life is not our mistakes but our response to them. And DMX, as reflected in his work, constantly acknowledged and worked on these mistakes. He also was a pastor whose lyrics often reflected his faith. In fact, I used one of his songs for a musical project in 6th grade at my Catholic school.
So thank you Earl Simmons. I doubt that you ever imagined your influence would reach someone like me. But it did. And I am better for it.
My condolences to your family, especially your children. I hope they are comforted by all of the amazing celebrations of your life that have outpoured.
What do you think? How have other artists impacted your formative life? Any DMX stories?
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