DMX is one of America’s most successful stars of the late 1990s and 2000s as he became the first artist to see his first five albums go to number one in the Billboard charts.
His songs combined sold 14 million copies in the US and earned him three Grammy nominations, and he enjoyed a parallel career as the star of blockbuster action films.
DMX real name Earl Simmons was born on 18 December 1970 and grew up in Mount Vernon, New York.
His troubled childhood saw him living in children’s homes and getting involved in violence and crime, leading to several run-ins with the police and his first arrest at 15. Those experiences were later expressed in his tortured, candid lyrics about ghetto life.
He started his music career as a DJ. He signed to Columbia Records in 1992 and his first single track was ‘Born Loser’.
He complained about the label’s neglect and was let out of his contract. He issued one further single in 1994, ‘Make A Move’, but was convicted of drug possession that same year.
He provided guest vocals to LL COOL J, Mase, Tupac Shakur and other artists of Dem Jam music.
After his first album the same year, he was accused of rape but was later cleared by DNA evidence. He went on to make his feature film debut in Hype Williams’ ambitious but unsuccessful Belly, which was criticized for its violence.
DMX was already working on his second album Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood. It featured a controversial cover photo of the rapper covered in blood – but unfazed, fans pushed the album to the top of the chart.
With the album’s success, DMX became the first rap artist to have his first two albums reach US number one within a year. “I wrote fast,” DMX told MTV in 1999.
His best-selling album named There Was X, was nominated for best rap album at the Grammys; and the follow-ups The Great Depression and Grand Champ.
He starred in the action films Romeo Must Die, with Jet Li and Aaliyah in 2000, and Exit Wounds, with Steven Seagal in 2001, which became box office hits despite the negative reviews the films received from the audience.
In 2006, he released the album called Year of the Dog and Undisputed in 2012.
But his battle with drugs remained a powerful force and led to convictions for drug and gun possession.
In 2001, he served a 15-day prison sentence for a driving offense, during which he was accused of assaulting a guard. There were also further legal issues involving animal cruelty, reckless driving and theft, some of which led to spells in prison.
The rapper’s mental health became a topic in some interviews and in particular whether he had bipolar disorder.
In a 2011 interview with ABC 15 Arizona, the rapper said “X” wasn’t a true reflection of himself.
In 2016, a near-fatal overdose saw DMX collapse in the parking lot of a hotel in New York. He was revived when a paramedic injected him with an anti-opioid used to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.
In 2018, he was prosecuted for tax evasion with the rapper owing $1.7m in unpaid taxes from income made between 2002 and 2005. He was also found to have failed to have filed taxes from 2010 to 2015, during which time he was estimated to have made at least $2.3m.
A judge sentenced him to one year in prison and was released in 2019 and later returned to rehabilitation. He died of a heart attack on 9th, April 2021 at White Plains Hospital in New York aged 50 years.