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DMX, Rapper With Troubled Life, Dies At 50

DMX, Rapper With Troubled Life, Dies At 50

DMX, the rapper and actor who commanded the spotlight for his on-screen talent and off-screen troubles, died Friday at the age of 50 at White Plains Hospital in New York, where he had been receiving treatment after suffering a heart attack at his home last week that left him in a vegetative state.

A Difficult Beginning: Earl Simmons was born Earn Simmons in Mount Vernon, New York, and his childhood was beset by multiple traumas including bronchial asthma, receiving multiple injuries after being hit by a drunk driver while crossing a street, and an abusive family environment. He was expelled from school after the fifth grade and was twice placed in group homes.

As a teenager, he partnered with a local rapper and took the name DMX – standing for DarkMan X – but an arrest and two-year incarceration at the age of 16 for stealing a dog delayed his chance to move forward in music.

In the early 1990s, DMX was producing mixtapes and selling them on New York City street corners. He gained enough of a local underground following that The Source magazine highlighted him in a 1991 “Unsigned Hype” column. He signed in 1992 with the Ruffhouse subsidiary of Columbia Records, a division of Sony Corporation (NYSE: SNE), but was dropped after recording a single that failed to chart.

Career Highs, Personal Lows: DMX continued performing, making guest appearances on other artists’ recordings, but it wasn’t until 1998 that his career took off with the single “Get Me a Dog” on the Def Jam label, which is part of the Universal Music Group co-owned by Vivendi SE (OTC: VIVHY) and Tencent Holdings (OTC: TCEHY). The single went gold and was followed by the album “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot,” which went platinum five times over.

He also branched into acting with starring roles in the films “Belly” (1998), “Exit Wounds” (2001) and “Cradle 2 the Grave” (2003).

DMX’s personal life was plagued by health and legal issues. He became addicted to crack cocaine at the age of 14 and said he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Throughout his adult life, he was arrested multiple times on charges including drug possession, animal cruelty, nonpayment of child support, and reckless and unlicensed driving. He pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges in 2017 and served one year in prison.

Related Link: Slip Slidin' Away: Sony Music Acquires Paul Simon's Music Catalog

Musical Legacy: In his last interview recorded in February for the “Drink Champs” podcast, DMX discussed an upcoming album he planned that would include collaborations with Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, Alicia Keys, Usher and Bono. His last studio album, “Redemption of the Beast,” came out in 2015.

In recent years, there has been a trend of excessively increased album sales of iconic performers following the news of their deaths.

In a 2019 study published in the Journal of the Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association, among the most dramatic album sales following a star’s passing have involved Prince (a 16,000% increase the day following his death in 2016), Tom Petty (up 6,800% the day after he died in 2017) and Soundgarden (up 550% the week after frontman Chris Cornell died).

(Photo by Rzom / Flickr Creative Commons.)


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