DMX,1970-2021, b. Mount Vernon, N.Y., as Earl Simmons. DMX grew up in Yonkers, NY, in the 1980s, in a highly dysfunctional family; abandoned by his father, his mother and her various boyfriends often beat him for his misbehavior. As a teenager, he turned to street crime, often being sentenced to juvenile detention centers. In the late ‘80s, when he was about 14 years old, he teamed with local rapper Ready Ron as a vocal “beatboxer,” providing the rhythmic accompaniment for Ron’s raps; his nickname “DMX” came from a popular model of drum machine. Ron also introduced him to crack cocaine, beginning a lifelong struggle with addiction. He began selling his own mixtapes on New York City street corners in the early ‘90s, and was signed to Ruffhouse Records, issuing two singles in 1992 and 1994. DMX’s breakthrough came in 1997 when he appeared as a rapper on several other artist’s recordings, including LL Cool J’s “4,3,2,1” and the Lox’s “Money, Power, Respect.” He was signed to Ruff Ryders Records, and his first album, It’s Dark and Hell is Hot was an immediate hit, driven by his single “Get at Me Dog,” featuring his raspy voice on a bark-laced chorus. He followed a year later with the hit “Party Up (Up in Here)” in 1999, which was nominated for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 2001 Grammys. DMX’s first five albums all debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts, setting a new record. His success as a rapper launched an acting career in films Belly (1998), Romeo Must Die (2000), and Exit Wounds (2001). He had his own “reality series” titled DMX: Soul of a Man, broadcast on BET (2006). In his later years, DMX’s popularity faded while his troubles with the law continued, leading to two stints in prison (in 2008 for animal cruelty, drug possession, and theft; and in 2018 for tax evasion).

See his autobiography E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX (2002, with Smokey D. Fontaine).

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