DMX, who went from underground rapper to one of hip-hop’s biggest stars at the turn of the century, has died at age 50, according to a statement from his family. The rapper, born Earl Simmons, had been hospitalized after a reported drug overdose and heart attack late on April 2. “Earl was a warrior who fought till the very end,” his family said. “He loved his family with all of his heart and we cherish the times we spent with him. Earl’s music inspired countless fans across the world and his iconic legacy will live on forever.” Born in Baltimore, DMX grew up in Yonkers, New York, where he fell in love with hip-hop. DMX began performing in 1984, becoming a figure in the underground rap scene first as a beatboxer for Ready Ron and later with his own mixtapes and demos. After collaborating with New York rap icons Jay-Z, LL Cool J, Ma$e, the LOX, and Lil’ Kim throughout the 1990s, DMX eventually signed to Def Jam Recordings. His debut single on the label, “Get at Me Dog,” became a hit, cracking the top 40 of the Hot 100. DMX released his debut album, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, in May 1998, when it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. The album became a classic of 1990s hip-hop, establishing DMX’s signature raspy vocals and often bleak subject matter.
By December 1998, DMX released his second album, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, which also debuted at No. 1 and made him just the second rapper with two No. 1 albums in the same year, after 2Pac in 1996. DMX’s following albums … And Then There Was X, The Great Depression, and Grand Champ all also debuted at No. 1, a record-setting run of No. 1 debuts at the time. … And Then There Was X also gave way to DMX’s biggest hit, “Party Up (Up in Here),” in 2000. He also famously led the Ruff Ryders, a rap crew that included the LOX, Eve, and Swizz Beatz. DMX’s last album was 2015’s Redemption of the Beast, although he re-signed with Def Jam in 2019. Last July, he competed in a Verzuz battle against Snoop Dogg.
Multiple of DMX’s songs appeared on Vulture’s list, “The 100 Songs That Defined New York Rap, Ranked,” including “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” at No. 15. Eric Diep wrote of the song, “DMX spoke for the streets, creating a worldwide Double-R dedication.”