BY IVAN ALBERY POWELL
Listening to DMX for the first time as a young teenager, I immediately recognized his music was like nothing else.
His songs had an aggressive tone and high energy that I had not heard before in Hip-Hop.
And many of the iconic rapper’s hits — like Party Up (Up in Here) — are still relative more than two decades later.
I certainly consider myself a fan, even if DMX may not have had a lot of love for Toronto. The hip hop original is among the artists from the 1990s whose music led me to a career in the industry, driving me start my own booking and management company, GMA – Great Music Agency, in the city.
Sadly, the writing was on the wall when DMX was rushed to a New York hospital after overdosing and suffering a heart attack on April 3. But it still came as a shock to fans worldwide when his death was confirmed a week later.
“We are deeply saddened to announce today that our loved one, DMX, birth name of Earl Simmons, passed away at 50 years old at White Plains Hospital with his family by his side after being placed on life support for the past few days,” his family said in an April 9 statement.
“Earl was a warrior who fought till the very end. He loved his family with all of his heart and we cherish the times we spent with him.”
The family statement went on to say DMX’s music “inspired countless fans” and “his iconic legacy will live on forever.”
This official confirmation of DMX’s passing followed days of contradictory reports online.
Rumours of his death began after his friend, comedian Luenell, posted a message on Instagram that read: “It is over. My friend is gone … RIP … DMX.”
With news of his death going viral, DMX’s manager Steve Rifkin released a video explaining Earl Simmons was still alive but on life support and he asked people to stop spreading false rumours of the rapper’s death.
DMX (Dark Man X) endured physical abuse growing up in Yonkers, New York. He started smoking crack cocaine at 14 and had numerous run-ins with the law that led to him serving jail time before he became serious about writing lyrics and rapping in his late teens.
He was signed to Ruffhouse Records, a subsidiary of Columbia Records, in 1992 and released his debut single Born Loser.
It was the beginning of a career that would see DMX become the first artist in history to have his first five albums reach number one on the Billboard charts. He was also nominated for several Grammys.
Some of his biggest hits include Ruff Ryders Anthem and What’s My Name?
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DMX was also an accomplished actor, appearing in movies such as Exit Wounds, Romeo Must Die, Belly and Cradle 2 The Grave.
Exit Wounds, a film released in 2001 starring Steven Seagal, was actually filmed in Toronto. During filming, rumours began to swirl that DMX was buying drugs from dealers in Regent Park. Unconfirmed reports suggest he was even robbed during one visit to the government housing project, which is believed to have led to some disdain for the city.
But it wasn’t until 2004 when DMX was arrested at JFK for impersonating an FBI Agent that the world became aware of his addiction issues. After crashing through a barrier at the New York airport, he identified himself as a federal agent to airport employees.
He arrested on charges that included possession of crack cocaine.
The father of 15, who checked into rehab several times over the years, often spoke publicly about his issues to raise awareness.
A memorial service for DMX will be held April 24 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, but it’s not yet known how many people will be allowed inside the arena because of COVID capacity restrictions.
The service will not be open to the public.
The rapper’s family and close friends will reportedly also gather the next day for a church service.
DMX will be remembered as a hip hop legend and his fans will continue to celebrate his music, his movies and his life.
— Ivan Albery Powell is a music executive and the owner of GMA — Great Music Agency