“To live is to suffer, but to survive, well, that’s to find meaning in the suffering” — “Slippin’”
By definition, a titan is a person or thing of enormous size, strength, power or influence. DMX was a titan.
Raw and authentic, he cemented his legacy as an icon on the mic with hard hitting anthems, relatable rhymes and high energy performances. His first two albums It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot and Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood were released in 1998 and both debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. At that time, the only other rapper to drop two No. 1 albums in a calendar year was 2Pac.
X’s next three albums, 1999’s … And Then There Was X, 2001’s The Great Depression and 2003’s Grand Champ also reached the top of the charts. His first five No. 1 albums sold over a million copies each. Decades later, anthems such as “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” and my aunt’s favorite rap song “Party Up (Up in Here)” are modern stables at the clubs, cookouts and day parties frequented by millennials and Gen Zers.
DMX always brought the energy. He made sure to tear down any stage he touched, from Hot 97’s Summer Jam to Woodstock ’99 when he reigned supreme.
The rap giant born Earl Simmons not only made history, he impacted culture. His voice was heard and his presence was felt, especially in the streets of New York. The “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” video was shot several Bronx-blocks away from where my cousin and I lived at the time. Although it wasn’t shot in our hood, it was shot close enough for him to tell our classmates, “That DMX video was shot on my block.” I feel like he convinced a few kids that living on our side of town basically made us Ruff Ryders by default.
It meant something being affiliated with X and his crew, which consisted of Eve, The Lox, Swizz Beatz, Drag-On and a gang of bikers. Just seeing bikes and T-Rexs with the Double-R symbol rip through the streets of NYC was enough to get hyped about.
His larger-than-life persona transcended the realm of hip-hop. An accomplished actor, DMX starred in the Hype Williams-directed cult classic Belly, as well as in action films such as Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds and Cradle 2 the Grave alongside the likes of Steven Seagal and Jet Li. “He was a good actor,” wrote my mother in a family group chat. “Could’ve been an action type of actor like Sylvester Stallone.” The Yonkers-bred MC’s acting chops were good enough to garner a comparison to Sly Sty.
DMX embodied pain and passion. In an era when concepts like toxic masculinity weren’t often explored and “macho man” mentalities were dominant, the “Slippin’” rapper was a shining example of a complex human. He was great in certain regards, and not so triumphant in other areas of his life. He was hard-edged and aggressive by nature, and yet embraced his emotions enough to shed tears while in front of tens of thousands of fans and followers.
As a diehard Jay-Z fan, I’ve defended Hov’s claims that he is hip-hop’s G.O.A.T. on more than one occasion. And as a result of many of those back-and-forths about who is the greatest of all time, I’ve often been reminded of why DMX was so revered and loved. The sampling of his classics by contemporary hitmakers like A$AP Ferg and Drake, 2017’s sold out run of Ruff Ryder reunion concerts and the 1.9 million viewers who tuned in to last year’s Verzuz showdown between X and Snoop Dogg were also reminders that his legacy will continue to live on.
DMX was a titan.
Photo via Getty Images