The word so often misused that when it come time to define someone appropriately, the descriptor sadly has lost some of it's intended sheen - Legendary.
When discussing the life and legacy of Earl Simmons, known to the world as DMX, legendary only begins to scratch the surface. Cultivating a historic career that saw the Dark Man X become a fixture in film and television, all in addition to his landscape altering contributions to the world of hip hop during his seven album stretch, X's success was as meteoric as his style was gritty.
Characterized by his signature battle-proven rasp and a street vernacular that was undeniably authentic, X incited a culture shift in not only hip hop, but in the lexicon of pop culture. Establishing his biggest strides during the era of hip hop that was enamored with Versace, radio ready hooks, and the prevalence of the super-producer, the Dark Man offered a no-bulshit, no comprising brand of brass tacks that resonated in a way that spoke to the streets while intriguing the suburbs. He was incendiary. He was raw. DMX was real and during an era that nurtured manufactured superstars, his charge was all the more impressive in its fluidity and volatility.
On April 9th, the world lost Earl Simmons. Succumbing to the effects of a heart attack from an apparent drug overdose, a multi-generational outpouring of support and grieving flooded the internet all serving to underscore the kind of lasting impact DMX continues to have on a global level. Exceeding well beyond his filmography and discography, DMX's legacy is that once-in-a-lifetime level of talent that reiterates the classic cliche - heroes get remembered but legends never die.
Here are just some of those moments.
DMX at Woodstock 99
There are those concerts that define a generation, provide a snapshot of an era and the turn of the century is best visually represented on many levels with Woodstock 1999. Despite the disastrous result of the event that has been forever marred by violence and chaos, DMX's 45 minute set is best described as by Consequence of Sound's Eli Enis as DMX, "standing at the musical equivalent of Mount Olympus’ peak." It's important to note that only one year prior DMX made his debut with 'It's Dark and Hell Is Hot' and already was holding over over a half a million people like a crafty veteran.
DMX debuts at Number 1
1998 proved to be a pivotal year for the Dark Man as he released his seminal debut in 'It's Dark and Hell is Hot'. The album was one of the biggest records of the year and catapulted X to skip the emerging artist phase of his career and leap ahead straight to superstardom. Upon his release in 1998, the album skyrocketed to Number 1 on the Billboard 200 - a feat he would accomplish four more times throughout his career, including another in the same year with 'Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood', 1999's ... And Then There Was X, 2001's The Great Depression and 2003's Grand Champ.
DMX transitions to film with 'Belly'
In same year that DMX dropped two number one albums, one of which was his debut no less, DMX also established himself as a big screen talent with his role as Tommy in the street cinema cult classic in the Hype Williams-directed, Belly. Starring alongside respected veteran lyricist Nas, DMX was already regarded as one of the greats and mixed well in such company. The Dark Man would go onto star in some 15 additional films including Romeo Must Die and Exit Wounds.
Mike Tyson channels DMX for his ring walk
It's often been said that many of Iron Mike Tyson's opponent lost their fight to the heavyweight champ in the moment before the first punches were ever thrown. Apart from his bricks for hands and tenacity unparalleled, Tyson's menacing stare and ring walk continue to be the stuff of legend. One of his most memorable ring walks happened in 1999 during a sold out event at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas when Tyson faced off with Francois Botha. Coming back after an extended suspension following his violent biting of Evander Holyfield, Tyson still scared the shit out of his opponents and this time, he made the walk to DMX's "Intro" from 'It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot’. Tyson would eventually knock Botha out in the fifth round but by all accounts, Tyson was the victor before he stepped foot in the ring.
DMX takes home Favorite Hip Hop Artist honors at 2000 American Music Awards
Edging out Jay-Z and Juvenile, DMX took home the trophy for the 2000 American Music Awards show after an impressive succession of years beginning in 1998 with his triumphant debut. Already a certified star in both music and film, DMX was at the height of stardom such that he received the same nomination again in 2001, in addition to racking up a few Grammy nominations in both 2001 and 2002.
The Fresh Off The Boat cameo
In 2015, DMX made a cameo on ABC sitcom based on Eddie Huang's memoir on, Fresh Off The Boat. An older, wiser DMX waxed poetic about the life lessons found in caring for orchids and being cognizant of his "big ass carbon footprint." The cameo has since served as a reminder of the softer side of one hip hop's most intimidating figures.
Ahead of his time
On his sophomore album, Flesh Of My Flesh Blood of My Blood, DMX managed to climb to the heights of charts despite gracing the album artwork covered in blood. On the often times morbid album, DMX showcased a collaboration track with since disgraced Marilyn Manson. Though the impact of the track has now changed given the myriad of allegations being heaved against Manson, the track for the time was certainly ahead of the curve.
DMX takes a break from filming to crash a Sum 41 video
In a move that was peak Y2K, DMX was filming for the movie Exit Wounds in Toronto and somehow ended up crashing the video shoot for pop punk band Sum 41. In the music video for "Makes No Difference" DMX rolls though a house party on an ATV in a visual clip that showcases a a culture clash of the best kind. Watch the Ruff Ryder himself hit the corner at 2:38 in the video.
DMX shines with greats on LL Cool J's "4, 3, 2, 1"
Back in '97 a still emerging DMX was featured along with lofty names in the game like Redman and Master P on that would spark LEGENDARY beef between LL Cool J and Canibus on LL's "4, 3, 2, 1". The group cut would eventually see LL and Canibus trade shots (Canibus murked LL with "2nd Round K.O." but that's for another day) but would also showcase a still yet to debut DMX delivering bars with industry vets and showing his colossal talent from the jump.