As a great fan of hip hop in all its forms, it seems weird that I never really listened to DMX. As one of the most iconic rappers of the late 90s-early 2000s and indeed one of the most important figures in the hip hop world I obviously knew who he was but for some reason beyond Ruff Ryders’ Anthem and a couple of his other classics I never really listened to his music. Often when musicians or artists die, they inevitably become more popular, especially when that death occurs before its time in tragic circumstances. While I wouldn’t say this is what’s happening with DMX, his well earned popularity and influence was notable before his passing and remains to this day, however it is only after his death that I myself have payed more attention to his music and realised the gravity and impact of his work. And so, although I couldn’t call myself his biggest fan from day 1, I think it is important to use this edition of Music Mondays as a tribute to this magnificent artist.
Hip Hop is often misunderstood as being simple and violent music made by talentless individuals. While DMX’s music was at times violent, it was definitely neither simple nor talentless. The raw power that could be felt through his music was unlike anything previously heard not only in hip hop but music in general. As Thomas Hobbs recently wrote for The Guardian, tracks such as ‘Stop Being Greedy’ have an energy comparable to early punk records: ‘It was a moment of pure punk defiance that administered CPR to hardcore rap’.
Along with this audacious energy present throughout his work, we are also greeted with complex lyricism akin to the work of rappers such as Eminem or Kendrick Lamar. Indeed DMX’s work is easily able to combine both the power of hardcore hip hop along with the lyrical complexity of more conscious rap. It was rare that something appeared in his music without reason. Once again Hobbs notes that he used a barking adlib due to the fact that ‘angry stray dogs became rare friends” when he was a homeless teen.
For someone who went through so much abuse and a traumatic childhood experience. DMX’s success becomes only more impressive. This is amplified further through the fact that his career wasn’t only limited to music but also television and movies. And as someone who faced so many obstacles throughout his entire life, after death he remains an inspiration for people not only across America but globally. Once again I will repeat the fact that as much as I love hip hop, it is with great regret that I never delved into DMX’s music. Of course there is no reason why I can’t do so now and indeed I have been. Even when researching to write this article, the more I have discovered about this man, the more I am inspired by his work. There is nothing positive about Earl Simmons’ tragic passing, but I do hope that we can all take this time to reflect on everything he has done, the influence he has not only had on hip hop, but music and culture in general, and the way his work has shaped the lives of many across the world.