DMX, a rapper known as much for his troubles as his music, has died, his family announced in a statement. He was 50.
While the hip-hop world mourns the death of one of its 21st-century legends, Philadelphians are especially moved. You see, the road that DMX took to success led to and through this city. Philly was a town that the New York native visited not only to play his craft, but also because his father, famed artist Joe Barker, relocated to the region in the mid-seventies.
That move took Barker over a hundred miles away from the residence of his first child. Born Earl Simmons, DMX was raised by his mother in Yonkers, N.Y. As Earl reached his formative years, Joe Barker was plying and formulating his talent as a painter who would become renowned in the Delaware Valley. Barker frequently boasted of his talented son, who became one of the reigning stars of hardcore hip hop and was the premier artist signed to the Ruff Ryders Records label.
“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,” the family’s statement read in part.
“Earl was a warrior who fought till the very end,” the statement continued. “He loved his family with all of his heart, and we cherish the times we spent with him.”
According to CNN, the artist had been hospitalized since last week, when he suffered a heart attack at his home in New York, according to his longtime attorney, Murray Richman.
DMX (Dark Man X) began rapping in the early 1990s and released his debut album, “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot,” in 1998. His single, “Ruff Ryders Anthem,” helped to seal his critical and commercial success. He sold millions of albums and parlayed his growing fame into an acting career, appearing in multiple films including “Romeo Must Die” and “Cradle 2 The Grave.”
His professional achievements were often overshadowed by issues with substance abuse and run-ins with the law. DMX was open about his struggles, encouraging fans and observers, many who cheered his resilience last year when he appeared in a Verzuz battle with fellow artist Snoop Dogg.
I wrote about DMX in his early days and, like many listeners, was inspired by his God-given lyrical skills. As a songwriter, DMX delivered powerful prayers that indicated he was a God-fearing man.
“Right, wrong, good, bad, heaven, hell. I think that is the theme of my life. I think you have to know both in order to honestly choose one. So I’m familiar with both sides of the fence,” wrote the beloved rapper.
May this missive serve as a reminder to readers that there are real people dealing with real-life struggles living behind the fame. No household in America has remained untouched by challenges similar to those of DMX.
While the world grieves the loss of DMX, many of us here in Philly reflect in kind as one of the city’s lauded adopted sons mourns the loss of his child.
It is a pain no one should have to bear. And while we can’t offer solace, we can provide our empathy.
We got you, Joe Barker.