DMX, the prolific rapper and actor who rose to fame in the late 1990s and 2000s, has died nearly a week after suffering a heart attack, his family said in a statement Friday. He was 50 years old.
The rapper, whose real name is Earl Simmons, was hospitalized in White Plains, New York, after suffering the heart attack on April 2. He spent roughly a week on life support and was facing what his family called “serious health issues.”
“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,” his family said. “Earl’s music inspired countless fans across the world and his iconic legacy will live on forever. We appreciate all of the love and support during this incredibly difficult time.”
Known for his electrifying hits, aggressive rhymes and growling voice, DMX defined the 2000s era of hip-hop, becoming the first artist to debut an album at No. 1 five times in a row on the Billboard charts. He also became a welcome face on screen, becoming an actor with roles in the cult classic “Belly” in 1998, “Romeo Must Die” in 2000 and “Exit Wounds” in 2001.
Fellow musicians and celebrities responded to news of DMX’s hospitalization with public displays of support and condolences to his family, including Missy Elliot, Ja Rule, Rick Ross, Sisqo, LL Cool J and Chance The Rapper. And his fans hoped to lift him up outside the hospital where he was admitted. Dozens attended a prayer vigil, playing the rapper’s greatest hits, chanting his name and sharing their love for his work.
The rapper was born on December 18, 1970, in Mount Vernon, New York, and eventually moved to the city of Yonkers. He often spoke of growing up in an abusive household and turning to music as an outlet. In his 2003 autobiography, he wrote about his family’s struggles, calling his childhood “rough.” He said he was hit by a car at a young age and abused by his family, which led him to act out at home and at school.
After gaining a reputation for being “crazy,” DMX taught himself how to beatbox and created a new name and identity for himself while struggling with addiction. But before he could perform as a DJ, he needed a name. Help came in the form of one of the greatest drum audio machines at the time.
“DMX was the name of one of the best early drum machines a lot of the kids were using and since I felt I was nice with the beats, I took that. It was strong, powerful,” he wrote. “I liked the three letters and thought that it would be cool to make them stand for different things. So when I went back to Children’s Village after my home visit, I was no longer Earl Simmons or even Crazy Earl. I was DMX. DMX The Beat Box Enforcer.”
X’s music was often an honest reflection of his personal struggles, containing themes of religion, violence and redemption. In 1998, he released his debut album, “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot,” which debuted at No. 1 on the music charts. He’s often credited with reinvigorating the New York rap scene, and over the course of his career, he released a total of seven albums and was nominated for three Grammy Awards.
In a 2019 interview, he spoke about his love of performing on stage in front of his fans. “Performing in front of people is beyond a high. It’s beyond a high that any drug could duplicate,” he told GQ at the time. “Just being onstage, period, and knowing that there’s so much love out there.”