It’s hard to put into words exactly what DMX meant to hip hop, to the millions of listeners, to the casual fan – to his friends and family. So I’m just going to pen my thoughts on what he meant to me – and if you get all in your feelings about ‘clout chasing’ etc then keep moving. Anyone who knows me, knows I’ve been a huge fan of X since his beginning – and here’s why.

It’s 1995, I’m a teenager who has a myriad of ‘issues’ or things I’m dealing with, working through, trying to understand etc. It’s a common theme for many and plenty use music as a way of dealing, exploring, escaping and finding meaning. I’ve been a die hard hip hop fan since I was given Digital Underground and NWA tapes at the tender age of 11. The music has always resonated with me and it still does and this is largely why DMX (among many others) had such an impact. The golden era is upon us, we are getting absolute jewels as hip hop (and basketball – my other true passion!) are just exploding. It’s everywhere, it’s accessible and it’s a new movement. I was given a burnt copy of a Mic Geronimo album and while I thought he was going to be the next best thing, one track (and one voice) really stood out.

Hip hop heads will know that ‘Time To Build‘ was the joint and it featured Jay Z and Ja Rule alongside Mic Geronimo and it was a BANGER. Jay Z had the name, but X was something else. It was my first Dark Man X experience and wouldn’t be my last. I never knew of his background, his previous tracks – nothing, until that one joint launched him into my world. Without going through it all, X became a really important voice and a continuation of my favourite artist of all time – 2Pac.

When Pac died, the struggle was real. The important, authentic, introspective music with a message was being filtered out and the commercial, club banger, feel-good vibes were starting to shine through. Most heads remember this as the ‘Shiny Suit’ era. Even Pac and Biggie had to go through the motions and ‘drop 2 or 3 tracks for the label’ which allowed them to make another 15 or so for the culture. Hence ‘California Love‘, ‘Toss It Up‘, ‘Hypnotize‘, ‘Mo Money, Mo Problems‘ etc. But no matter the track, X would come through and give it to ya. He crushed his 16 on ‘24 Hrs to Live‘ – the best joint on Mase’s (formerly Murda Mase but remember the softening of hip hop’s image!) album Harlem World. ‘4,3,2,1‘ with LL Cool J remains one of his best features to this day as well and both these tracks (and another from The Lox which escapes me as I write this) led to one of the best and most needed debut albums ever – ‘It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot‘.

Even the ‘singles’ from this joint were hard. The nature of the music, the introspective lyrics, the messages – DMX dropped an album that is still as relevant as today as it was upon its release. He WAS the new 2Pac – brash, unapologetic and doing things HIS way. The rough, rugged voice, the barking and shouting, the enigmatic nature of his swagger. It’s little surprise that he was adored by many (and feared by a few too) and would eventually follow that path of music, movies etc as his authenticity and DGAF attitude was appealing to nearly everyone.

He dropped more dope albums, more dope music, more solid movies as he continued his rise to fame, but he suffered with his own demons. Demons that he owned and acknowledged from day one. “Listed as a manic-depressive with extreme paranoia” he rapped on ‘Fuckin Wit D‘ from his debut album, not only told us early on about his battles but also made it clear for us with our own, that it was something we could own and talk about and not shy away from. The world has never been all glamour and glitz, and X gave us the grimy and real.

Decades past, and it looked like DMX was coming full circle. His ferocity on the mic was on full display as he stole the show on The Lox’s ‘Bout Shit’ from their ‘Living Off Experience’ album of 2020. He was about to embark on the comeback, another success story about defeating your demons and successfully navigating life to sit atop all your troubles and worries. Instead, X just reminded us that life isn’t a fairytale and it doesn’t always have the happiest of endings.

Either let me fly or give me death / Let my soul rest, take my breath / If I don’t fly I’ma die anyway / I’ma live on, but I’ll be gone any day” – DMX on ‘Let Me Fly’.

Rest In Power Earl Simmons. You’re at peace now and your legacy and impact lives on.

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About The Author

By Brutus Maximus

Founder of Raw Side Hip Hop. Been rocking with the hip hop culture for over 30 years. Love the creativity, authenticity of the art and the culture as a whole. Shout out to the real ones making and supporting true hip hip and the artists who make it!

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