The gravel-voiced rapper, one of the most prolific hip-hop figures of the late 1990s and early aughts, honed his craft underground before rising to fame. His first five albums — beginning with the 1998 classic “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot” — debuted atop the Billboard 200 album chart. His sophomore effort, “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood,” was released just seven months after his debut, making DMX the first artist in Billboard 200 chart history to have his first two albums bow at No. 1 within the same calendar year.
Though some of his most iconic songs are definitive party anthems — namely the Grammy-nominated 1999 single “Party Up (Up In Here)” — the rapper built a soul-baring discography that referenced his persistent legal troubles and alluded to his painful childhood in Yonkers, N.Y. In his 2003 memoir, “E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX,” the rapper recalled that his father was almost nonexistent in his life, and he alleged that he was regularly abused by his mother. Amid his hardcore lyrics, his songs and interludes often took on spiritual themes.
On Friday, producer Swizz Beatz, a longtime collaborator who produced “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem," “Party Up” and other DMX hits, shared a video of the rapper gruffly singing “Fame,” the theme song popularized by Irene Cara: “I’m gonna make it to heaven, light up the sky like a flame.”
“I’m truly beyond devastated,” Swizz wrote in an Instagram post. “But I’m so happy my brother is no longer in pain. I watched him take everyone’s pain and make it his own.”
DMX also cultivated an onscreen presence that reflected his influence in hip-hop, and stretched beyond his enduring catalogue, which continues to be used in shows and films. He starred alongside Nas in the 1998 crime drama “Belly,” and worked with Jet Li on two films — “Romeo Must Die,” which also starred Aaliyah, and “Cradle 2 the Grave.” He played himself in a beloved 2015 episode of ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat,” prompting praise from Eddie Huang, the series’ rap-loving creator, who had previously expressed distaste for the show’s story lines.
TMZ reported recently that DMX, who spoke publicly about his years-long battle with substance use, had been rushed to a hospital in White Plains, N.Y. after suffering a drug overdose. Murray Richman, the rapper’s lawyer and longtime friend, told The Washington Post he had no knowledge of the rapper suffering an overdose but confirmed that DMX was on life support after suffering a heart attack.
News of the rapper’s hospitalization had prompted an outpouring of support from fans and hip-hop stars including Missy Elliott, Funkmaster Flex, LeBron James and Chance the Rapper. DMX’s fans also held vigil outside the hospital, praying and blasting some of his well-known hits. And several tributes hit the Internet Thursday night as uncertainty about his health led to early false reports of his death.
Following confirmation of his passing from his family, tributes began pouring in for the star, with fans, colleagues and even politicians remembering his music and his kind demeanor.