Rest in Power, Earl Simmons
I remember when my sister read E. A. R. L.: The Autobiography of DMX (2002), and she told me so much about it. I think she went through all the emotions when reading it. The first thing I did when I was old enough to have a bank account and old enough to fully grasp online shopping (I’d say 2008?) I went looking for that book. It was nowhere or it was somewhere for an astronomical price. It became out-of-print. They took it out of circulation. I could never understand why because from what I heard, it was an honest book that gave readers an insight into Earl Simmons. It helped people to understand him, understand how and why he had an addiction to hard drugs, why he had demons, why he lived the way he lived. It would’ve helped some people re-evaluate how both they and society treat drug addictions, mental illness, and how the two work in tandem. As a big reader and a gigantic DMX fan, it’s always bugged me that I’ve never read the book and I don’t know when I will.
X lived a truly tragic life but he’s one of the few rappers who has always been open and vulnerable in his works and interviews (and the only rapper who’s taken it to the extent that he has). This man would wear his wounds on his sleeves and then peel them off and squeeze the juice into his albums when it was time to record. This is why he connected to so many people. He allowed people to see his most raw self. Yet he simultaneously had this gentle, touching soul. Despite it not always super overt in his music, it was a soul that radiated through his interviews, performances, candid conversations, interactions with fans, and so forth. You never get tired of the countless stories about X, told by so many different people of vastly different demographics.
Beyond how much I really appreciate his vulnerability, I’ve spent years trying to figure out why X means so much to me (and people like me) and I can never pinpoint just one thing. I wondered why I loved him so much because some of his queerphobic and misogynistic lyrics weren’t always kind to people like me. Additionally, I’m an agnostic-atheist and he’s a devout Christian. We were different but I always loved him. So many other queer people, Black women, and non-Christians love him too. His music, performances, movies, personality, presence, and mere existence have left me and others with so many fond memories.
On June 4th, 2016 at Roots Picnic, (Philadelphia, PA) I saw DMX live. I was so excited to see him, I was almost moved to tears of joy (I’m not even being dramatic, and it takes a lot for me to cry)—and he was the only performer I actually took my phone out for. I only took a very bad picture [below] but I had to document that moment. During his set, he said he loved performing and his fans/the crowd more than anything in the world (whilst he had like 10 of his 15 kids on stage with him). He prayed on stage and it was breathtaking. Not because it’s DMX and that’s something he always did during performances, not because I was star-struck, but because it was a beautiful prayer—X has let so many people into his relationship with his faith and God through interviews, music, and performances, and it really just showed us another delicate side to him. That performance at Roots Picnic brought out excitement, laughter, nostalgia, awe, seriousness, happiness, and more for everyone present.
One of my fondest memories is from years ago (2011, I think) when my big sister and I were walking around Tesco (kind of like Target but not as good), I had an earphone in and was heavily bopping to whatever was playing. She asked, “what are you listening to?”
Along with the song in my ear, I replied loudly “…that’s why you laying on your back, looking at the roof of the church, preacher telling the truth and it hurts”
Then she chimed in and together we sang, “Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind, up in here, up in here…”
We were singing the chorus and the next thing you know, there were extra voices. Loads of them. So we turned around — and no fucking lie — about 10 Black boys were following behind us jumping and singing along (I don’t even think they were all together). It was such a glorious moment; our hearts were so full. And this is it, DMX (be it his music or his soul) managed to leave so many people with full hearts.
If I wasn’t writing this post from a place of grief it would be structured; more informative; more of a memorial and a celebration of his life. But I urgently needed my brain to say something other than “I’m hurt.” When news broke out that DMX was in critical condition following a heart attack and an overdose, I disengaged from all news. I didn’t read any articles, I minimised engagement with any DMX-related tweets, pretty much stayed away from Instagram. Because previously when you heard about X relapsing or overdosing or being rushed to hospital, he always pulled through. Always. I was convinced he was going to pull through but I thought “engage with the news and build up anxiety for nothing because he’ll be okay *or* engage and have the anxiety be a forerunner of devastating sadness.” Well although I disengaged, I was still anxious, and it was a forerunner to pain.
DMX really suffered in this life but he was such a strong person and though I’m heartbroken, I’m so, so glad he’s now at peace.
Thank you, Dark Man X, for everything. Thank you for being honest. Thank you for your talent. Thank you for making music that releases more endorphins/dopamine than most other music. Thank you for gifting us with the best intro ever (It’s Dark and Hell is Hot). Rest in Power, Earl.