“X Gon’ Give it to Ya!”
An iconic song title and hook from a rapper whose career was made off of distinction. From his voice, to his aesthetic, to his simultaneously vulnerable and gangster persona, DMX was going to give you his all, his true self. You were to be witness to the amazing highs and the, at-times, embarrassing lows. The lead single from 2003’s Cradle 2 the Grave (starring DMX) soundtrack is more than just a catchy tune. Has any other rap lyric embodied an artist quite so well?
As the world mourns the loss of one of hip hop’s grittiest, raw and complex characters, it’s important to remember that DMX’s premature death does not put a sour note on the full life that he lived. He said it himself, in his very last aired interview — an appearance on Noreaga’s Drink Champs podcast — ‘X declares, “If I was to drop dead right now, my last thought would be: ‘I’ve lived a good life.”
After all, his journey began in the project buildings of Yonkers, NY, having to grow up with a non-existent father and a violently abusive mother. ‘X — born Earl Simmons — spent spurts of his childhood in group homes, where he honed his skills within the budding genre of hip hop. It was during early adolescence that DMX met Ready Ron, an influential figure in his development as a rapper, and the man X claimed is responsible for birthing the addiction that kept a stronghold on him throughout most of his adult life.
Based on his turbulent childhood and a criminal record (that began in adolescence), DMX is one of the few artists who could claim the oft-used adage that hip hop saved their life. Where else can one go from group homes and detention centers to releasing two number 1 albums in the same year? In fact , DMX’s first five studio albums debuted at number 1 on the Billboard charts.
Although the one known as Dark Man X had done a complete 180 with his life, fame and riches only exasperated who he truly was. And at his core, DMX was a troubled individual. Despite his success, he hadn’t gotten his addictions under control, a fatal trait that eventually cost him his life.
So while he was starring in blockbuster films and performing in front of an excess of 200,000 people, he was still succumbing to his vices, with a rap sheet that might be longer than his lyric sheet. In a fall 2019 GQ magazine interview, DMX once stated,
“Before I really had a life, jail was a playground. I’d be like, ‘I’m going to jail and have fun.’ Jail used to be fun.”
It seems as though he carried that mentality throughout his time as a famous entertainer, with substance abuse issues a clear factor in his life as he had been arrested for various and repeating offenses including: possessions of cocaine, driving while intoxicated, driving with a suspended license, animal cruelty, failure to pay child support, among others. His offenses are equally puzzling and impressive. You would think after a few DUI arrests, one would get a driver, especially someone of DMX’s stature. Yet, his blatant disregard for the law revealed his truly detached nature from life and consequence, a characteristic found in many addicts. Notwithstanding, it revealed something else, ‘X was gon’ give it to the man as well, even if it was to his own detriment.
What’s dangerous about fame and success is that it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re living life righteously, it just means the masses resonate with the persona and content being packaged to them. For DMX his personal downfalls helped make him the superstar that he was. In a smoke and mirrors industry, his authenticity was never to be questioned, as he laid it all on his records, never shying away from the demons that constantly kept him in the headlines.
That’s what makes his death such a tough pill to swallow. When someone shares as much of themselves as DMX did, you can’t help but care about their wellness. Before this tragic turn of events, there were reports of an upcoming album and a re-invigorated DMX.
Nevertheless, it is better to rejoice in the life that DMX got to live, rather than his death. For he gave us everything he had. He has been on the opposite ends of the spectrum, reaching highs that most wouldn’t dare dream of, to experiencing lows that many can’t even imagine. In that sense, DMX lived a complete life, as he truly gave us all he had.