Tim Tan Huynh


  • 25 Apr 2021
  • For a short period, DMX (Earl Simmons), was a rap superstar. Like every other male of my generation, I listened to his songs. Also like everyone else, I didn't think about his impact until his recent death.

Yesterday was the funeral of DMX. I planned to watch the official live tribute on YouTube, but I was too tired, so I missed it. I did watch aerial footage that showed the surprisingly large funeral procession. Most of the vehicles in the convoy were motorcycles, of course. I wouldn’t expect anything else: DMX’s most famous music video is a showcase for stunt-riding.

“Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” by DMX

I’m not a big fan of rap or hip-hop, so I’ve only bought a handful of albums from that genre. I did buy …And Then There Was X in high school when DMX was in the prime of his career. His popularity was brief compared to Jay-Z, his collaborator and, later, rival. The late 1990s to early 2000s was definitely DMX’s time in the spotlight. I was surprised to learn that his first five albums debuted at Number 1.

“Party Up (Up In Here)” by DMX

I remember listening to “Party Up (Up In Here)” on repeat in my room and watching him alongside Jet Li in Romeo Must Die. Had DMX been a character in Def Jam: Fight for NY, and not only its predecessor, then I would’ve played as him, too. His cultural relevance waned as the 2000s progressed. I only seemed to read about him in recent years whenever he was arrested for, or accused of, some crime.

DMX rose to fame and fortune during my youth, based on his aggressive persona. From reports, I assumed that he had committed sexual assault with his spotlight had long gone. I grouped him with Darren Sharper and Kellen Winslow Jr, former NFL stars whom I remember because of NFL 2K5. Thankfully, I’ve learned that DMX is totally innocent as far the legal system is concerned.

By all accounts, he was genuine in his spirituality. He reportedly ended his concerts with prayers; he likely performed the soliloquies that concluded each of his albums. In fact, his prayer near the end of …And Then There Was X is one of the few tracks that I remember the most, after all these years. DMX was definitely no saint, though. He was convicted of various non-rape offenses throughout his life.

I wasn’t surprised to recently learn about his troubled upbringing. He managed to channel his energy and experiences toward creative expression, though. I was surprised to learn that Swizz Beatz, aka Mr Alicia Keys, was an important producer for DMX. I was even more surprised to learn that DMX had a failed stint with Columbia Records. His delivery in the early single “Born Loser” sounds very unlike his later, coarse style.

DMX Breaks Down His Most Iconic Tracks

I’ve always thought that DMX has some interesting phrases, but the lyrics and music of his most popular tracks are simplistic and repetitive. To his credit, he acknowledges it, but I doubt that formula would’ve had success beyond the mid-2000s. DMX re-entered the pop-culture consciousness two years ago because of Resident Evil 2. Players made YouTube montages that featured “X Gon’ Give It To Ya” because of a certain enemy in the game.

I actually learned of his death from a video-game message board. Honestly, I didn’t think that many people would know or care about it. To me, he and his career represent a bygone era of macho aggression that’s anathema in the current era. Besides the RE2 montages, I hadn’t listened to any of his songs in at least a decade. Yet a couple of months ago, I found myself chanting the chorus of “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” for no apparent reason.

The chorus only has a pair of lines that repeat once. Still, I didn’t know the exact lyrics until yesterday. I was expressing the essence of the lyrics, though. I was working on a particularly taxing project, but I felt like I had turned the proverbial corner. In hindsight, I reverted to a state in my life when having swagger was not only accepted, it was celebrated. I channelled my inner DMX.