The powerful work of DMX faced an American hell of trauma and poverty | Rap

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Llistening to a DMX song from the late 1990s is like riding a wrecking ball in a gated community. The clip for Stop Being Greedy – one of many highlights from rapper Def Jam’s 1998 debut showdown It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot – shows DMX chasing a rich white man through a mansion, before feeding the poor one. soul like a T-bone steak to its pet pitbull; the rapper’s uplifting, half-barked voice made it sound like he wanted to eat the rich.

It’s a song about the feeling of poverty so ignored that they have no choice but to confront the ruling classes (“The coasts are touching, so don’t make me wait / Fuck around and I’m gon ‘bite you and snatch the plate’) and violently tear up their rules, and his post reflected a desire for DMX – who died on Friday at the age of 50 – to unleash a hip-hop culture that, by 1998, had become too preoccupied with shiny costumes in tacky video clips filmed inside a blingy Rubik’s Cube.

Stop Being Greedy was raw like the attitude of Bad Brains or the Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen. It was a moment of pure punk defiance that administered CPR to hardcore rap, which was in stasis following the deaths of gangster rap pawns 2Pac and Notorious BIG. Including at least four other songs (Get At Me Dog, Ruff Ryders Anthem, Fuckin With D, ATF) that could all qualify as rap Smells Like Teen Spirit moments on what was only his first studio album, X went through the capitalism of the MTV era. with the precision of Candyman’s rusty hook (blood and horror were all part of his job).

It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot and its sadistic but brilliant sequel, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, both reached No. 1 in the United States in the same year. With these powerful versions, DMX aimed the spotlight on those who had nothing in their pocket. He appealed to underdogs and those who lacked the frantic, unapologetic energy of 2Pac, but also white suburban kids who needed a soundtrack for their Mountain Dew-induced tantrums. His conversation flow, often with a withered mind, changed from life coach pep talk to serious threats to enemies (“you rip like a chicken with your head cut off”). The music got bigger and more stage-friendly as the DMX career progressed through the 2000s, with urgent bangers such as Party Up, X Gon ‘Give It To Ya and Where the Hood At, each capable of starting a riot at a house party.

He’s also translated his magnetic alpha male energy into an underrated acting career in film and television. Whether he brags about being “untouchable” in cult gangster classic Belly, or how orchid beauty talks grow on the sitcom Fresh Off the Boat, he always lights up the screen.

The reason he barked like a dog in his worms was because angry stray dogs became rare friends during various times of teenage homelessness; they also became the butt of his frustration, with DMX winning animal cruelty convictions. As a child, he told GQ that he had been violently abused by his mother (“she knocked out two of my teeth with a broom”), and he never really knew his father. In a 2020 podcast interview with rapper Talib Kweli, DMX cried when he recalled a male mentor trick him into smoking a crack containing crack when he was just 13 years old. It was a defining moment in life.

A woman at a memorial for DMX musician and actor outside White Plains Hospital in New York City.
A memorial for DMX outside White Plains Hospital in New York City. Photograph: Eduardo Muñoz / Reuters

On Damien’s best gothic trap fable of career, DMX – who has battled mental health and drug addiction issues – swings frighteningly between his own voice and a demonic monologue. His twisted alter ego represented the pain he carried from that childhood experience, showing a constant conflict between embracing the darkness of suicide and the light of life. His thunderous expression on the mic sounded like a man venting and purging, and these brutally honest sermons gave his fans the strength to go through their own personal trauma (today that soul-cleansing energy is being pursued in the States. – United by rappers like Denzel Curry, Rico Nasty and Jpegmafia).

DMX trained his pit bull to bark ad-libs at terrified rivals in freestyle battles, fathered 15 children, sold 23 million records, totaled sports car after sports car, became a sex symbol in muddy Timberland boots, had Jay-Z open for him on tour, created a moshpit that looked bigger than a tiny country in Woodstock ’99, and topped the charts with each of his first five albums. He was a force of nature, an all or nothing character who could be deep but also self-destructive, entering and leaving prison for petty crimes. Recent studio videos suggested a man more comfortable with himself, relaxed and dancing to Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall between the end of songs from a long-awaited new album. His verse on the Lox’s single Bout Shit in 2020 was also an undeniable comeback; that growl made you explode your feet again.

Before his tragically early death, DMX endured so many obstacles that America threw at him, detailed in his words: “Do you want to be me?” Here is what you do / Grow up neglected by both parents and keep doing it ”. On Slippin, a warm, bluesy, self-motivating track, DMX said, “To live is to suffer. But to survive, well, is to find meaning in suffering. It’s a lyric that tells you everything you need to know about the discography of pain and power that Earl Simmons left behind.

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