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DMX

DMX

1970—

Rap musician

Within a year, rapper DMX rose from the streets of Yonkers to become one of hip-hop's most popular and prolific stars. His raw, aggressive lyrics focus on strength and survival, keys to overcoming the adversity of life on the streets. DMX provided an alternative to the glamorous images and tunes of contemporary rap artists like Puff Daddy, and gained a formidable following with his first debut album, It's Dark and Hell Is Hot. He increased his audience exponentially with his immediate follow-up album, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood. Both albums reached number one on the Billboard charts in their first week, making DMX the first recording artist in music history to have his first two albums reach number one within a year. He proved to be no flash in the pan, going on to break the Billboard chart records again and again. By 2003 he had become the first person to have five consecutive albums debut at the top spot on the Billboard charts. While DMX preserved his status as a rap icon, he also sought other outlets for his talents, most notably in film.

Candid Observations of Rough Life Fueled Fame

Born Earl Simmons on December 18, 1970, in Baltimore, Maryland, DMX, also known as Dark Man X, grew up in the School Street Projects of Yonkers, New York. DMX was a lonely boy. Despite his five sisters, the future-rap star was often left alone to walk the streets of his neighborhood, to entertain himself and find his own answers. From this, he says, came his inner strength and his penchant for examining his world, inside and out, an ability that would later be the primary appeal in his candid lyrics about ghetto life. In his solitude, DMX also learned to befriend dogs, developing such a strong bond with his canine friends that he had the name of his former pet, Boomer, tattooed on his back after the dog was struck and killed by a car. DMX often employs dog imagery in his lyrics, exemplified by his smash debut single "Get at Me Dog."

Still an unknown quantity when he signed to Columbia Records in 1992, the new rapper was given very little attention from the label, and his promotional single "Born Loser" came and went unnoticed. DMX protested the label's neglect and was let out of his contract. The Source magazine was, in this case, the only source for predicting DMX's bright future by bestowing upon him, in 1991, the prestigious "Unsigned Hype" award a year before he signed with Columbia.

In the years following DMX's failed first attempt, he honed his rugged-voiced and gritty beat by appearing on the singles of several of his contemporaries. He appeared on LL Cool J's "4, 3, 2, 1" and Mic Geronimo's "Usual Suspects." He also wrote and performed an impressive rap, "Money, Power, Respect," for fellow Yonkers recording artist The Lox. He also appeared on Mase's "24 Hrs. to Live," Ice Cube's "We Be Clubbin' (Remix)," and Onyx's "Shut 'em Down," all the while creating a name for himself and building the hype surrounding his debut album. It's Dark and Hell Is Hot was released in May of 1998 by Ruff Ryders/Def Jam Records, whom he had signed with in 1997. The album, promoted by the hugely popular single "Get At Me Dog," immediately shot up the Billboard charts, pushing Garth Brooks from the number one spot and selling more than a quarter of a million copies in its first week in stores.

To support the release of his first album, DMX was scheduled to join the "Survival of the Illest" tour with fellow hip-hop artists Onyx and Def Squad. Before the tour could begin in June of 1998 in Roanoke, Virginia, he was forced to return to New York, where he was arrested on charges filed by an exotic dancer from the Bronx of rape, sodomy, and unlawful imprisonment. He posted bail and was released, rejoining the tour. The allegations followed him until August, when he was cleared of the charges after the results of a judge-ordered DNA test came back negative.

Cleared of the allegations, DMX was left to continue the remarkable year that transformed him from unknown Yonkers MC to worldwide hip-hop hero. He teamed with video director Hype Williams to star in the controversial film Belly, which was shut down in mid-production for several months because of the excessive violence used to portray urban life. Williams said of DMX in an interview with MTV in July of 1998, "I had heard his vocals and lyrics for many, many years, and I knew he was a tremendous talent. I just didn't know how big of a talent and I didn't know how big of an actor he would be. In actuality, in my opinion, he's a better actor than a rapper, and people are really going to get a real strong sense of that come November 4." The film debuted, earned little financially, and continued to rouse criticism, but DMX was already hard at work on the next project, his follow-up album.

Released in December of 1998, Blood of My Blood, Flesh of My Flesh did not disappoint his fans. It reached number one, like its predecessor, and disappeared from the shelves at record speed. DMX recorded this album in the tradition of his debut, intending to convey the raw, personal trials and obstacles of ghetto life. "I want Flesh of My Flesh to be like my connection to the community," he told Def Jam Records. "I want to say what's on my peoples' minds, soak up all their pain. I've learned that when I take it all in, I can make one brotha's pain be understood by the world." The success of the album made DMX the first recording artist in music history to have his first two albums reach number one within a year, according to Billboard.

More Record-Breaking Success

DMX promised he had more to offer than his record-breaking first two albums. "I wrote fast," DMX told MTV in January of 1999 about creating Blood of My Blood, Flesh of My Flesh. "I wrote ‘The Prayer,’ ‘Ready to Meet Him’ [quickly]. I wrote a lot of joints, you know, but I still got joints to just pick from. I could put out an album right now with joints I've already done, and they're blazin'." Before he put out his next album, however, DMX continued to make hip-hop history as part of the "Hard Knock Life" tour, organized by himself and fellow rap artists Jay-Z, Method Man, and Redman. The tour, perhaps the largest and most powerful of its kind, launched in March of 1999.

Yet as DMX's fame grew, he seemed unable to rid himself of troubles with the law. DMX found himself embroiled in further legal troubles when, in January of 2000, his car spun off of Interstate 684 near White Plains, New York. After the accident, authorities allegedly found marijuana cigarettes and an unlicensed handgun in the vehicle. He was indicted in June. Then again on March 29, 2001, hours after performing a concert in Buffalo, DMX was pulled over by police. Again, marijuana was allegedly found in the car. After pleading guilty to charges of marijuana possession and driving without a license, DMX was sentenced to serve 15 days in jail. While serving out his sentence at the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden, New York, DMX was charged with assault after he allegedly hit a guard over the head with a cafeteria tray. A spokesman for the rapper presented the press with DMX's side of the story, saying that DMX was provoked by the guards.

In the midst of all this, DMX continued his pursuit of an acting career, appearing in the popular Romeo Must Die. The 2000 film, starring Hong Kong action star Jet Li and hip-hop songstress Aaliyah, attempted to blend two film genres—Hong Kong action and the American urban thriller. DMX took on the role of a club owner who refused to sell his business. He also contributed to the film's soundtrack.

At a Glance …

Born Earl Simmons on December 18, 1970, in Baltimore, Maryland, raised in Yonkers, NY; married Tashera, 1999; children: Xavier, Tacoma, Shawn, Praise.

Career: Columbia Records, label artist, 1992; Ruff Ryders/Def Jam Records, label artist, 1997-2005; Sony, label artist, 2005-; Bloodline Films, founder, 2003(?)-; actor, 1998-.

Awards: The Source, Unsigned Hype award, 1991; Sammy Davis Jr. Award, 2000; American Music Award, 2000.

Addresses: Web—www.dmx-official.com.

Also in 2000, DMX, in partnership with Def Jam, launched Bloodline Records. While he remained a Def Jam/Ruff Ryders artist—he released his third album, And Then There Was X, in 2000—DMX enjoyed the chance to branch out into a new venture. The new label focused on what DMX called in Billboard, "the next generation" of R&B and hip-hop artists. He explained to MTV, "Everybody on my label comes from my bloodline. I had something to do with the development of that artist." DMX's involvement with the new venture brought it a great deal of musical credibility, as And Then There Was X debuted on the top of the Billboard 200, just as his first two albums had.

With the action film Exit Wounds, Romeo Must Die producer Joel Silver and director Andrzej Bartowiak again sought to merge hip-hop and kung-fu into a new sub-genre. While DMX's role in Romeo was only a small one, Silver remembered him when it was time to cast the film. Silver told the Hollywood Reporter, "We loved working with him on Romeo, and audiences loved him too." DMX was offered a lead role, starring opposite action icon Steven Seagal. Based on John Westermann's 1990 novel, the film presented the story of a cop, played by Seagal, who uncovers police corruption in Detroit. DMX's character, Latrell Walker, is a wealthy and mysterious figure who eventually teams up with Seagal.

Reviews for Exit Wounds were mixed. The Boston Herald called the film "as handsome as it is routine." Associated Press writer Anthony Breznican criticized DMX's performance, saying, "DMX performs the fight stunts well enough but has a perpetually sullen look on his face, pouting through scenes like he just wants to go home and sit in a closet." Yet despite lackluster reviews, Exit Wounds, released in March of 2001, claimed the top box office slot its opening weekend.

Maintained Iconic Status

DMX built on his fame in the early 2000s. His music remained the backbone of his celebrity. In 2000 Rolling Stone profiled him among the magazine's People of the Year; writer Toure ranked DMX "among the hardest men in modern showbiz," adding that "Less than two years ago, he was known only to hardcore rap fans; today, MTV reports he has the highest Q rating of anyone on the network." In the next three years DMX broke Billboard chart history again with his fourth and fifth albums. Both debuted at the top of the Billboard charts upon their release in 2001 and 2003, respectively.

He also furthered status on screen with a starring role in Cradle 2 the Grave, the 2003 film about a jewel thief who tries to save his daughter from a kidnapper and finds himself teaming up with a Taiwanese cop, played by Jet Li. Scott Brown of Entertainment Weekly, in his review of Cradle 2 the Grave, offered an assessment of DMX: "He's not what you'd call a good actor—he's not even what you'd call an actor—but under the tutelage of producer Joel Silver and director Andrzej Bartkowiak (who worked with the rapper on the tonally identical Romeo Must Die and Exit Wounds), he's shaping himself into a genuinely appealing screen presence." His screen presence was not very different from what his fans saw on stage. Whether on stage or screen, DMX presented himself as "a man you know is tough at a glance," wrote Toure.

Taking steps to further his own career, DMX followed Cradle 2 the Grave with Never Die Alone, the first film of his Bloodline Films company. He both produced and starred in the film about Los Angeles street life, which Variety reviewer David Rooney described as "hard-boiled meets hip-hop." DMX played the drug dealer whose "remorseless march into doom," as New York Times reviewer Elvis Mitchell put it, is the center of the film. Mitchell found DMX "the perfect actor" for the film, but Rooney found DMX lacking the acting chops necessary to convincingly portray his character; yet Rooney noted that DMX had "enough charisma and physical presence to outweigh his weaknesses."

DMX consistently used those same qualities—of charisma and physical presence—to boost his career. For better or worse, DMX presented himself in a no-holds-barred fashion in his music, his films, and his personal life. No matter the context, DMX was himself. Yet his autobiography, published in 2002, offered little help understanding how DMX came to be who he is, giving little insight into his run ins with the law or his dark outlook on life. Rolling Stone reviewer Joseph Patel suggested that DMX's musical lyrics hinted more about his personal journeys than his book. In 2006, however, DMX offered a soul-bearing look at his daily life in a reality series called DMX: Soul of a Man on BET, from his preparations to serve jail time for yet another traffic violation to his religious awakening in the Arizona desert. But even in the six-part series, the essence of DMX remained elusive. The series detailed DMX's doctor visits, delight in Bazooka bubblegum, heartfelt conversations with his wife, and procrastination techniques. But after it all, "You don't know him," wrote PopMatters film and television editor Cynthia Fuchs. "The question is," Fuchs concluded, "how did he come to this point, that his pain is so well rewarded and so marketable?"

Fuchs' question remained unanswered. DMX who had abruptly left Def Jam in 2005 and quickly signed another recording deal with Sony saw his dominance start to wane in 2006. But not by much. Year of the Dog, Again, his first album with Sony, debuted in 2006 in the second spot on the Billboard 200. It had yet to be seen, however, if his topple from the top of the charts marked the beginning of a precipitous fall from his status as superstar.

Selected discography

Albums

It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, Ruff Ryders/Def Jam, 1998.

Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, Ruff Ryders/Def Jam, 1998.

And Then There Was X, Ruff Ryders/Def Jam, 1999.

The Great Depression, 2001.

Grand Champ, 2003.

Year of the Dog, Again, Sony Urban Music, 2006.

Singles

"Born Loser," Columbia, 1992.

Books

E.A.R.L. the Autobiography of DMX, HarperEntertainment, 2002.

Films

Belly, 1998.

Romeo Must Die, 2001.

Exit Wounds, 2001.

Cradle 2 the Grave, 2003.

Never Die Alone, 2004.

Television

DMX: Soul of a Man, 2006.

Sources

Periodicals

Associated Press, March 19, 2001.

Billboard, October 14, 2000.

The Boston Herald, March 17, 2001.

Entertainment Weekly, March 16, 2001; March 7, 2003, p. 51.

Hollywood Reporter, May 3, 2000; June 30, 2000; December 20, 2000.

News & Observer, February 28, 2001.

New York Times, March 26, 2004, p. E1.

Rolling Stone, December 14-17, 2000, p. 107; April 13, 2000, p. 82; December 12, 2002, p. 111.

Variety, February 4-8, 2004, p. 82.

Video Business, July 31, 2000.

Video Store, July 9, 2000. On-line DMX-Official Site,http://www.dmx-official.com (November 28, 2007).

"DMX: The Soul of a Man," PopMatters,http://www.popmatters.com/pm/tv/reviews/dmx-the-soul-of-a-man (November 28, 2007).

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DMX

DMX

Singer, songwriter

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Within a year, rapper DMX rose from the streets of Yonkers to become one of hip-hops most popular and prolific stars. His raw, aggressive lyrics focus on strength and survival, keys to overcoming the adversity of life on the streets. DMX provided an alternative to the glamorous images and tunes of contemporary rap artists like Puff Daddy, he gained a formidable following with his first debut album, Its Dark and Hell is Hot. He increased his audience exponentially with his immediate follow-up album, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood. Both albums reached number one on the Billboard charts in their first week, making DMX the first recording artist in music history to have his first two albums reach number one within a year. DMX toured throughout the country with various hip-hop festivals, helping to establish himself as a rap icon with the power and prestige of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.

Born Earl Simmons in the School Street Projects of Yonkers, New York, DMX, also known as Dark Man X, was a lonely boy. Despite his five sisters, the future-rap star was often left alone to walk the streets of his neighborhood, to entertain himself and find his own answers. From this, he says, came his inner strength and his penchant for examining his world, inside and out, an ability that would later be the primary appeal in his candid lyrics about ghetto life. In his solitude, DMX also learned to befriend dogs, developing such a strong bond with his canine friends that he had the name of his former pet, Boomer, tattooed on his back after he was struck and killed by a car. DMX currently owns two pit bulls and often employs dog imagery in his lyrics, exemplified by his smash debut single Get At Me Dog.

Still an unknown quantity when he signed to Columbia Records in 1992, the new rapper was given very little attention from the label, and his promotional single Born Loser came and went unnoticed. DMX protested the labels neglect and was let out of his contract. The Source magazine was, in this case, the only source for predicting DMXs bright future by bestowing upon him, in 1991, the prestigious Unsigned Hype award a year before he signed with Columbia.

In the years following DMXs failed first attempt, he honed his rugged-voiced and gritty beat by appearing on the singles of several of his contemporaries. He appeared on LL Cool Js 4, 3, 2, 1 and Mic Geronimos Usual Suspects. He also wrote and performed an impressive rap, Money, Power, Respect, for fellow Yonkers recording artist The Lox. He also appeared on Mases 24 Hrs. to Live, Ice Cubes We Be Clubbin (Remix), and Onyxs Shut em Down, all the while creating a name for himself and building the hype surrounding his debut album. Its Dark and Hell is Hot

For the Record

Born Earl Simmons in Yonkers, NY.

Signed deal with Columbia Records, 1992; released promotional single Born Loser, 1992; signed deal with Ruff Ryders/Def Jam Records, 1997; released debut album Its Dark and Hell is Hot, 1998; released single Get At Me Dog, 1998; arrested, tried, and cleared of charges of rape, sodomy, and unlawful imprisonment against a Bronx exotic dancer; performed with hip-hop package festival tour Survival of the Illest, starred in Hype Williams movie Belly, recorded music for animated cartoon South Park, 1998; performed with hip-hop tour Hark Knock Life, released second album, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, 1999.

Awards: Unsigned Hype award by The Source, 1991

Addresses: Record Company Def Jam Records, 160 Varick St. 12th floor, New York, NY, 10003.

was released in May of 1998 by Ruff Ryders/Def Jam Records, whom he had signed with in 1997. The album, promoted by the hugely popular single Get At Me Dog, shot up the Billboard charts to number one and sold over a quarter of a million copies in its first week.

To support the release of his first album, DMX was scheduled to join the Survival of the Illest tour with fellow hip-hop artists Onyx and Def Squad. Before the tour could begin in June of 1998 in Roanoke, Virginia, he was forced to return to New York, where he was arrested on charges of rape, sodomy, and unlawful imprisonment, filed by an exotic dancer. He posted bail and rejoined the tour. The allegations followed him until August, when he was cleared of the charges after the results of a judge-ordered DNA test came back negative.

Cleared of the allegations, DMX continued the remarkable year that transformed him from unknown Yonkers MC to worldwide hip-hop hero. He teamed with video director Hype Williams to star in the controversial film Belly, which was shut down in mid-production for several months because of the excessive violence used to portray urban life. Williams said of DMX in an interview with MTV in July of 1998, I had heard his vocals and lyrics for many, many years, and I knew he was a tremendous talent. I just didnt know how big of a talent and I didnt know how big of an actor he would be. In actuality, in my opinion, hes a better actor than a rapper, and people are really going to get a real strong sense of that come November 4. The film debuted, earned little financially, and continued to rouse criticism, but DMX was already hard at work on his follow-up album.

Released in December of 1998, Blood of My Blood, Flesh of My Flesh didnt disappoint his fans. It reached number one, like its predecessor, and disappeared from the shelves at record speed. DMX recorded this album in the tradition of his debut, intending to convey the raw, personal trials and obstacles of ghetto life. I want Flesh of My Flesh to be like my connection to the community, he told Def Jam Records. I want to say whats on my peoples minds, soak up all their pain. Ive learned that when I take it all in, I can make one brothas pain be understood by the world.

With his follow-up success, DMX became the first recording artist in music history to have his first two albums reach number one within a year, according to Billboard. I wrote fast, DMX told MTV in January of 1999. I wrote The Prayer, Ready to Meet Him [quickly]. I wrote a lot of joints, you know, but I still got joints to just pick from. I could put out an album right now with joints Ive already done, and theyre blazin.

DMX continued to make hip-hop history as part of the Hard Knock Life tour, organized by himself and fellow rap artists Jay-Z, Method Man, and Redman. The tour, perhaps the largest and most powerful of its kind, launched in March of 1999. Regardless of DMXs future, he already claimed his place as a prominent figure in music history. I think society is finally ready to deal with reality, DMX told Def Jam Records in February of 1998. So for that reason I aint got no choice but to blow!

Selected discography

Born Loser, Columbia, 1993.

Its Dark and Hell is Hot, Ruff Ryders/Def Jam, 1998.

Get At Me Dog, Ruff Ryders/Def Jam, 1998.

Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, Ruff Ryders/Def Jam, 1998.

Sources

Online

DMXs Hip Hops Hottest Artist since 2pac, Yahoo! Music: DMX, http://artist.music.yahoo.com/muze/performer/DMX.html, (March 7, 1999).

DMX, MTV News Gallery, http://www.mtv.com/news/gallery/d/dmx.html, (March 15, 1999).

DMX, Def Jam, http://www.defjam.com/artists/dmx/dmx.html, (March 7, 1999).

Dark Man X, DMX, http://members.tripod.com/~dragon-black/biography.html, (March 7, 1999).

Karen Gordon

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DMX

DMX

Born: Earl Simmons; Baltimore, Maryland, 18 December 1970

Genre: Rap

Best-selling album since 1990: It's Dark and Hell Is Hot (1998)

Hit songs since 1990: "What's My Name," "Party Up (Up in Here)," "Who We Be"


The hardcore rapper DMX may have seen his first album debut at number one, but he had been laying the groundwork for that feat for nearly a decade. By the early 2000s he was one of the best-selling and most critically respected New York-based rappers, known for emotional cuts that chronicled his inner battles between good and evil.

He began getting notice in the early 1990s on the East Coast and recorded a couple of singles for Sony/Epic in 19931994, neither of which charted. However, he continued to build momentum on the live circuit, allying himself with a posse known as Ruff Ryders, which includes Ludacris, Eve, and the producer Swizz Beats. In 1998, he appeared on the LL Cool J hit "4, 3, 2, 1" and got his first taste of Top 40 airplay as part of the LOX's "Money, Respect."

There was plenty of pent-up demand for DMX's debut album, It's Dark and Hell Is Hot (1998). It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and remained on the chart for 101 weeks. With grim, tormented lyrics and slow-tomid-tempo beats, DMX was speaking to rap's core, urban audience. He punctuated his messages with barking and snarling noises.

On his third album, And Then There Was X (1999), DMX inadvertently became the favorite of suburbia with his jock-jam hit "Party Up (Up in Here)." Though the lyrics were laced with implied put-downs of other rappers amid expletive-laden machismo, the "up in here" chorus was made for group chanting. DMX's gruff baritone roared over the minimalist faux-brass synth line and drum pattern. Although he was in no danger of becoming a kid-friendly personality like Nelly, DMX did get enough Top 40 airplay to make number twenty-two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

DMX takes a more philosophical turn on The Great Depression (2001). His first single, "Who We Be," is more of a list than a song; it paints a bleak picture of rampant inner-city crime and accuses "they," the middle class, of not understanding what the underclass goes through.

DMX's flair for vocal drama seems to stand him in good stead on the silver screen. His first film role was in Belly (1998), and he followed that up with appearances in Romeo Must Die, Boricua's Bond, and Exit Wounds. He finally got a starring role for the martial-arts flick Cradle 2 the Grave (2003), teaming with Jet Li to fight kidnappers and a mad scientist. The pair proved bankable, scoring the number one slot on opening weekend with a $17.1 million gross. The soundtrack features four DMX cuts, including "Go to Sleep" with Eminem and Obie Trice, and "X Gon' Give It to Ya." He also continues to contribute at least one track to the Ruff Ryder CDs, which come out every year or two.

With authentic, gripping tales of underclass, inner-city life, DMX is the rare artist who has expanded his appeal to an audience of millions without diluting his appeal to his original core fans.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

It's Dark and Hell Is Hot (Def Jam, 1998); Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood (Def Jam, 1998).

ramiro burr

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DMX 1970–

DMX 1970

Rap artist

Its Dark and Hell is Hot

History-Making Second Album

Sent to Jail

Exit Wounds

Selected discography

Sources

Within a year, rapper DMX rose from the streets of Yon-kers to become one of hip-hops most popular and prolific stars. His raw, aggressive lyrics focus on strength and survival, keys to overcoming the adversity of life on the streets. DMX provided an alternative to the glamorous images and tunes of contemporary rap artists like Puff Daddy, and gained a formidable following with his first debut album, Its Dark and Hell is Hot. He increased his audience exponentially with his immediate follow-up album, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood. Both albums reached number one on the Billboard charts in their first week, making DMX the first recording artist in music history to have his first two albums reach number one within a year. DMX toured throughout the country with various hip-hop festivals, helping to establish himself as a rap icon. He has also begun a promising acting career.

Born Earl Simmons on December 18, 1970, in Baltimore, Maryland, DMX, also known as Dark Man X, grew up in the School Street Projects of Yonkers, New York. DMX was a lonely boy. Despite his five sisters, the future-rap star was often left alone to walk the streets of his neighborhood, to entertain himself and find his own answers. From this, he says, came his inner strength and his penchant for examining his world, inside and out, an ability that would later be the primary appeal in his candid lyrics about ghetto life. In his solitude, DMX also learned to befriend dogs, developing such a strong bond with his canine friends that he had the name of his former pet, Boomer, tattooed on his back after the dog was struck and killed by a car. DMX often employs dog imagery in his lyrics, exemplified by his smash debut single Get At Me Dog.

Still an unknown when he signed to Columbia Records in 1992, the new rapper was given very little attention from the label, and his promotional single Born Loser came and went unnoticed. DMX protested the labels neglect and was let out of his contract. The Source magazine was, in this case, the only source for predicting DMXs bright future by bestowing upon him, in 1991, the prestigious Unsigned Hype award a year before he signed with Columbia.

Its Dark and Hell is Hot

In the years following DMXs failed first attempt, he honed his rugged-voiced and gritty beat by appearing

At a Glance

Born Earl Simmons on December 18, 1970, in Baltimore, Maryland; married; one child.

Career: Signed deal with Columbia Records, 1992; released promotional single Born Loser, 1992; signed deal with Ruff Ryders/Def Jam Records, 1997; released debut album Its Dark and Hell is Hot, 1998; released single Get At Me Dog, 1998; performed with hip-hop package festival tour Survival of the Illest; recorded music for animated cartoon South Park, 1998; performed with hip-hop tour Hark Knock Life, released second album, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, 1999; released third album, And Then There Was X, 2000; film roles: Belly, 1998; Romeo Must Die, 2000; Boricuas Bond, 2000; Backstage, 2000; Exit Wounds, 2001.

Awards: The Source, Unsigned Hype award, 1991.

Addresses: Record Company Def Jam Records, 160 Varick St. 12th floor, New York, NY, 10003.

on the singles of several of his contemporaries. He appeared on LL Cool Js 4, 3, 2, 1 and Mic Geronimos Usual Suspects. He also wrote and performed an impressive rap, Money, Power, Respect, for fellow Yonkers recording artist The Lox. He also appeared on Mases 24 Hrs. to Live, Ice Cubes We Be Clubbin (Remix), and Onyxs Shut em Down, all the while creating a name for himself and building the hype surrounding his debut album. Its Dark and Hell is Hot was released in May of 1998 by Ruff Ryders/Def Jam Records, whom he had signed with in 1997. The album, promoted by the hugely popular single Get At Me Dog, immediately shot up the Billboard charts, pushing Garth Brooks from the number one spot and selling more than a quarter of a million copies in its first week in stores.

To support the release of his first album, DMX was scheduled to join the Survival of the Illest tour with fellow hip-hop artists Onyx and Def Squad. Before the tour could begin in June of 1998 in Roanoke, Virginia, he was forced to return to New York, where he was arrested on charges filed by an exotic dancer from the Bronx of rape, sodomy, and unlawful imprisonment. He posted bail and was released, rejoining the tour. The allegations followed him until August, when he was cleared of the charges after the results of a judge-ordered DNA test came back negative.

Cleared of the allegations, DMX was left to continue the remarkable year that transformed him from unknown Yonkers MC to worldwide hip-hop hero. He teamed with video director Hype Williams to star in the controversial film Belly, which was shut down in mid-production for several months because of the excessive violence used to portray urban life. Williams said of DMX in an interview with MTV in July of 1998, I had heard his vocals and lyrics for many, many years, and I knew he was a tremendous talent. I just didnt know how big of a talent and I didnt know how big of an actor he would be. In actuality, in my opinion, hes a better actor than a rapper, and people are really going to get a real strong sense of that come November 4. The film debuted, earned little financially, and continued to rouse criticism, but DMX was already hard at work on the next project, his follow-up album.

History-Making Second Album

Released in December of 1998, Blood of My Blood, Flesh of My Flesh did not disappoint his fans. It reached number one, like its predecessor, and disappeared from the shelves at record speed. DMX recorded this album in the tradition of his debut, intending to convey the raw, personal trials and obstacles of ghetto life. I want Flesh of My Flesh to be like my connection to the community, he told Def Jam Records. I want to say whats on my peoples minds, soak up all their pain. Ive learned that when I take it all in, I can make one brothas pain be understood by the world.

With his follow-up success, DMX became the first recording artist in music history to have his first two albums reach number one within a year, according to Billboard. I wrote fast, DMX told MTV in January of 1999. I wrote The Prayer and Ready to Meet Him [quickly]. I wrote a lot of joints, you know, but I still got joints to just pick from. I could put out an album right now with joints Ive already done, and theyre blazin.

DMX continued to make hip-hop history as part of the Hard Knock Life tour, organized by himself and fellow rap artists Jay-Z, Method Man, and Redman. The tour, perhaps the largest and most powerful of its kind, launched in March of 1999.

Sent to Jail

DMX found himself embroiled in further legal troubles when, in January of 2000, his car spun off of Interstate 684 near White Plains, New York. After the accident, authorities allegedly found marijuana cigarettes and an unlicensed handgun in the vehicle. He was indicted in June.

Then, on March 29, 2001, hours after performing a concert in Buffalo, DMX was pulled over by police. Again, marijuana was allegedly found in the car. After pleading guilty to charges of marijuana possession and driving without a license, DMX was sentenced to serve 15 days in jail. However, while serving out his sentence at the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden, New York, DMX was charged with assault after he allegedly hit a guard over the head with a cafeteria tray. A spokesman for the rapper presented the press with DMXs side of the story, saying that DMX was provoked by the guards.

In the midst of all this, DMX continued his pursuit of an acting career, appearing in the popular Romeo Must Die. The 2000 film, starring Hong Kong action star Jet Li and hip-hop songstress Aaliyah, attempted to blend two film genresHong Kong action and the American urban thriller. DMX took on the role of a club owner who refused to sell his business. He also contributed to the films soundtrack.

Also in 2000, DMX, in partnership with Def Jam, launched Bloodline Records. While he remained a Def Jam/Ruff Ryders artisthe released his third album, And Then There Was X, in 2000DMX enjoyed the chance to branch out into a new venture. The new label focused on what DMX called in Billboard, the next generation of R&B and hip-hop artists. He explained to MTV, Everybody on my label comes from my bloodline. I had something to do with the development of that artist.

Exit Wounds

With the action film Exit Wounds, Romeo Must Die producer Joel Silver and director Andrzej Bartowiak again sought to merge hip-hop and king-fu into a new sub-genre. While DMXs role in Romeo was only a small one, Silver remembered him when it was time to cast the film. Silver told the Hollywood Reporter, We loved working with him on Romeo, and audiences loved him too. DMX was offered a lead role, starring opposite action icon Steven Seagal. Based on John Westermanns 1990 novel, the film presented the story of a cop, played by Seagal, who uncovers police corruption in Detroit. DMXs character, Latrell Walker, is a wealthy and mysterious figure who eventually teams up with Seagal.

Reviews for Exit Wounds were mixed. The Boston Herald called the film as handsome as it is routine. Associated Press writer Anthony Breznican criticized DMXs performance, saying, DMX performs the fight stunts well enough but has a perpetually sullen look on his face, pouting through scenes like he just wants to go home and sit in a closet. Yet despite lackluster reviews, Exit Wounds, released in March of 2001, claimed the top box office slot its opening weekend.

In 2001, DMXs acting career progressed to the next level when he agreed to take on the starring role of The Crow: Lazarus, the fourth installment in The Crow franchise. DMX also made plans to write his autobiography. Ive got a lot to tell, he told MTV. I have an incredible story, and its one of a soul being saved, for real.

With an ever-burgeoning acting career ahead of him, a new record label to man, and an autobiography in the works, DMXs future is indeed bright. Yet, regardless of his future, DMX has already claimed his place among the stars of music. As he told MTV, We each have a star; all you have to do is find it.

Selected discography

Born Loser, Columbia, 1993.

Its Dark and Hell is Hot, Ruff Ryders/Def Jam, 1998.

Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, Ruff Ryders/Def Jam, 1998.

And Then There Was X, Ruff Ryders/Def Jam, 2000.

Sources

Periodicals

Associated Press, March 19, 2001.

Billboard, October 14, 2000.

The Boston Herald, March 17, 2001.

Entertainment Weekly, March 16, 2001.

Hollywood Reporter, May 3, 2000. June 30, 2000; December 20, 2000.

News & Observer, February 28, 2001.

Video Business, July 31, 2000.

Video Store, July 9, 2000.

Other

Additional materials were obtained online at: the Yahoo! Music website, http://artist.music.yahoo.com/muze/performer/DMX.html;

Karen Gordon and Jennifer M. York

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