After the recent passing of record breaking Rapper DMX, we take a look at the influence he has had that has inspired a generation of young rappers trying to emulate his mass success towards the back end of the nineties and beyond. If the rap antics of Puff Daddy and Will Smith felt like a softening approach to the Eighties trailblazers then DMX brought this back to earth with a bump scoring five number one Billboard albums and bringing Hardcore rap and creating a second wave of popularity to the US market for something with added venom. For an artist like DMX, managing to keep your music in the commercial mainstream whilst keeping your credibility is probably the single biggest balancing act one could imagine and sadly many have failed. It takes huge talent to breakthrough in the congested US rap scene but only the very special can stay at the very top level for so long.
Statically DMX sold more than 14 million copies of the five chart topping albums and earned three Grammy nominations. Not content with that, he also appeared in blockbusting movies like 'Romeo Must Die'. A career which continued well after the last of his five albums reached number one. Many of his film roles demanded the same intensity and theatrical talent as his music trademarked.
As with so many successful entertainers, there is an exposure to certain risks and despite his massive success, in his music DMX reflected the hardship of his inner thoughts and his relationship with self destruction was a fragile one which include substance abuse, rehab periods and arrests for drugs, assault, tax evasion and animal cruelty. While some of the challenges inspired the writing it also ate away at his general well being. Substance abuse can take the brightest stars to the darkest of places and with status brings pressure which has proven a contributing factor historically.
DMX who's real name was Earl Simmons was born on 18th December 1970 in New York and had an abusive childhood that saw him living in various children's homes. An unsettled childhood resulted in behavioural changes and several occasions of police involvement including his first arrest when fifteen. Simmons was known to befriend stray dogs and later had a tattoo of his dog 'Boomer' who was killed after been struck by a car. His first hit single was "Get at me dog" in 1998. Later that year he introduced the single "Slippin" where he graphically recounted childhood events and life challenges. This song was later to be played in court when standing Trial in 2018.
Many other aspiring rappers face the same childhood challenges and the struggles outlined lyrically found a connection to his music in many ways.