Rapper DMX. (25398)

“You wanna be me? Here’s what you do / Grow up neglected by both parents and still pull through.” —DMX

At first glance, Earl Simmons’ life is just another cliché ridden bio familiar to scores of Black men born in the inner-city of the late 20th century. He distinguished himself with a talent to turn his angst into art and striking a cord with scores of rap aficionados (“If you look in the hood, there’s less n—-s like you, and more n—-s like him,” producer Irv Gotti once told Damon Dash and Jay-Z in a meeting) and selling 74 million records in the process.

Simmons (better known as DMX) died on April 9. A week prior, he’d suffered a heart attack and gone into a coma, his brain stripped of oxygen for half an hour before he was taken off life support.

Born Dec. 20, 1970 to an absentee father and an abusive Jehovah’s Witness mother, he experienced homelessness, institutional incarceration, and petty theft (“I’m not a hustler. I’ve tried it. That’s not me. I’d rather do the stick-up s–t,” he remembered) on the mean streets of Yonkers, N.Y. before segueing into the rap game in the 1980s.

After a series of hits and misses, his 1998 debut album “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot” (eventually certified 4x Multi-Platinum) filled the void left by the death of Tupac Shakur in 1996.

Under the moniker DMX (adopted from a popular digital drum machine he was exposed to early in his career, later interpreted as “Dark Man X”), he enjoyed a lucrative two-decade-plus career punctuated by drug addiction, legal issues, and (14 counts of) tax-fraud. Along the way he spawned 15 children from nine different women before his last public appearance in July, 2020.

“…I know I may have done some bad things, but I’m not a bad person,” — Earl Simmons