Remembering DMX: 5 of the rapper's most iconic songs
Ron Elkman

Remembering DMX: 5 of the rapper's most iconic songs

DMX (born Earl Simmons) has died at 50 years old following "catastrophic cardiac arrest," according to the Associated Press on Friday. 

The rapper's family provided a statement confirming his passing, and the cause of death was confirmed by the White Plains, New York, hospital where DMX had been rushed to April 2 following a heart attack and put on life support from which he never recovered.

Per Pitchfork, the family's statement fully reads:

"We are deeply saddened to announce today that our loved one, DMX, birth name of Earl Simmons, passed away at 50-years-old at White Plains Hospital with his family by his side after being placed on life support for the past few days. Earl was a warrior who fought till the very end. He loved his family with all of his heart and we cherish the times we spent with him. Earl’s music inspired countless fans across the world and his iconic legacy will live on forever. We appreciate all of the love and support during this incredibly difficult time. Please respect our privacy as we grieve the loss of our brother, father, uncle and the man the world knew as DMX. We will share information about his memorial service once details are finalized."

DMX's former manager Nakia Walker relayed earlier this week that he was in a "vegetative state" (h/t The New York Times), while TMZ reported Thursday "tests performed Wednesday "showed no improvement in brain activity" and that the family had requested Steve Rifkind, DMX's "longtime friend and manager" to come to the hospital.

DMX hypothetically addressed death in a February interview that now sadly rings eerie:

In recent years, DMX had struggled. The Yonkers legend served a 12-month prison sentence from January 2018 to January 2019 for felony tax evasion he pled guilty to in November 2017, and he had most recently checked himself into rehab in October 2019 after struggling with substance abuse since he was 14 years old.

To bring all the good DMX did in his life and career back to the forefront, though, below are five of his most iconic tracks from his Grammy-nominated discography.

"Ruff Ryders' Anthem" (1998)

"Ruff Ryders' Anthem," produced by Swizz Beatz, elevated DMX's debut album It's Dark and Hell is Hot—his first of five albums to hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200—to another level. The actor and emcee's signature gravely voice and gruff delivery resonated for the first of many times. 

The Ruff Ryders' official website explains just how vital they were to DMX's shot to stardom: "Ruff Ryders' founders were initially famous for managing rappers DMX and The Lox who became multi-platinum stars for Def Jam Recordings and Bad Boy Records in the late-1990s. After DMX's success, the management company started its own label imprint through Interscope Records."

"Money, Power & Respect" (1998)

"Money, Power & Respect" by the LOX featuring DMX and Lil' Kim dropped roughly two months before X's debut album. The Yonkers rap group's—whose members were Jadakiss, Sheek Louch and Styles P—decision to include X on the track gave him his highest mark on the Hot 100, as "Money, Power & Respect" peaked at No. 17 and charted for 20 weeks.

This was just one of countless collaborations that stood the test of time. He jumped on LL Cool J's "4, 3, 2, 1" with Canibus, Method Man and Redman in 1997 as well as JAY-Z's "Money, Cash, H—s" in 1997, to name a few others.

"Party Up (Up In Here)" (1999)

...And Then There Was X (nominated at the 43rd Grammy Awards for best rap album) had a strong track list, including "What These B—s Want" featuring Sisqo, which was later sampled by Drake in 2016, but it was anchored by "Party Up (Up In Here)." Again teamed up with Swizz Beatz, the diss track was quickly repurposed by fans into a party anthem. 

It even made it into the Like Mike soundtrack with (at the time) Lil Bow Wow and Morris Chestnut turning up:

"Party Up" peaked at No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100, X's highest position ever on the chart as a solo artist, and earned a Grammy nomination for best rap solo performance.

"Who We Be" (2001)

"Who We Be" found DMX passionately rapping through the perils of living in the inner city—each point poignantly punched home in a way only he could. The song spent 12 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 60, and peaked at No. 16 on Billboard's Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart. Most notably, maybe, "Who We Be" marked the last time DMX would receive a Grammy nomination in 2001 (best rap solo performance).

"X Gon' Give It To Ya" (2003)

"X Gon' Give It To Ya" had crossover appeal because it led the Cradle 2 the Grave soundtrack. DMX co-starred with Jet Li, Anthony Anderson and Gabrielle Union 2003 action crime film:

The track held a spot for 16 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100.

It's easy to forget just how many film credits X racked up away from the mic. Before Cradle 2 the Grave, he made his proper acting debut by co-leading Belly with Nas in 1998. Most recently, he had roles in Chronicle of a Serial Killer last year.

Megan Armstrong (@megankarmstrong) is a writer with previous work appearing in places such as Billboard, Bleacher Report, GQ and others. She's most interested in writing about people and how they live their lives, through the framework of music, entertainment and sports.

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