Earl Simmons, 18 December 1970, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. The leading hardcore rapper of the late 90s and early 00s, Earl Simmons was raised from an early age by his aunt in New York Citys Yonkers district. He took his name from the DMX digital sound machine, and developed a reputation as a DJ in the local projects. DMX won Source magazines Unsigned Hype Award in January 1991, and released the promo single Born Loser for Columbia Records the following year. He managed to escape from Columbias punitive contract, but little was heard from him afterwards apart from a 1994 single, Make A Move. He made a dramatic re-entry onto the hip-hop scene with a show stopping appearance on LL Cool Js 4, 3, 2, 1. Further cameos on Ma$es 24 Hours To Live, the LOXs Money, Power & Respect and the remix of Ice Cubes We Be Clubbin built up a highly marketable reputation. Newly signed to Ruff Ryders/ Def Jam Records, DMX returned to recording with the powerful Get At Me Dog single, a US Top 40 single built around a B.T. Express guitar sample.
Marketed as a return to the chaotic, raw roots of street rap, DMX became hip-hops latest sensation during 1998 when his debut album, Its Dark And Hell Is Hot, entered the US Billboard album chart at number 1. An impressive slice of east coast hardcore rap, the album centred around DMXs ferocious rhymes and dark lyrics. The same year the rapper made his film debut in Hype Williams Belly. The follow-up, Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood, stayed at number 1 in the US for three weeks during January 1999 and eventually went triple platinum like its predecessor. The album included cameo appearances from the LOX, Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige (Coming From) and Marilyn Manson (The Omen).
A string of arrest warrants threatened to upset DMXs career during 1999, the most serious of which saw the police filing weapons, drug possession and animal cruelty charges against the rapper and his wife. The charges were eventually settled by a plea-bargain leading to fines and community service. After contributing to the Ruff Ryders chart-topping Ryde Or Die Vol. 1 set, DMX quickly recorded tracks for his new album. Despite being his third release in the space of two years, ... And Then There Was X was another quality slice of hardcore rap and a welcome antidote to the bland hip-hop product still flooding the American market. The album followed its predecessors to the top of the US charts in January 2000 and generated the R&B hit single Party Up (Up In Here). The album went on to sell over five million copies.
The following February, after a string of run-ins with the police, Simmons was ordered to serve a 15-day jail sentence for driving without a license and possession of marijuana. During this period he also co-starred in the hit movies Romeo Must Die and Exit Wounds, contributing the hit single No Sunshine to the soundtrack of the latter. The albums The Great Depression (2001) and Grand Champ (2003) also debuted at the top of the US mainstream charts, making DMX the only artist in the history of the Billboard charts to have his first five albums debut at number 1. In 2003 he reunited with Romeo Must Die co-star Jet Li in Cradle 2 The Grave.
Despite his success, at the end of 2003 Simmons announced he was taking time out from the music business to spend time with his family and devote himself to spirituality. His legal problems continued, however, and in October 2005 he was sentenced to 60 days in prison after pleading guilty to two traffic violations while his license was suspended. He returned to the studio after serving the time to complete work on his debut for the Sony Urban label, Year Of The Dog... Again.
An intriguing and troubled character, DMX remains one of the bestselling rap artists in the history of American music.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.