DMX is one of Hip-Hop’s greatest heroes. But unlike in comic books, real-life heroes are complicated.
There’s no shortage of stories about Earl Simmons’ legal issues, drama, and struggles. However, this is not the true nature of his legacy.
Instead, to truly consider his legacy, we have to look at all the ways DMX was ahead of his time, such as when he was one of the first rappers to loan his voice to a video game. We have to consider how his style of “street preaching” in rap can still be heard today in the likes of Pastor Troy and Jeezy. We even have to consider how DMX integrated biker culture — long associated almost exclusively with Rock’n’Roll — into Hip-Hop and made it a seminal part of the culture that still exists today.
And we also have to consider how it only took being himself for him to go viral on social media — and DMX, who was only 50-years-old when he passed, was part of a generation that is more resistant to “going viral” on social media than their younger, more tech-savvy counterparts, which sometimes can be rightly accused of doing too many inauthentic stunts for “clicks & engagement” sake.
Our sister site, Blavity, pointed out that DMX was the No. 2 term searched on Google in 2021, and the No. 1 term searched on Google for those who have passed away. The rapper’s name trended online for weeks as millions flooded social media with touching tributes, including several celebrities such as Eve, Missy Elliott, LeBron James, and others.
Writing for Rolling Stone, Ben Dandridge-Lemco summed it up best:
“For all the rowdy exuberance of the scene outside, the memorial service struck a more introspective tone, a fitting change of pace for a rapper who could switch from macho aggression to sincere spirituality in a matter of bars. The healing gospel of Christianity that DMX weaved into his recorded music and his live performances shaped much of the 90-minute ceremony.”
Here, we take a look back at the real legacy of DMX.
DMX began rapping in the early 1990s as part of the Ruff Ryders collective. But in 1998, he dropped his seminal work, “It’s Dark & Hell Is Hot,” which brought a raw and unfiltered delivery combined with a “street preaching” style of rapping. The album sold more than a quarter-million copies at the time of its release. That led to the release of 1999’s “And Then There Was X,” and a string of hit singles including “Party Up (In Here),” “Where The Hood At,” and of course, “X Gon’Give It To Ya.”
In total, DMX has sold more than 74 million albums worldwide, per Billboard.
After DMX’s passing, streams of his music jumped by 928 percent, Entertainment Weekly reported in April 2021. His tracks, according to the outlet, earned “75.7 million on-demand streams (audio and video combined) on April 9 and 10, up 928 percent compared to the 7.36 million they received on April 7 and 8.”
Film, Television, and Video Games
In addition to his prolific music career, DMX had an equally prolific film and television career.
His first bout with film success came when he starred opposite Nas and Method Man in the 1998 classic, “Belly.”
Subsequently, he starred in a series of films that were successful both in the box office world and in the direct-to-DVD world. Some of the most successful films included “Romeo Must Die” (which also starred the late, great Aaliyah), “Lords of the Street,” and “Cradle 2 The Grave.”
Before he passed away, DMX was working on a film called “Doggtown” and “Fast Vengeance” was in post-production.
DMX also had a prolific television career. He loaned his voice to cartoons like “South Park” and made cameos on shows like “The Chris Rock Show,” “MadTV,” and “Fresh Off The Boat.”
DMX’s voice can also be heard on the video game “Def Jam Vendetta,” released in 2003. In this regard, he was one of the pioneers of rappers loaning their voices to video games to get a hefty check.
Authenticity That Brought Viral Moments
While most “elder” Hip-Hop artists struggled with getting traction on social media, DMX actually was able to use social media to his advantage thanks to his naturally effusive personality. As a result, he had a few surprise viral hits.
The first one came in 2012 when he rapped “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” during an appearance on New York’s Power 105.
The remix subsequently went viral, and he finally released the song as a Christmas single in 2017, which garnered him massive amounts of success.
Then, in 2014, he went viral again after he rode a slingshot ride in Orlando, FL.
He later returned to the slingshot ride with his daughter, and again, the video went viral.
As one YouTube commenter put it, “she heard ‘Daddy’s here’ more times in two minutes than many have heard in their entire lives.”