Earl Simmons, the snarling yet soulful rapper known as DMX, who had a string of albums in the late 1990s and early 2000s but whose personal struggles eventually rivalled his lyrical prowess, died on Friday in White Plains, N.Y. He was 50.
His family announced the death in a statement. He had been on life support at White Plains Hospital after suffering what his family called “a catastrophic cardiac arrest” a week earlier.
“Earl was a warrior who fought till the very end,” the Simmons family said. “He loved his family with all of his heart, and we cherish the times we spent with him.”
On 2 April Earl had a heart attack at his home in White Plains. In the days that followed, representatives for the rapper said he was in a coma and on life support “in a vegetative state.” Outside of the hospital, family and friends gathered with hundreds of fans, playing DMX’s music aloud and praying, holding up their arms in the shape of an X.
Born in Mount Vernon, N.Y., on Dec. 18, 1970, Earl Simmons was the first and only child of Arnett Simmons and Joe Barker.
He grew up in Yonkers, a city just north of the Bronx that became a hotbed of racial tension in the 1980s.
His father was an itinerant artist whom he rarely saw, and his mother struggled to raise him and his half-sister, Bonita, in a violent neighbourhood.
There was often little food, and Earl, a precocious but hot-tempered and disobedient child, was often beaten by his mother and her different lovers. Information on survivors was not immediately available.
Earl turned to street crime as he grew older, spending much of his childhood and teenage years in group homes or juvenile detention facilities, where, he wrote, he sometimes faced solitary confinement.
He became an adept car thief and robber, often using vicious dogs to intimidate victims.
In the late 1980s, he started performing as a beatboxer, creating beats using only his mouth, with a local rapper named Ready Ron. (He took the name DMX from the Oberheim DMX drum machine, a model that was popular in the 1980s.) Ready Ron introduced him to crack cocaine, to which he became addicted before succeeding as a rapper.
Earl, who sold millions of records, was the first musician whose first five albums reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart. He was the standout artist on the Ruff Ryders label, often rapping over tracks by the star D.J. and producer Swizz Beatz. Rappers like Eve, Drag-On and the Lox, a group made up of Jadakiss, Styles P and Sheek Louch also recorded on the label.