When it comes to DMX, a man blessed with a vicious bark of a voice, there is no such thing as half-stepping. Born Earl Simmons in 1970, the Yonkers-raised MC arrived as the physical embodiment of unbridled energy—a one-man distillation of fellow rugged New York acts like Wu-Tang Clan. With the release of his 1998 debut, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, DMX wrapped himself in musical aggression that enhanced his imposing presence across songs like the minimal, clanging “Get at Me Dog” and rowdy breakout “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem.” But X scaled back the pugnacity on that same album’s introspective “How’s It Goin’ Down,” which featured angelic vocals from R&B’s Faith Evans and painted a vivid picture of a complex relationship headed down the wrong path. DMX would revisit that sensitivity on “Slippin’,” a heart-rending track from 1998’s Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood that found him expressing a desire to live a less tumultuous life. As at odds as the rapper’s two sides may seem to be, he’s always thrived most while letting his emotions fly unrestrained. In 2000, he released ...And Then There Was X, where even the anthemic “Party Up” served as a prime example of DMX's uniquely intense take on hardcore hip-hop. But whether ferocious, amped up, or introspective, the MC has remained grounded by his faith, which, especially in the later years of his career, he approaches with nothing short of absolute devotion.
BORNDecember 18, 1970