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DMX suffered every day, but we were the Dark Man’s light

DMX, rap’s ultimate empath, took in everyone’s pain and suffered constantly for us, his fans, to see brighter days. We kept him going and he did the same for us. We were Dark Man X’s light.

DMX Getty

I don’t even know where to begin… especially for someone as complex as Earl “DMX” Simmons. How can someone so layered be covered in a single op-ed? ? A show? A movie even? Is that possible at all?

As many of his fans know, X had many levels – his pain, joy, the good, the bad intertwined like thorns wrapped around a beautiful rose. The perfect metaphor for such a man.

It’s with a heavy heart that I’m even writing this honestly. I have so many emotions in my heart and thoughts in my head that, on one side, are all attempting to push themselves out so I can finally be relieved of them and find, at least, some level of contentment that he’s now at peace. But, on one other, as I’m writing, they’re putting up a fight to stay hidden. Because are they even worth sharing? Will people even understand? Agree?

The thing that really separated X from the rest of the dog pack was his willingness to serve. He was selfless. In a video his fellow Ruff Ryders collaborator and friend Swizz Beatz posted after he passed, the producer said, “Since the day that I met him, he lived his life for everyone else… I’ve never seen him live his life for himself.”

Swizz also admitted that X would suffer every day of his life for the betterment of other people. “You know why he was suffering? Because he took everybody’s pain and made it his,” he added.

This makes sense when you listen to X’s music. Track after track, there’s nothing but raw, heavy pain, and turmoil in between each and every lyric. Not only are the words full of anguish and despair, but X’s dark, aggressive, yet hurt and vulnerable tone – bringing life to his bars – would only intensify his messages.

See, to live is to suffer but to survive/ Well, that’s to find meaning in the suffering/ Going too fast it wouldn’t last but yo I couldn’t tell/Group homes and institutions, prepare my ass for jail/They put me in a situation forcin’ me to be a man/ When I was just learnin’ to stand without a helpin’ hand. - “Slippin’”

As confirmed by close ones, the rapper actually believed that his purpose was to heal people by taking in their agony, so he could feel their hurt instead. That’s one of the reasons his music was full of emotion. He wanted fans to find a safe place in his work — in him — something that X had a hard time finding as a child who was exposed to many hardships, whether on the streets or in his own home.

DMX’s upbringing would shape him for the rest of his life – as all of ours has. If it’s one thing that a child wants to feel from their mother is love. Another thing is protection. X, unfortunately, got neither. Since a small kid, he would get physically abused by his mom and her boyfriends. In his “Behind The Music” documentary, which aired in 2010, the artist would even recall his mother keeping all of the food in her closet and only feeding him whenever she felt like it. There was even one point when he was starving so badly that he drank her perfume. “It was so nasty, but I was so hungry,” he recollected in a soft fragile voice as a glimpse of baby Earl briefly appeared through his eyes.

That’s the thing. We may age, but we remain our inner kids. X even said this in his “Prayer,” including before his Verzuz with Snoop Dogg last year. Remember that cultural moment? “Instill in us the word, which our backbone,” he said before the battle. “We’re just children that act grown.”

And then, there was the time a young X – who already felt unloved and unwanted – would receive yet another blow from his mother – perhaps the hardest one of them all.

As a youth, he would often get in trouble at school and on the streets for fighting. As DMX explained in his doc, his mom took him and his two sisters to an upstate facility for kids with behavioral problems and pretended that they were just visiting. Once there, she asked him if he liked it, and when he said yes, she replied, “Good because you’re not leaving.” And just like that, the mother of three took her two daughters back in the car and left X at the center – a child — to fend for himself. Again.

It was at that moment, X said, that he learned that the only person who can truly protect him was himself.

These harsh instances as a youth would toughen him, and quickly erase the pure baby boy that was Earl and his innocence, and have him develop the shell of DMX – one that no one could break through – as a defense mechanism. Very few would ever hurt him again if he had anything to say or do about it.

As he grew older, X never forgot his childhood aches. He would take them with him throughout the rest of his days – and difficult nights. That’s why he was so passionate about helping others. Aside from his grandmother who he visited on the weekends as a kid, but who would sadly pass away from cancer years later, X didn’t have a release. Instead, he willingly felt every ounce of hurt people placed onto him.

“I felt like I lost my life…like everything that was special to me. The only person I was special to, you know, because no matter how hard we are, how tough we are, we need to be someone’s baby… and I was her baby.” – DMX on his grandmother, Mary Ella Holloway

So, in other words, Dark Man X wanted to be everyone else’s light.

Easier said than done, though, right? Do you know how difficult it is for someone to continuously make an effort to be there for people when very few were ever there for them?

“Many a nights I cried and called your name out loud, but didn’t call you when I was doing too good or too proud/And still you gave me love, I wasn’t used to that, most of the people that gave me love ended up taking it back.”

But, with the strength of a badly wounded dog, which tends to be the most mighty, X did just that. Every. Single. Day.

So many people have admitted to X’s music helping them overcome personal obstacles in their lives.

“No kap I was depressed @ [an] all-time low last year [i]n the whole month of March, I listen[ed] to X and the pain in his music brought me to life,’” a fan on Twitter said after news of his passing broke. “‘…never let a nigga see you down ‘cause they will take ya crown.’”

And then, there were the personal face-to-face moments that really showed his heart – so full of love to give, but scorned and battered after being stomped on time and time again.

We can look back at the instance of X taking the mop from the Waffle House employee, who was a big fan of his, and cleaning the fast-food restaurant’s floor for him at 4 a.m. when he visited years back to the star going into an IHOP in Buffalo and helping the staff make omelettes to the everlasting connections DMX felt with audience members he performed in front of.

And let’s be clear, X’s connection was raw – like everything he ever did and said. On stage, he could feel the love of fans – love that he always craved. This was always genuine admiration and very much solidified when you look at moments when X would begin crying on stage and the crowd would bawl right along with him.

“X is the only rapper I’ve ever seen make gangsta cry.” – Swizz Beatz

In a 2018 interview with GQ for his It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot debut album, friend Irv Gotti spoke about X’s emotional ties to his fans. He said:

“When the album came out, he had a legendary show at the Apollo. He tore that shit down, and he ended with ‘Prayer,’ and started crying. And when he closes with the lines, ‘So if it takes for me to suffer, for my brother to see the light, give me pain ‘til I die, but please, Lord, treat him right,’ and threw up the X with his arms, there was hood niggas and bitches in there crying. Every motherfucker in the Apollo had the X up with him and they were crying. He was like, ‘I love y’all niggas. I love my niggas.’ He’s telling everyone in the audience ‘I love y’all.’ I was on stage behind him, and I was like, God, man. That’s DMX, man. Artists don’t have a connection like that. He’s in your heart. He’s in your fucking heart.”

DMX was serving his purpose of healing whenever, and however, he could.

When you’ve dealt with as much hurt as X did, the light would be the only thing that keeps you going. If you ask me – along with him finding God — that was us: His supporters. Serving us served him.

Think about it. X suffered constantly on the inside. Life would hit him with blow after blow after blow with no end in sight. From his mother’s and her boyfriends’ abuse to a young X being tricked into smoking weed with crack cocaine in it by his own mentor at the age of 14 – thus making him an addict for the majority of his life – X was damaged beyond words – and while still a tender juvenile. There are many adults today who aren’t even strong enough to endure the obstacles he did before he was old enough for a driver’s permit. But, he did.

When one is consistently violated like this, many would understand that the only way someone who’s suffered this much would be to turn to God — the only guaranteed light that would shine on Dark Man X no matter what and truly be there at any hour whether he could visibly see the savior or not. This way, the rapper knew that would never truly be alone again.

This sense of protection from a higher power would give X his strength to get back up time and time again, and continue on his bumpy journey no matter the crashes and derailments along the way, and serve the people aka his tangible love givers and light: His fans.

“Every time I went through something, it brought me closer to God. And I stayed into something, so now I’m closer to God. But, being closer is hard, the attacks get stronger. Become much harder to fight and they last longer. But, that’s what it’s always been. The joy with the pain, dark with the light, sun with the rain, but with the right perspective, there can be something to gain.”

If you’ve ever witnessed a performance of his, you know that X gave his all at shows. He left everything on the stage and poured everything out to the crowd – once again showing them the love and attention he always wanted to be reciprocated.

However, this wasn’t always easy for him to receive. As someone who barely got genuine love from those closest to him as a kid, X was often confused as to why he deserved it. The psychological reasoning behind this thought is heart-wrenching. When she would beat him, his mother often told X that he wasn’t good for anything. So, he internalized that belief and felt like others should get the affection and fortune he was being blessed with instead. Both baby Earl and DMX did not feel worthy.

There was one moment in his doc where fellow Ruff Ryders rapper Eve, as well as Gotti, spoke about a time when X completely lost it after getting love from thousands of audience members he performed for at a tour stop.

“We came backstage and he kind of just broke down, and started crying. Like, really crying,” Eve said about X after he wrapped up his set. Gotti added, “He’s on his knees and he’s looking up, and he’s like, ‘Whyyy?! Why, God, why me? I ain’t supposed to be nothing!”

Eve added, “He felt like he didn’t deserve it. Like he couldn’t understand what is it, like, that they see that they love.” X later chimed in the segment, “I didn’t know how to take the love. I didn’t know how to interpret the love.”

Thankfully, as years passed, DMX would come to terms with the fact that he was, indeed, deserving of every bit of adoration that he received. After all, it was getting harder to shy away from it. He was one of the hottest rappers out and millions around the world idolized him.

Up until the tragic day that he passed, the star was showered with infatuation from fans from all walks of life. From those bumping his music in their cars when they saw him in the street to others making quick U-turns in their vehicles to grab pics with him while they could, X was a man of the people.

The fans who he served with his music and had empathy for always returned the favor tenfold by honoring him until his last breath. Need we remind you of countless supporters, and even self-proclaimed Ruff Ryders on their bikes, pulling up in front of the White Plains Hospital and blasting his music, before he left us in the physical form? The people rode hard for DMX and always will.

“I’m the people’s champ,” X said in his final aired interview on “Drink Champs” back in February 2021. “Not everybody likes me. But, the people that do, love me.”

The truth of the matter is when DMX actually did pass away on Friday, April 9 – after me seeing a couple of false reports popping up in the days prior – I didn’t want to believe that it was finally true. I saw Elliott Wilson post X’s family’s statement about his death on Twitter first and knew that he was a credible source who wouldn’t post fake news. But, I kept looking for confirmation, as I alerted my team here at REVOLT of what I caught wind of. Seconds later, I would see a report on Bloomberg, another credible outlet, but was determined to keep searching for something that would satisfy my massive denial. It wouldn’t be until I saw the AP report moments after that, that I knew I had to force myself to come to terms with the reality. DMX was gone.

Once I said this to myself, my stomach dropped, and my head began throbbing. But, I quickly pulled myself together like a soldier – I learned from one of the best in the game — confirmed to my team that it was factual, and had the site be dedicated to X for the remainder of the day. I wanted us to give him nonstop and unconditional love and attention because, well, I knew that’s all he’s ever wanted. That’s what he’s still deserved.

Though it’s still hurtful to accept the fact that Earl “DMX” Simmons is now an ancestor – I just paused for a breath as I typed that – I admit that I am finding a bit of comfort seeing that he knew he was loved and adored, and he was very happy before he went home to glory.

Fans who’ve paid tribute to him on social media, and even X himself, knew that he lived a full life and that’s something that makes his passing feel like it wasn’t “too soon,” as so many people like to say about someone’s death, but instead in perfect divine timing.

“If anyone can look back on their life and know that they changed one person’s life for the better, then that life means something. And I’ve done that 100-fold. So, I’m alright. And I say that with a smile in my eyes and a smile in my heart. I’m alright,” DMX said in his doc.

Plus, in his final “Drink Champs” chat, he affirmed once more, “If I was to drop dead right now. My last thought would be, ‘I’ve had a good life.’”

I’d like to think that DMX was proud to be here to serve us. I’m upset for selfish reasons but relieved that he, the ultimate rap empath and healer of millions, is finally relieved of his intense lifelong duty of being here for everyone who would seek refuge in his lyrics and pain.

X suffered and did what needed to be done for us to see brighter days. We kept him going in his purpose and he did the same for us. We were Dark Man X’s light.

Thank you for serving and adoring us, and allowing us to eventually return the favor, X. May you finally rest well back in your grandma’s loving arms. I know she missed her baby, too.

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