DMX — REST IN ETERNAL PEACE (18/12/70 — 09/04/21)

Famed hip hop schol­ar Dr. Regina Brad­ley often describes the idea of hip hop sens­ib­il­it­ies which artic­u­lates how hip hop exists as a way of life, way of exist­ing, and mak­ing sense of the world that goes bey­ond the music itself.

If any­one has hip hop sens­ib­il­it­ies more than most it is none oth­er than Earl Sim­mons, bet­ter known as DMX.

The news of his passing at the age of 50 due to a drug over­dose and heart attack hit the hip hop world hard.

One of the reas­ons why this news has put an ache in our hearts was because of DMX the man, not just the enter­tain­er.

In many ways the fact that he just by inches avoided that fatal knock on heaven’s door estab­lishes the over­all story of his life, which is, barely get­ting by.

He was Hip Hop’s wounded war­ri­or, a poet­ic and lyr­ic­al geni­us whose fero­cious deliv­er­ies and hard­core rhyms made him stand out above the rest because what you saw was what you got.

He had the strong storytelling skills of the Notori­ous B.I.G. with the aggress­ive man­ner­isms of a Tupac, Busta Rhymes, Ice Cube, and Eminem.

Sol­dier­ing his way out of a child­hood of poverty, viol­ence, crime, and abuse in Yonkers, New York to the heights of the game while nev­er let­ting the best of those hip hop sens­ib­il­it­ies be co-opted and com­mer­cial­ized to a cer­tain degree is what drew legions of fans to X.

There was noth­ing phony about him, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

But his life and his very pub­lic struggles should remind us all about the sys­tem­ic fail­ure to address trauma, espe­cially that of black men.

DMX came of age at height of the rap­id grow­ing inequal­it­ies at those cru­cial inter­sec­tions of race and class along with the expand­ing pris­on indus­tri­al com­plex and the surge of crack cocaine ravaging com­munit­ies of col­or.

On the micro level, he was an aban­doned lost soul who was deprived of uncon­di­tion­al love all around him with the excep­tion of his beloved grand­moth­er.

He was phys­ic­ally abused by his moth­er and after a series of troub­ling beha­vi­or and acts of crimin­al­ity, he was then dropped off at a reform school by his moth­er without him know­ing any­thing about it.

X grew into a young man with sear­ing anger and a trust of nobody and very few around him gave him that much needed shoulder to cry on, but soci­ety itself couldn’t wait to cast aside him and oth­er young black men and they had the pub­lic policies in place to do so.

His only sal­va­tion was music and that led him down the path of achiev­ing his own unique icon status.

But selling mil­lions of records and ador­ing fans doesn’t com­pensate for that uncon­di­tion­al love he missed out on and the suc­cess can even com­poun­ded those trau­mas.

Fur­ther­more, his battle with his addic­tions and oth­er lifelong demons should serve as a cau­tion­ary tale about the dangers of liv­ing in a soci­ety where a tox­ic defin­i­tion of man­hood is expec­ted.

Men are taught from an early age that in order to be accep­ted and val­id­ated we have to be strong, tough, dom­in­ant, intim­id­at­ing and if we don’t then we are deemed weak, soft, sissy, or a wuss and none of us want to be seen in that light. We are told to not speak of our struggles and dis­play any level of vul­ner­ab­il­ity.

X him­self was caught in that trap that men are temp­ted to fall into and because of that he lost him­self in his battles with drugs and his own per­son­al short­com­ings when it came to him being a par­ent and hus­band and also at times a pro­duct­ive mem­ber of soci­ety. We should put that into the con­text of a man who nev­er knew any real sense of peace or con­tent­ment and was deprived of any oppor­tun­it­ies to redefine his man­hood.

To sum up, DMX’s life and death should serve as that wake up call par­tic­u­lar for men in hip hop and bey­ond.

We need to reject these warped notions of man­hood and cre­ate spaces of heal­ing that can be attached to the music and cul­ture that gives so much light.

There also needs to be a broad­er talk about the lifelong impact of untreated trauma in a world in which those trau­mas are exacer­bated by insti­tu­tion­al­ized racism and classism.

The ruff ryder has been through so much and one can say that he is now at peace.

Rest in Peace X.


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Zachary Draves
I am a viol­ence pre­ven­tion edu­cat­or, act­iv­ist, journ­al­ist, aspir­ing film­maker, adjunct pro­fess­or of social justice and civic engage­ment at Domin­ic­an Uni­ver­sity in River Forest, Illinois. I am based in Chica­go, Illinois.

About Zachary Draves

Zachary Draves
I am a violence prevention educator, activist, journalist, aspiring filmmaker, adjunct professor of social justice and civic engagement at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. I am based in Chicago, Illinois.