NEW YORK — DMX, the raspy-voiced hip-hop artist who produced the songs “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” and “Party Up (Up in Here)” and who rapped with a trademark delivery that was often paired with growls, barks and “What!” as an ad-lib, has died, according to a statement Friday from his family. He was 50.
The Grammy-nominated performer died after suffering “catastrophic cardiac arrest,” according to a statement from the hospital in White Plains, New York, where he died. He was rushed there from his home April 2.
His family’s statement said DMX, whose birth name was Earl Simmons, died with relatives by his side after several days on life support.
DMX — a Mount Vernon native raised in Yonkers — built a multiplatinum career as one of rap’s biggest stars of the late 1990s and early 2000s, but he also struggled with drug addiction and legal problems that repeatedly put him behind bars.
“There were no DMX clones in his wake because there was no way to falsify the life that forged him,” Jon Caramanica wrote in the Times. “For DMX — who died Friday at 50 after suffering a heart attack on April 2 — hip-hop superstardom came on the heels of a devastating childhood marked by abuse, drug use, crime and other traumas. His successes felt more like catharsis than triumphalism. Even at his rowdiest and most celebrated, he was a vessel for profound pain.”
His record label, Def Jam Recordings, called him “a brilliant artist and an inspiration to millions around the world.
“His message of triumph over struggle, his search for the light out of darkness, his pursuit of truth and grace brought us closer to our own humanity,” the label said in a statement describing him as “nothing less than a giant.”
The Ringer described his 1997 introduction to Def Jam execs as “the stuff of music-industry legend,” and all-but crowned him as Def Jam’s savior at a time when the label was slipping to its A-Game competition.
He made a splash in 1998 with his first studio album, “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot,” which debuted No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The multiplatinum-selling album was anchored by several hits including “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem,” “Get At Me Dog,” “Stop Being Greedy” and “How It’s Goin’ Down.”
DMX followed up with four straight chart-topping albums including “… And Then There Was X,” “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood,” “The Great Depression” and “Grand Champ.” He released seven albums, earned three Grammy nominations and was named favorite rap/hip-hop artist at the 2000 American Music Awards.
DMX arrived on the rap scene around the same time as Jay-Z, Ja Rule and others who dominated the charts and emerged as platinum-selling acts. They were all part of rap crews, too: DMX fronted the Ruff Ryders collective, which helped launch the careers of Grammy winners Eve and Swizz Beatz, and relaunch The Lox, formerly signed to Bad Boy Records. Ruff Ryders had success on the charts and on radio with its “Ryde or Die” compilation albums.
Along with his musical career, DMX paved his way as an actor. He starred in the 1998 film “Belly” and appeared in 2000′s “Romeo Must Die” with Jet Li and Aaliyah. DMX and Aaliyah teamed up for “Come Back in One Piece” on the film’s soundtrack.
The rapper would later open Aaliyah’s tribute music video, “Miss You,” alongside her other friends and collaborators, including Missy Elliott, Lil’ Kim and Queen Latifah, after Aaliyah’s 2001 death in a plane crash at age 22.
The rapper also starred in 2001′s “Exit Wounds” with Steven Seagal and 2003′s “Cradle 2 the Grave” with Li.
But while DMX made his mark as one of hip-hop’s most recognizable names for his rap artistry and as an actor, the rapper was personally stifled by numerous legal battles and drug problems.
After several arrests and prison stints, DMX planned a 32-date tour to mark the 20th anniversary of “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot.” But the rapper canceled a series of shows to check himself into a rehab facility in 2019.
DMX took the initiative to help the less fortunate. He gave a group of Philadelphia men advice during a surprise appearance at a homeless support group meeting in 2017, and helped a Maine family with its back-to-school purchases a couple years later.
Last year, DMX faced off against Snoop Dogg in a Verzuz battle, which drew more than 500,000 viewers.
Survivors include his 15 children and his mother.