New York rapper DMX, born Earl Simmons, died in the hospital yesterday (9 April), a week after suffering a heart attack and being placed on life support. He leaves behind an inimitable cultural legacy for both his music and acting careers.
DMX began rapping in the early Nineties, releasing first single “Born Loser” via Columbia Records in 1992. He garnered a reputation as a rising star, collaborating with Jay-Z, Ja Rule, The LOX, and LL Cool J. His debut album, It’s Dark and Hell is Hot, was released in 1998, debuting at No 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in the US and selling over five million copies.
This was a feat he’d go on to repeat – DMX was the first artist to reach No 1 on the Billboard 200 with five consecutive albums, changing hip-hop’s chart prominence forever. His last album, Redemption of the Beast, was released in 2015.
As the world remembers DMX’s contributions, these are 10 of the rapper’s best songs.
10. “X Gon’ Give it to Ya” (2003)
This is the quintessential DMX anthem. Everybody knows who X is and what he’s going to do. As the lead single on the Cradle 2 the Grave soundtrack, DMX delivers his signature bark and to-the-point bars. The song saw a major resurgence in 2016, when it was featured in Marvel’s Deadpool.
9. “Money, Power & Respect” (The LOX featuring Lil Kim and DMX) (1998)
The title track on The LOX’s third album, “Money, Power & Respect” featured a young DMX prior to the release of It’s Dark and Hell is Hot. Standing alongside Sheek Louch, Styles P, Jadakiss, and Lil Kim, DMX looked and sounded like a star, which he would become in just a few short months.
8. “Party Up (Up in Here)” (1999)
DMX and longtime collaborator Swizz Beatz were capable of producing frequent hits when they worked together. “Party Up” is DMX’s most successful song in the US and for good reason – despite its confrontational lyrics toward unnamed rappers, Swizz Beatz’s production anchors the track as the seminal club banger that it is.
7. “Where the Hood At?” (2003)
The biggest question DMX asked in his career was “Where the Hood At?” The Yonkers native was still going strong by his fifth album, which he began promoting with this single. The iconic Albert King sample was inspired by Big Daddy Kane’s “Young, Gifted and Black,” which sampled the blues tune first.
6. “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” (1998)
One of DMX’s biggest hits, “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” almost didn’t happen. The third single from It's Dark and Hell Is Hot was produced again by a young Swizz Beatz, who in 2011 told Complex that DMX didn’t think the beat was “hood enough”. But the rapper ended up giving the song a try, handing Swizz Beatz his first major hit while creating a genre anthem.
5. “Go to Sleep” (Eminem featuring DMX and Obie Trice) (2003)
Beef is a part of hip-hop, so Eminem tagged in DMX and labelmate Obie Trice for a triple-team attack on Ja Rule and fellow rapper Benzino, who infuriated Eminem by calling him “2003 Vanilla Ice”. DMX encourages Slim Shady as he tells Ja Rule to “die nameless” on one of Eminem’s greatest diss tracks.
4. “Slippin’” (1998)
DMX has a softer side, just one he isn’t always known for. On “Slippin’”, X gets real about overcoming the harder moments in life. He opens up about his childhood trauma—abusive mother, drug addiction, group homes and juvenile detention among the obstacles he faced. His gentle side touched listeners and “Slippin’” went gold in 2017, almost 20 years after the fact.
3. “Money, Cash, Hoes” (Jay-Z featuring DMX) (1998)
“Money, Cash, Hoes” features two kings of New York on the same track, right as both were coming into their own. DMX was hot off the release of It’s Dark and Hell is Hot and Jay-Z brought him into the fold for Vol 2... Hard Knock Life. Jay-Z brings his youthful swagger and DMX brings the bark.
2. “4, 3, 2, 1” (LL Cool J featuring Method Man, Redman, Canibus, and DMX) (1997)
This track is legendary enough for igniting a 20-year beef between LL Cool J and Canibus, let alone for its verses from Method Man, Redman, and DMX. Producer Erick Sermon described DMX as “dangerous” for his threatening bars; the rapper was no stranger to a harder way of life, and he makes it known.
1. “Stop Being Greedy” (1998)
DMX is the rap game’s Robin Hood on “Stop Being Greedy”, portraying two distinct personas on the track. His lighter, angel-on-the-shoulder persona encourages the rich to give to the needy, while the growling devil raps about gun violence and cracking skulls. It’s an important – and often overlooked – side of the late legend’s persona.