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In Remembrance: DMX Alchemized Pain Into Power

DMX

Photo: Shahar Azran/WireImage

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In Remembrance: DMX Alchemized Pain Into Power

The music of the late Earl "DMX" Simmons was an expression of snarling, outward energy—and that ferocity came from tremendous personal hurt

GRAMMYs/Apr 10, 2021 - 12:58 am

Near the end of his life, DMX wept about something that happened when he was 14. Last year, on the show People's Party with Talib Kweli, the then-49-year-old told the story of Ready Ron, an MC who got him into rapping. "He was like an older brother to me," DMX said, "I didn't have any brothers." At that point, he lapsed into stunned silence. Ready Ron broke his trust, he said, by giving DMX—who had never done a drug—a joint laced with crack.

Even behind reflective sunglasses, humiliation and hurt visibly spiderwebbed across DMX's face, and he hung his head like a little boy. Tasked with counting money, he said, his mind seemed to shatter. "Why would you do that to a child?" the three-time GRAMMY nominee entreated, breathing heavily. "He was like, 30, and he knew I looked up to him. Why would you do that to somebody who looks up to you?"

Right then, "The monster was born," he declared. "The monster was born."

The word is an apt metaphor for DMX's addictions, which saw to it that he rarely stayed out of trouble. He was perpetually under arrest—for tax evasion, driving without a license, drug possession, aggravated assault. But conversely, he was also a monster artist. Across eight albums, including classics like 1998's It's Dark and Hell Is Hot and Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood and 1999's ...And Then There Was X, DMX established himself as one of the most urgent, shocking, livewire MCs of all time. 

He maintained that mantle until his death on April 7, following what his family called a "catastrophic cardiac arrest"—allegedly the result of an overdose—and days in a vegetative state. He was 50. "[We] are deeply and profoundly saddened by the loss of our brother Earl 'DMX' Simmons," his longtime label, Def Jam, said in a statement. "DMX was 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."

Earl "DMX" Simmons was born on December 18, 1970 in Mount Vernon, New York, and grew up in Yonkers. As a child, he survived severe asthma and regular beatings from his mother and her paramours; at one point, she reportedly knocked out his teeth with a broom handle. As DMX grew older, he began stealing cars and robbing homes, often abetted by vicious dogs. He spent a year and a half in a home for vulnerable children, later bouncing between youth group homes and juvenile detention centers.

What was a lamp in this dark existence? Music—which DMX was exceptionally precocious at. While at a boy's home, he showed aptitude for beatboxing, which led to his association with Ready Ron—and oftentimes the pair switching roles. Deeming himself "DMX" after the name of an Oberheim drum machine he used, the asthmatic kid consolidated his rage and transformed himself into an attack dog on the mic.

Across those three classic horror-rap albums—and right up to his last, 2015's Redemption of the Beast—DMX achieved violent, joyful catharsis. He could boast, like on "Get At Me Dog," "Party Up (Up in Here)," and "What's My Name?"; peer inward, as on "Slippin'"; and grapple with God, as on "Ready to Meet Him." In fact, during the COVID-19 pandemic, he claimed to have read the entire Bible. When the Houston Press asked what came out of that, he replied, "Peace."

We'll never know how deeply that peace permeated DMX. That said, turn up his most ferocious albums, and it's clear the MC had the ineffable ability to transmute pain into power.

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Rolling Loud Festival Los Angeles Reveals 2019 Lineup

Doja Cat

Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

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Rolling Loud Festival Los Angeles Reveals 2019 Lineup

Find out who's bringing the heat to the hip-hop fest returning to L.A. this December

GRAMMYs/Oct 2, 2019 - 12:11 am

Today, Rolling Loud revealed the massive lineup for their final music festival of 2019, Rolling Loud Los Angeles, which is set to take over the Banc of California Stadium and adjacent Exposition Park on Dec. 14–15.

This iteration of "the Woodstock of Hip-Hop," as the all-knowing Diddy has called it, will feature Chance the RapperLil Uzi VertJuice WRLDYoung Thug and Lil Baby as Saturday's heavy-hitting headliners. Sunday's headliners are none other than Future, A$AP Rocky, Meek Mill, YG and Playboi Carti.

L.A.'s own Blueface, Tyga and Doja Cat, are slated to perform, as well as representatives from the diverse rap scenes across the country, including Wale, Juicy J, Lil Yachty, Megan Thee Stallion, Gunna, Tyla Yaweh, Machine Gun Kelly and Yung Gravy.

The lineup announcement follows the successful wrap of Rolling Loud Bay Area in Oakland this past weekend. The event's flagship Miami event took place in May this year, and the New York and Hong Kong debut editions will both take place later this month.

Tickets for Rolling Loud L.A. go on sale this Friday, Oct. 4 at 11 a.m. PST. The complete lineup and more info on this event and their other fests can be found here.

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DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs

DJ Khaled, Samantha Smith and John Legend

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs

DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle and John Legend take home Best Rap/Sung Performance at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Jan 27, 2020 - 09:05 am

DJ Khaled, featuring Nipsey Hussle and John Legend, has won Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Higher" at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards. The single was featured on DJ Khaled's 2019 album Father of Asahd and featured Hussle's vocals and Legend on the piano. DJ Khaled predicted the track would win a GRAMMY.

"I even told him, 'We're going to win a GRAMMY.' Because that's how I feel about my album," DJ Khaled told Billboard. "I really feel like not only is this my biggest, this is very special."

After the release of the song and music video -- which was filmed before Hussle's death in March -- DJ Khaled announced all proceeds from "Higher" will go to Hussle's children.

DJ Khaled and co. beat out fellow category nominees Lil Baby & Gunna ("Drip Too Hard"), Lil Nas X ("Panini"), Mustard featuring Roddy Ricch ("Ballin") and Young Thug featuring J. Cole & Travis Scott ("The London"). Hussle earned a second posthumous award at the 62nd GRAMMYs for Best Rap Performance for "Racks In The Middle." 

Along with Legend and DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and YG paid tribute to Hussle during the telecast, which concluded with "Higher."

Check out the complete 62nd GRAMMY Awards nominees and winners list here.

ReImagined At Home: Watch Ant Clemons Croon The Cosmic Blues In Performance Of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine"

Ant Clemons

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ReImagined At Home: Watch Ant Clemons Croon The Cosmic Blues In Performance Of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine"

Singer/songwriter Ant Clemons puts his own spin on Bill Withers' immortal "Ain't No Sunshine" in an exclusive performance for ReImagined At Home.

GRAMMYs/Jun 15, 2021 - 08:13 pm

Why has Bill Withers' immortal hit, "Ain't No Sunshine," endured for decades? And, furthermore, why does it seem set to reverberate throughout the ages?

Could it be because it's blues-based? Because it's relatable to anyone with a pulse? Because virtually anyone with an ounce of zeal can believably yowl the song at karaoke?

Maybe it's for all of those reasons and one more: "Ain't No Sunshine" is flexible

In the latest episode of ReImagined At Home, check out how singer/songwriter Ant Clemons pulls at the song's edges like taffy. With a dose of vocoder and slapback, Clemons recasts the lonesome-lover blues as the lament of a shipwrecked android.

Giving this oft-covered soul classic a whirl, Clemons reminds music lovers exactly why Withers' signature song has staying power far beyond his passing in 2020. It will probably be a standard in 4040, too.

Check out Ant Clemons' cosmic, soulful performance of "Ain't No Sunshine" above and click here to enjoy more episodes of ReImagined At Home.

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GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Will Smith Dedicate His 1999 Best Rap Solo Performance GRAMMY To His Son

Will Smith at the 1999 GRAMMYs

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GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Will Smith Dedicate His 1999 Best Rap Solo Performance GRAMMY To His Son

In his acceptance speech, he offers thanks to his family and "the jiggiest wife in the world, Jada Pinkett Smith"

GRAMMYs/Sep 25, 2020 - 11:17 pm

Today, Sept. 25, we celebrate the birthday of the coolest dad—who else? Will Smith! For the latest episode of GRAMMY Rewind, we revisit the Fresh Prince's 1999 GRAMMY win for Best Rap Solo Performance for "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It."

In the below video, watch rappers Missy Elliott—donning white leather—and Foxy Brown present the GRAMMY to a stoked Smith, who also opted for an all-leather look. In his acceptance speech, he offers thanks to his family and "the jiggiest wife in the world, Jada Pinkett Smith." He dedicates the award to his eldest son, Trey Smith, joking that Trey's teacher said he (then just six years old) could improve his rhyming skills.

Watch Another GRAMMY Rewind: Ludacris Dedicates Best Rap Album Win To His Dad At The 2007 GRAMMYs

The classic '90s track is from his 1997 debut studio album, Big Willie Style, which also features "Miami" and 1998 GRAMMY winner "Men In Black," from the film of the same name. The "Está Rico" rapper has won four GRAMMYs to date, earning his first back in 1989 GRAMMYs for "Parents Just Don't Understand," when he was 20 years old.

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