Born Earl Simmons in Baltimore, Maryland, DMX spent much of his early life in Yonkers, New York. He experienced a turbulent childhood, growing up in an abusive household and spending time in boys’ homes and, later, juvenile institutions. It was during his time at one of those boys’ homes that he started writing music, eventually linking up with producer Ready Ron.
DMX’s signature raspy growl—partially caused by a lifelong struggle with bronchial asthma—made his songs instantly recognizable. He broke into the wider music industry at large after The Source featured him in its “Unsigned Hype” column. The following year, he signed to Columbia’s Ruffhouse imprint, though he was dropped after a pair of singles. After some years of promo tracks and guest spots, he was signed to Def Jam, setting him up for his breakout projects: It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot and Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, both of which arrived in 1998.
His 1999 album …And Then There Was X went multi-platinum off the success of the singles “Party Up” and “What’s My Name.” In addition to his slew of hits, DMX also became a film star, appearing in Romeo Must Die (alongside Aaliyah), Exit Wounds, Cradle 2 the Grave, and more. His last album Undisputed was issued in 2012. He released his most recent single “Bain Iz Back” at the beginning of 2017.