The hip hop community continues to mourn the passing of rapper DMX. The Mount Vernon native passed away on April 9 at 50. The rapper, born Earl Simmons, had been on life support for a week after suffering a heart attack reportedly triggered by a drug overdose.
DMX had struggled with drug addiction nearly his entire life. During an interview last year, he even revealed that he was tricked into smoking crack by a former mentor at just 14 years old. Although troubled by his dependency for most of his life, there were several periods of sobriety, but seemingly not enough to combat the internal demons conjured early on.
Recently Russell Simmons opened up about first hearing X and how the rapper singlehandedly saved his record label, Def Jam, with the release of his hit song “Get at Me Dog.” Russell also spoke about the regret over his inability to save the rapper from his struggles.
During the nearly eight-minute clip, Russell detailed how X embodied the sound his label was known for, “loud, aggressive, and abrasive music,” but had slowly lost.
“‘Get At Me Dog’ was going against the grain and reminded me of what we loved at Def Jam,” he explained, “I was so excited I remember going to the tunnel when he first performed it and watching him perform it like, ‘Wow, Def Jam is back.’ Sure enough, he saved Def Jam, and it was a moment for us. He pulled us out of the mud and brought us back to life.”
Russell described X as not only a musical but a personal hero, stating, “He saved us, but we didn’t save him.” He continued, “Of course people saying, ‘Oh, save yourself,’ but no. We should have given him more love. And we have to be responsible to the next DMX. This has to be a teachable moment.”
The music executive went on to highlight some of X’s unique characteristics, including his ability to grab people’s attention when he spoke. He also continued to express his regret for not doing more for the rapper.
“He came to help us. He saved our music company. I’m sure that day he saved some lives, and we didn’t save him,” Russell said. “It’s a teachable moment for me to be responsible when I can. To reach out to those in need, to just be better, personally. I don’t take full responsibility, I’m just one person, but I should have taken more responsibility.”