DMX was the voice of the streets

The African Nation lost a beloved “voice of the streets” when DMX died on April 9, 2021.

“When the album came out, he had a legendary show at the Apollo. He tore that sh*t down, ended with ‘Prayer’ and started crying.

“And when he closed with the lines “so if it takes for me to suffer for my brother to see the light, give me pain till I die, but please, Lord, treat him right” and he threw up the X with his arms there were hood niggas and hood chicks in there crying.

“Every motherf****r in the Apollo had the X up with him and they were crying. He was like ‘I love y’all niggas,’ ‘I love my niggas.’ He was telling everyone in the audience ‘I love y’all.’ . . . that’s DMX man.

“Artists don’t have a connection like that. He’s in your heart. He’s in your f***ing heart.”

– Irv Gotti

When The Dog barked, the people listened

Ask the black community what they loved most about DMX and it won’t be his famous ad libs or even his biggest radio hit but how “real” his lyrics were—how you could just “feel” him; those raw lyrics delivered in that distinctive growl that would captivate on every record he was on.

At a time when most hip-hop artists only found radio success when preaching about glitz, glam, luxury and riches, what separated DMX from the flock was his commitment to putting a spotlight on the experiences of the people. This is why the people felt him.

Most of us can relate to “damn, was it my fault? Something I did? // To make a father leave his first kid, at seven doing my first bid.”

While many other artists made music that promoted capitalist pursuits of wealth and fame (as that is generally the only kind of music that will bring an artist resources under capitalism), DMX would lay out his pain on every track.

But the thing about DMX was that his story wasn’t unique to him. His story was that of the masses of African people worldwide—from the ghettos to the shanty towns.

From his upbringing in the impoverished New York projects to the physical and emotional abuse he experienced from his mother to the absence of his father, his struggles with drug abuse and being in and out of jail, to the sheer mental/emotional weight of living under such brutal conditions, he was a mouthpiece for the oppressed black community and our shared experiences under colonial domination.

DMX vocalized the stories of millions of us. We felt him because we are him.

DMX’s problem wasn’t drugs, it was colonialism

“It wasn’t long before I hit rock bottom //

“Niggas looking at me like ‘damn look how that rock got him’”

– DMX, Slippin

One very publicized aspect of DMX’s career had been his ongoing struggle with drugs, particularly “crack” cocaine.

DMX stated that he was first exposed to the drug when it was given to him, unbeknownst to him, by an older African in his community who’d laced his weed with it—beginning his lifelong battle with the drug.

Some have characterized his addiction as “his demons”—as if DMX’s struggle with drugs was something unique to him.

The reality of it is that DMX’s struggle with crack, just like any African’s struggle with crack, was something planned, coordinated and executed before DMX was even born.

DMX, along with the millions of Africans suffering under colonial domination, experienced a mental anguish that would make a retreat to drugs, alcohol and other substances an almost inevitable means of coping.

To characterize these conditions as “his demons” is incorrect. DMX’s problem wasn’t drugs; his problem is that he was colonized, and the only “demons” in question are the forces of a system that would impose such inhumane, death-bringing conditions on a people.

“I will be the voice of the street til I die”

DMX is one of many immensely talented children of Africa who’s had his life cut short by circumstances out of his control. Whether through violence, substance abuse, the nearly poisonous food and poor healthcare afforded to our people or the mental illness brought on by these factors, one feature of colonialism or another has hindered the growth and development of many of our great minds. This says nothing of the millions upon millions of our artists who were killed by this system before ever getting the chance to create at all.

A frequent theme in DMX’s music was brotherhood. He rapped regularly about friendship and loyalty to his “dogs.” This belief was expressed in much of his music. We have to unite. We have to come together as brothers and sisters. This is the only way we’ll be able to complete the task of destroying the system that has been destroying us. Once this task is completed and we are a free people, we will flourish and prosper in ways beyond our wildest imagination.

(When asked why the hood appreciates his music)

“…. I speak for them, dog

“I will be the voice of the street til I die because I know if I keep my heart real, I’m gonna fly” – DMX, interview 1997

Let’s get organized!

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Long Live DMX!

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