DMX (birth name Earl Simmons) was a very famous and successful American rapper, songwriter, actor and television star whose childhood was so brutal that it caused him to spend his entire life breaking the rules of society and going in and out of prison. Childhood trauma can cause self-destructive behavior in adulthood (Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am, Apr 2014;23(2):185–222). At the very young age of 50, after nearly three decades of a successful musical career, he died of a heart attack that according to some news reports was brought on by a drug overdose. He had started using crack cocaine at age 14 and spoke freely about his cycles of addiction and rehabilitation, a pattern of drug use that is associated with young heart attacks (Heart, Feb 15, 2021;107(8)).
Childhood Abuse and a Start In Music
Earl Simmons was born in 1970 to teenage parents who broke all contact with each other because his father did not want his mother to keep her newborn son. Throughout his childhood, Simmons was beaten regularly by his mother and her many boyfriends, who knocked out his teeth and left prominent scars on his face. He was kicked out of school in the fifth grade and his mother sent him to a home for abandoned children for 18 months. By age 14 he was living on the streets to escape his mother’s beatings, and his only friends were the stray dogs.
The local authorities took him off the streets and returned him to a children’s group home, where he became friends with some of the other residents who introduced him to hip hop music. However, he was already getting in trouble with the law and went to prison at age 16. While he was in prison and after being released, he wrote his own songs and sang regularly wherever people would listen to him, usually on street corners. In 1984, he met Ready Ron and they formed a rapper team. Simmons changed his name to “DMX”, after the Oberheim DMX drum that he used when he sang. Later he told people the DMX stood for “Dark Man X”. Soon he was releasing his own records and moving from street corners into nightclubs, and he became a successful rapper who sold lots of recordings.
Fame and Fortune
He released eight studio albums, including five No. 1 Billboard 200 hits. He was nominated for three Grammy Awards and five MTV Video Music Awards, and in 2000 he won the American Music Award for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist.
Some of his biggest hits were:
• “Party Up (Up in Here)”
• “Money, Power, Respect”
• “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem”
• “Get at Me Dog”
He also appeared in 19 movies, 18 television shows and a video game.
“Get at Me Dog” reached DMX’s second highest peak position on the Billboard Hot 100, and charted for 20 weeks in 1998. So far, “Ruff Ryders” is DMX’s second most-viewed song on YouTube, with more than 141 million plays. The poignant lyrics of “Money, Power, Respect” mirror DMX’s life: “Money, power and respect / What you need in life / Money, power and respect / When you eatin’ right/ Money, power and respect / Help you sleep at night / You’ll see the light / It’s the key to life.”
One Marriage, Many Children
At age 19, he married Tashera Simmons. They had four children together and divorced after 15 years. During his marriage he had several children with other women. He was reported to be the father of fifteen children, the last one born when he was 46.
In and Out of Prison
DMX said that his first term in prison, at age 16, was for stealing a dog from a junkyard.
• At age 18, he was imprisoned for carjacking, and while there he was caught stealing drugs from other inmates.
• At age 19, he was arrested for having hidden weapons and for having a dozen pit bulls in his home.
• At age 20, he was caught with marijuana.
• At age 31, he was incarcerated for driving without a license and using marijuana.
• At age 32, he was hospitalized for drug addiction after pleading guilty to animal cruelty, maintaining a public nuisance, disorderly conduct and possession of drugs.
• At age 34, he was arrested for carjacking and then claiming to be a federal agent; the charges included criminal impersonation, criminal possession of a weapon, criminal mischief, menacing, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
• At age 35, was jailed for violating parole.
• At age 38, he was arrested for drug abuse and animal cruelty.
• At age 39, he was imprisoned for aggravated assault.
• At age 40, he was arrested for reckless driving and alcohol abuse, and was sent to the Mental Health Unit of the Arizona State Prison.
• At age 41, he was arrested for driving at 102 miles per hour and driving with a suspended license.
• At age 43 he was arrested five different times for driving without a driver’s license, driving under the influence of alcohol, making an improper U-turn, having marijuana in his car, and having an uninsured and unlicensed vehicle.
• At age 45, he was arrested for robbery and owing child support.
• At age 47, he was charged with 14 federal counts of tax fraud, and failing to file income tax returns from 2010 to 2015.
• At age 48, he was arrested for leaving a drug treatment program for his addiction to cocaine and Oxycodone.
Lessons from DMX’s Short Life
On April 2, 2021, DMX had a heart attack at his home, was comatose and placed on life support, and died on April 9, 2021. He was 50 years old.
You would have expected DMX to stop breaking the law after he was repeatedly arrested and jailed. His talent as a rapper earned him major adulation and tremendous amounts of money, but his success could not rescue him from the emotional damage of his childhood. People who repeatedly break the rules are often suffering from irreversible trauma that occurred in childhood. Since you are unlikely to be able to change their behavior patterns, you may just have to keep your distance. Emotional scars from a difficult childhood usually remain forever (Tijdschr Psychiatr, 2017;59(5):286-296).
Earl Simmons — DMX
December 18, 1970 – April 9, 2021