Family & Companions
A formidably talented and somewhat nihilistic performer, menacing, muscular and magnetic rapper DMX put his powerful charisma to good use, starting his film career in 1998 as his recording career was on the ascendancy. Born Earl Simmons in Baltimore, the youngster and his five half-sisters relocated with their mother to Yonkers, New York in the early 1970s. A troubled home life led to problems at school, and a series of group foster homes where young Simmons would be sequestered due to his violent tendencies. While robbery was the way the young man made his living in his teens, a developing talent in the field of music emerged. He started out as the "beat box" in freestyle rap shows, but quickly found that more glory went to the rapper, and pursued that career. Freestyle competitions (like one where he and fellow future superstar Jay-Z were the last men standing) won him notice in the "Unsigned Hype" column in the hip-hop monthly The Source. A founder of Ruff Ryders Entertainment (the group that would go on to include and foster the talents of such stars as Eve and The Lox), DMX was signed to Sony's unrelated Ruffhouse Records in 1992, but lack of promotion left the rapper with the desire to leave his contract. Faced with his fizzled single and hot properties like Cypress Hill already on board, Ruffhouse let DMX out of their deal.
Five years later, Def Jam stepped up to the plate and signed DMX, launching what would become a stellar career. With a fearsome bark and insightful lyrics that largely focused on the internal struggles between good and evil rather than the standard money, cars and "ho's," DMX made 1998 his year, with two multi-platinum albums released (both debuting at Number One on Billboard's charts). That year he also made his feature debut in the hip-hop organized crime drama "Belly," playing "ghetto president" Tommy Brown, a thug about town who grows apart from his aptly named, more intellectual childhood friend and conspirator Sincere (fellow rapper NAS). Unfortunately, great record sales and a strong performance in the film wasn't what kept DMX in headlines, it was his numerous run-ins with the law. An rape charge that was squashed due to his voluntary DNA evidence, gun raps, allegations of stabbings and moving violations followed the musician around. Though nearly every charge was subsequently dropped, retractions don't make headlines the way allegations do. One of his only convictions, which led to a fine and a two-day sentence in a Trinidadian jail, was for using obscenities in his concert performance, a laughable charge to be brought against a rapper.
DMX released the successful "...And Then There Was X," an album that spawned the musician's first Top 40 hit, the remarkably catchy "Party Up (Up in Here)." The multi-platinum album debuted at Number One in December of 1999. A featured role in the Jet Li gangland vehicle "Romeo Must Die" (2000) didn't showcase DMX to his full ability, but it did at least establish that "Belly" wasn't a fluke. The well-made hip-hop tour documentary "Backstage" put the rapper on the big screen again in 2000. While he made headlines for his soap opera-like dealings with a Cheektowaga, New York court and a 15 day jail sentence, DMX's co-starring role in "Exit Wounds" (2001) hit theaters. Playing a street smart crime lord who joins up with Steven Seagal's burnt-out cop to battle police corruption, DMX would prove his star status with a far bigger role than he had in previous efforts. DMX's fourth album, "The Great Depression," which dropped in the summer of 2001, was the rapper's most introspective work yet and showed a definite progression in his development as an artist.
2003 found DMX back working in film, co-starring alongside Jet Li in "Cradle 2 the Grave."
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Sent to first group home at age seven (date approximate)
Resided at Children's Village in Dobbs Ferry, New York, a foster center he revisited at Christmas time 2000
Heralded in the "Unsigned Hype" column in the hip-hop monthly The Source
Released the Ruffhouse Records single "Born Loser"; after its relative failure and Ruffhouse's obvious focus on more successful acts like Cypress Hill, DMX's request to be released from his contract was granted
Signed to Def Jam Records
Released multiplatinum debut album "It's Dark and Hell is Hot" in May; released the follow up "Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood" six months later; set a record as the only male artist to have two albums debut at Number One in the same year
Was accused of rape, but charges were dropped after a blood sample voluntarily provided by the rapper cleared him
Made feature debut in "Belly"
His third release "... And Then There Was X" debuted at Number One on the album charts
Toured with fellow rappers Jay-Z, Method Man, Redman and others as part of the Hard Knock Life Tour; the tour hit Colorado shortly after the Columbine massacre and the rappers donated their profits from the performance to the victims' families
Was set to perform at the MTV Video Music Awards and was dropped from the lineup for not showing up for rehearsals; replaced by Jay-Z
Served two days in prison in the island nation of Trinidad, convicted of swearing at a public concert
Cracked the Top 40 with his anthemic single "Party Up (Up in Here)"
Played casino owner Silk in the gangland romance "Romeo Must Die", directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak
Had a cameo as himself in an episode of "Moesha" (UPN)
"Backstage", a documentary chronicling 1999's Hard Knock Life Tour released, featuring candid behind-the-scenes footage
In keeping with tradition, didn't show up for appearance on the MTV Video Music Awards, replaced by Nelly; later said he contractually obligated to be on the set of "Exit Wounds" in Canada at the time of the ceremony
Inked a publishing deal with Harper Entertainment for his autobiography, tentatively titled "A Dogz Life"
Bought a church facing eviction and founded Mary Ella House, a foundation named after his grandmother that houses and supports teenage mothers while they return to school
After various no-shows and bench warrants, began serving his 15-day sentence for driving without a license, the result of a plea bargain that got him out of jail time for speeding and possession of marijuana charges; slapped with additional contempt of court charge upon his surrender
Released his fourth album "The Great Depression"
Co-starred with Steven Seagal in "Exit Wounds", directed by Bartkowiak
Made his third film with Bartkowiak, "Cradle to the Grave", which also co-starred Jet Li
Was arrested in June for using profanity during a concert on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts and Nevis
Co-starred with David Arquette in the drama "Never Die Alone"