a rap love affair: DMX’s eternal freedom

The thing that held me close when it came to DMX was his unapologetic humanity. Sure, Big was one of the greatest rap storytellers of all time, without question. Both him and Jay expressed remorse about the life they “left behind” in varying ways. With Nas, his weaving of knowledge was always profound. But with X, he was unabashed in his pain. He let you know that he teetered, chronically, between the light — and the dark, in a way that most rappers in his heyday did not. In fact, in a way that most black men did not. He also managed to do it in such a way that he could never ever be considered “soft”.

But what’s wrong with soft?

It’s no small fact that men, particularly black men, expressing their innermost emotions, even in 2021, is still a struggle; though the surge in the promotion of mental health, coming on the heels of the still ongoing pandemic, has helped this movement tremendously. DMX was unapologetic about his struggles. He let you know, openly, from album to prayer, from trial to tribulation, that he needed help, and that he was seeking it, however he could. This quality was extraordinarily rare to me, growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. A first generation Caribbean American child, I was used to being around people who valued work over tears, who saw the application of said work as the salve and balm to anything that was bothering them. DMX challenged that entire paradigm, from 1998, until his dying day.

It breaks my heart that the wisdom in his music, in his words, the prayerful essence that he gave us regularly, the lyrics he crafted, the peek into his pain over the past 23 years, was not enough. He gave us so much, without apology, fearful and yet he still gave — and we weren’t ever able to help him with the one thing he craved so desperately — peace.

So, aside from amazing music, pain and struggle — what other lessons do we get from Mr. Earl Simmons, our Dark Man X?

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Kimi Michelle

Kimi Michelle

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Change agent. Soca & rap junkie. BK Girl in Queens. Mom. Chef, Writer, & Psychic Medium. Chili oil obsessed. Trinidad & Barbados stand up.