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Rap Biographies: DMX

Dark Man X, The Divine Master of the Unknown, or simply DMX, is an African-American rapper and actor. His dark, gothic subject matter and his stern, barked rhymes are highly praised by fans and critics alike. He is considered one of the greatest rap artists of all time, and crossed over genres.

Earl Simmons was born December 18, 1970, in Baltimore, Maryland. A young Earl moved with his aunt to New York City's Yonkers area, since his family wanted to remove him from his circle in Baltimore. A troubled and abusive childhood turned him violent, and he spent a great deal of time living in group homes and surviving on the streets via robbery, which led to several run-ins with the law. During this period, he also began doing shows and battling other rappers, making a name for himself in the New York area.

He began rapping around the age of 13, amusing crowds of kids with rhymes that relied on spelled-out words, a style he called "spellbound." He made a name for himself on the freestyle battle scene and a local rapper eventually asked the young Earl to beatbox for him, and Simmons agreed. Eventually he decided to try his hand at serious rapping, and honed his skills during a stint at a group home.

After making a reputation for himself as a local DJ, DMX (who was inspired by DMX digital sounds machines) signed with Columbia Records and released the promo single, "Born Loser", but he left the company when he realized that he wasn't the record label's first priority.

Everything about DMX was unremittingly intense, from his muscular, tattooed physique to his gruff, barking delivery. He could move from spiritual anguish one minute to a narrative about the sins of the streets the next, yet keep it all part of the same complex character.

DMX began to rebuild his career with an appearance on one of underground mixtapes and in 1997, he earned a second major-label shot with Def Jam, and made a galvanizing guest appearance on LL Cool J's "4, 3, 2, 1." as well as on some others guest spots. In 1997, he earned a second major-label shot.

DMX was off the radar by most measures until his first album hit the industry. First DMX got the world's attention with his own bona fide street anthem, "Get At Me Dog". The single paved the way for DMX to release his first full-length album and on May 19, 1998, the rap landscape changed for good - DMX's "It's Dark and Hell is Hot" was laced with killer cuts: the LP hit shelves and smacked rap aficionados across the face giving new meaning to the Parental Advisory label. The album debuted as number one on the pop charts. Dark and Hell Is Hot earned DMX numerous comparisons to 2Pac for his booming, aggressive presence on the mic, and went on to sell over four million copies.

DMX retreated to the studio yet again, and in December he released the classic horror-film-on-wax, "Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood." Released only six months after his debut album, Flesh, which included the poignant, autobiographical song Slippin', also held the top spot on the charts, making DMX the first artist ever to have two number one debuts in the same year. X had grown meaner, darker and more violent in his lyrical prowess. "Bring Your Whole Crew" would tame anyone, while "Slipping" pushed listeners into a comfortable numb. This man's versatility and genius were starting to appear steadily.

About this time DMX made his motion picture debut in Hype Williams's controversial film Belly, portraying the leading role of a hustler from Queens out to get his - no matter what. He followed this with the role of Silk, a hip-hop club owner determined to survive amidst gang wars in producer Silver and director Bartkowiak's Romeo Must Die. DMX's portrayal was so powerful that it immediately led to his starring turn opposite Steven Seagal in Silver and Bartkowiak's next film, Exit Wounds.

After appearing on several artists' albums, it was time to return the favor, as The Lox, Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, and even Marilyn Manson appeared on the album.

Shortly after the album's release in May 1998, DMX was accused of raping a stripper in the Bronx, but was later cleared by DNA evidence. More serious charges were when DMX's uncle/manager was accidentally shot in the foot at a New Jersey hotel. DMX's home was raided by Police, and they filed animal cruelty, weapons, and drug possession charges against the rapper and his wife; he eventually plea-bargained down to fines, probation, and community service. In the midst of those difficulties, the Ruff Ryders posse -- of which DMX was a core, founding member -- released a showcase compilation, Ryde or Die, Vol. 1. With contributions from DMX and multiple guests it debuted at number one in the spring of 1999.

Toward the end of 1999, DMX released his third album, "...And Then There Was X", which became his third straight to debut at number one. It also produced his biggest hit single since "Get at Me Dog" with "Party Up (Up in Here)," which became his first Top Ten hit on the R&B charts. With this new album, it was becoming clear that X was a distraught soul. His inner struggle is shown in "Angel." While some may love to sit down and throw back a drink or two with DMX, they also run the risk of finding themselves face down in a back alley afterwards. After all, despite the fame, money and success, the dog barks, "I have no friends" and "I'm not a nice person" in "What's My Name?" Also in late 2002, DMX published his memoirs as E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX, and also recorded several tracks with Audioslave (i.e., the former Rage Against the Machine).

After three hugely successful albums in two years, after finally resolving his legal problems, DMX returned to the studio and completed his fourth album "The Great Depression." By now, DMX's authority in the landscape was carved in stone.

In September of 2003, DMX released his fifth album and became the only artist in the history of the ''Billboard 200'' to reach No. 1 with his first five albums. His success paved the way for Ruff Ryders to establish a label of its own, signing Eve, Drag-On, Swizz Beats, and former Bad Boy Records artists The Lox to their Interscope Records-distributed imprint. But fans and critics claimed disappointment with the album, most stating that it felt formulaic. After its release, DMX informed the public that he planned on retiring from the rap game and that "Grand Champ" would be his final album.

Meanwhile he continued to work as an actor. "Cradle 2 the Grave" marks DMX's third collaboration with Silver and Bartkowiak and his second time working with Jet Li. DMX's recent soundtrack contributions include powerful additions to the smash films "The Fast and the Furious and Rush Hour 2."

In June of 2004, DMX and a friend were arrested in the parking lot of Kennedy Airport in New York for allegedly attempting to steal a car and impersonating a federal agent. DMX was taken to central lockup in Queens and held on charges of attempted robbery, criminal impersonation and criminal mischief. In April of 2005, DMX was arrested in The Bronx for driving with a suspended license after his car crashed into a police cruiser. In October of 2005, DMX was sentenced to 60 days in prison after pleading guilty to two traffic violations while his license was suspended.

For now DMX is 6th best selling rapper of all time. He has his own record label and clothing line called Bloodline As for personal life: DMX has been married for 13 years to his wife Tashera Simmons. They have three sons: Xavier, Tacoma and Shawn. Rumored to be DMX's sixth solo album, this has had numerous problems with DMX switching record labels (he switched to Sony) and numerous delays. Songs from it have supposedly been leaked and being reworked.

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