DMX: Who We Be

After suffering a heart attack, DMX—considered to be one of the most influential rappers of all time—passed away last week, at 50 years old. Born Earl Simmons, and part of the Ruff Ryders collective, DMX balanced a gruff machismo with sincere vulnerability during a hyper-masculine era of hip-hop. His lyrics traced his struggles and spirituality, he spoke candidly about addiction, and he often cried during live performances. Surviving a rough childhood pervaded with abuse, DMX often found comfort, companionship and affection with stray dogs—an animal that became a common motif throughout his work. The prolific rapper (and sometimes actor) began writing lyrics at 14, and went on to sell 20 million albums. “Who We Be” from 2001’s The Great Depression is a list of sorts, with contrasting entities illustrating the dualism of DMX’s existence—and that of many others. As he told GQ in 2019, “I’d rather make music for people that I come in contact with, people that I can count on. That’s what I make my music for. People in the hood.”