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DMX’s Downfall: From Hip-Hop King to the Brink of Death

In 1998, DMX was the hottest rapper alive. This week, police resuscitated him after a possible overdose in a Ramada Inn parking lot. How the Ruff Ryder lost his way.

In 1998, DMX was the hottest rapper alive. This week, police resuscitated him after a possible overdose in a Ramada Inn parking lot. How the Ruff Ryder lost his way.

DMX was found unresponsive at a Ramada Inn parking lot in his native Yonkers, New York, this week after suffering a possible drug overdose. The growling rapper’s long history of addiction and arrests is as well-known as his music at this point—perhaps even more so—so it’s not hard to see why many would jump to those conclusions. Varying reports claimed that cops gave him CPR and a medic injected him with Narcan, which is an anti-opioid used to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.

It was reported that a witness at the scene said DMX had taken a powdered drug before he collapsed.

“We’re told when cops arrived DMX was on the ground in the parking lot next to a parked car,” reported TMZ. “Cops quickly determined he was lifeless, not breathing with no pulse and immediately began CPR.”

For his part, the man formerly know as Earl Simmons claims that he did not take any powder or drugs, and says all he remembers is that he was experiencing trouble breathing after a recent bout of bronchitis and then collapsed, while a family member reportedly told TMZ that he’d requested his inhaler for his asthma before falling unconscious. Asthma attack or drug overdose, it’s hard to know what to believe. Given DMX’s history, both are equally likely to be true. But every time his name pops up in the headlines, with mentions of drugs and health and this ominous, lingering feeling of impending tragedy, we’re reminded of how far he’s fallen—and how upsetting it is that he can’t seem to stop the spiral.

In the spring of 1998, there wasn’t an album rap fans like myself were more intensely anticipating than DMX’s debut. He’d been burning through hip-hop for months, with guest appearances on hits ranging from “Money, Power, Respect” and “24 Hours To Live” to “4,3,2,1” from flossy rappers like Ma$e and LL Cool J. His single “Get at Me Dog” had been released that winter and was a go-to track at parties on my college campus that year. I have fond memories of my college days, but in retrospect, that time was especially divided when it came to mainstream hip-hop fans on my small HBCU campus in central Georgia. Most of my peers fell into one of three camps: No Limit soldiers, Wu-Tang Clan disciples, and Bad Boy fanatics—not to mention those who were devoted to “artsier” fare from the Dungeon Family and Native Tongues/Soulquarians.

But everybody seemed to love DMX. He had the hardcore East Coast aggression, the radio-friendly hooks, and the “tear da club up” energy that resonated with all of the disparate camps at my school. We all had It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot that spring.

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