Rapper DMX had the heart of a lion, frequently posting inspirational and motivational quotes on his Facebook page about drive and survival. He was no stranger to either concept, having experienced an incredibly rough childhood and ending up on the streets to get away from an abusive household by the time he was 14.
A Gen X standout, DMX had a hit song and video in “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” in which he and several friends rode motorbikes and ATVs. The clip blew up the rap and R&B world in a new way; none had featured dirt bikes, ATVs, or sport bikes in videos before and especially not at this level. Before “Anthem,” rap videos focused on supercars and expensive toys instead. Today, if you do a quick search on DMX and ATVs on Twitter you’ll find a number of fans talking about how he inspired them to start riding.
Born in Yonkers, New York on almost exactly the same day as I was, Earl Simmons took the stage name DMX as he started his musical career. He was only 14 when local rapper Ready Ron–whom Simmons looked up to as a mentor–introduced the teen DMX to both rap and weed. In an interview in 2020, Simmons revealed that the first blunt Ready Ron gave him had been laced with crack, setting him up for a lifetime of addiction.
DMX found his footing in his 20s, releasing his first album It’s Dark and Hell is Hot in 1998. It was on that album that “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” appeared; an interesting tidbit you may not have known is that it was written by a young Swizz Beats and DMX added his own interpretation. “Party Up (Up in Here)”, also produced by Swizz Beats, was released in February 2000 and it was a smash hit, reaching number 27 on the Hot 100. It’s still played (in non-pandemic times) at arenas and ballparks to get the crowd hyped up with its pounding beat.
The rapper became an actor not long after his debut album, and he got a taste of supercars with a 1997 Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster in the 2002 movie Exit Wounds with Steven Seagal. DMX had a small part in Romeo Must Die, which had the same director as Exit Wounds, and the studio gave him a chance to be one of the stars.
Fans might remember a fast-paced chase scene during which DMX hops on a quad in Cradle 2 the Grave. He rolls over a police car and even flies through the air and you can tell he’s in his element. At home, fans in South Carolina remember him riding four-wheelers around his property and doing wheelies, laughing and clearly having a blast. It was there that the rapper flipped his ATV, ending up at the emergency room for stitches in his head and a concussion in 2012. Of course, he got right back on the bike as soon as he could.
In his career, DMX released eight studio albums, five compilation albums, 46 singles, and 24 music videos. He was also a prolific collaborator, pairing up with artists like Jay-Z, Ozzy Osbourne, Lil Jon, and–one of my favorites–Ludacris. He was only the second rapper (the first was Tupac Shakur) to achieve two platinum albums in one year with the first two out of the gate produced by Ruff Ryders and Def Jam. But in the enthusiast world, we’ll remember him most for breaking ground to get a whole generation into motorbikes.
I hope you’re riding ATVs in heaven, X.
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