The rapper known to the world as DMX—whose real name was Earl Simmons—was one of the most prolific and influential rap artists of the early 2000s. The world was shocked when he died suddenly in April 2021. DMX, who had been in a coma for a week before his death, was just 50 years old.
April 9, 2021
On April 2, 2021, DMX had a heart attack and lost consciousness. He was transported to a hospital in White Plains, New York, and placed on life support. Though there was initially some hope that he would recover from his comatose state, his condition worsened that night.
He experienced extensive oxygen deprivation to his brain, leading to no brain activity. Hospital staff performed resuscitation efforts for roughly half an hour. Medical reports stated that his brain was without oxygen for 30 minutes altogether.
Within days, his representatives released statements saying that he was experiencing multiple organ failures and was essentially in a vegetative state; doctors were no longer hopeful that he would be able to recover. However, reports to the media were confusing and misleading, causing fans to believe that he had begun breathing on his own again.
After remaining in a coma for a week, he was pronounced brain dead on April 9 after suffering lung, liver, and kidney failure. He was 50 years old.
Sources later said that, though resuscitation efforts had helped him regain a pulse during his early hospitalization, he had had no brain activity since his arrival and, for all intents and purposes, his death was instant.
Cause of Death
Because of his relatively young age, the medical staff made a moderate investigation into his cause of death. However, they did not find it necessary to complete a full autopsy. The Westchester County Medical Examiner’s office released a statement attributing his death to a heart attack from cocaine use.
The heart attack caused significant enough cardiac arrest to stop the flow of oxygen to his brain, leading to brain death.
An analysis of the rapper’s urine indicated that he had used cocaine recently. The medical examiner’s office considered that the presence of the drug along with other evidence from his body ruled out the need for an autopsy.
DMX had long struggled with cocaine addiction. He said that it began when he was just 14 years old after an acquaintance gave him a cocaine-laced marijuana cigarette.
Throughout his life, he went through multiple stints in rehab, often needing to cancel concerts to make time for recovery. His last stay in a rehab facility was in 2019.
In 2016, he collapsed in the parking lot of a Ramada Inn in Yonkers, New York. Passersby found him unresponsive and contacted emergency authorities, who administered intravenous Narcan.
Though Simmons said that he had not been using drugs and had instead collapsed from a severe asthma attack, he regained consciousness after receiving the medication. However, police on the scene did not find drugs on his person.
After his death, conspiracy theories sparked online that his fatal heart attack had been caused by receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. However, representatives for the rapper quickly shut the rumors down.
Not only had he never received a COVID vaccine, but he may not have even been eligible for one at the time of his death; universal vaccine eligibility was not declared until April 19, 2021, 10 days after he died.
While DMX was still hospitalized, fans who had heard of his hospitalization gathered for a candlelit vigil outside of White Plains Hospital on April 4. They played some of his music, accompanied by members of the Ruff Ryders, his record label.
Many celebrities took to social media to express their grief and condolences at the rapper’s death. These included, among countless others, Eminem, Gabrielle Union, Missy Elliott, LeBron James, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg, Timbaland, Chance The Rapper, and Shaquille O’Neal.
Some of these included memories of collaborations with DMX, while others shared their personal reactions and experiences of time spent with him. Others merely expressed the extent to which the rapper had influenced and inspired them.
The New York State Senate declared December 18 “DMX Day”; Governor Andrew Cuomo presented the rapper’s family with the flag that had flown over the capitol on the day that he died. Other public expressions of condolences came from Mike Spano, mayor of the rap artist’s hometown, Yonkers.
Memorial Service And Funeral
DMX had both a celebration of life ceremony and a funeral. These took place on subsequent days—April 24 and 25, 2021—in Brooklyn, New York.
The celebration of life took place at Barclays Center on the first day. The rapper’s casket was escorted by a procession of motorcycles in honor of Ruff Ryders. In lieu of a hearse, a black monster truck emblazoned with the words “Long Live DMX” transported his body to the service.
The celebration of life ceremony alternated between live musical performances and speeches from his friends, family, and collaborators. Performers included the Sunday Service Choir founded by Kanye West. The ceremony was streamed on the social media accounts of DMX. Several notable hip hop artists gave speeches, including Nas and Swizz Beatz.
The following day, the rapper’s funeral was held at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn. Among the attendees were Alicia Keys, Nas, Lil Kim, and Swizz Beatz, as well the rap artist’s ex-wife, Tashera Simmons. The ceremony, which lasted five hours, included both in-person and pre-recorded speeches as well as musical performances.
DMX was laid to rest in Oakland Cemetery in his hometown of Yonkers, New York.
The rapper’s legacy in the world of modern hip hop cannot be exaggerated. He is widely credited with popularizing the subgenre of horrorcore and cutting a different path that contrasted with the popular, danceable hip hop songs of the early 2000s. Many have described him as one of the most influential rappers of the 2000s, setting the tone for how the genre would develop through the start of the 21st century.
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