Hip Hop lost one of its best soldiers when DMX passed away. The Rap icon struggled throughout his life but didn't let his obstacles stop him from becoming one of the most inspirational artists the culture has ever seen. If there is a chance to celebrate the life and talents of DMX, we won't miss it. As we commemorate the 25th anniversary of DMX's debut album, It's Dark & Hell Is Hot, we remember the legendary rapper's impact. Let's revisit the groundbreaking release that helped solidify Earl Simmons as a Rap legend.
A (Gentle) Beast From New York
Born Earl Simmons in 1970, DMX rose to prominence in the late 1990s. DMX spoke at end about his tough upbringing, often enduring abuse from his mother and finding solace on the streets. There, he would discover friendships in abandoned or wild street dogs. While they were a threat to others, they found comfort in Simmons. The partnership would become DMX's staple, often barking in songs or keeping dogs by his side.
The rapper's raw, aggressive style and introspective lyrics about personal struggle and faith set him apart from his contemporaries. Before his debut album, DMX gained attention through his electrifying live performances and guest appearances on tracks like LL Cool J's "4, 3, 2, 1" and Mase's "24 Hrs To Live."
It's Dark & Hell Is Hot Storms The World
DMX's debut album, It's Dark & Hell Is Hot, was released on May 19, 1998, courtesy of Ruff Ryders Entertainment and Def Jam Recordings. The album showcased DMX's signature growling delivery and hard-hitting lyrics. With Swizz Beatz, Dame Grease, and P.K. productions, the album featured an array of dark, atmospheric beats that perfectly complemented DMX's intense style. Still, his gentler approach to songs like "How It's Goin' Down" resonated with women. Soon, DMX was finding mass appeal.
It's Dark & Hell Is Hot included several standout tracks, such as "Ruff Ryders' Anthem," "Get At Me Dog," and "Stop Being Greedy." The album also featured guest appearances from fellow Ruff Ryders members like The LOX, Drag-On, and Eve. This cemented DMX in the mainstream and showed that the collective was expanding exponentially.
Upon its release, It's Dark & Hell Is Hot garnered widespread praise and commercial success. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling over 250,000 copies in its first week. It went on to achieve quadruple-platinum status, with more than four million copies sold in the United States.
The album's lead single, "Get At Me Dog," reached No. 39 on the Billboard Hot 100, while "Ruff Ryders' Anthem" and "Stop Being Greedy" also enjoyed charting success. The project set the stage for what was to arrive from DMX's catalog. The introduction to the New York emcee was arguably one of his most vulnerable with commercial appeal.
DMX's Influence Is Unmatched
It's Dark & Hell Is Hot had a lasting impact on hip hop, as DMX's authenticity echoed throughout. Although the trauma manifested itself lyrically and personally, he was unapologetic about who he was. He never kept his Christian faith a secret and often would stop during live shows to pray over the crowd. This battle between what was and who he wanted to be was palpable, and his debut record was the beginning of his public journey. Much of who DMX was contrasted with the materialism and flashy lifestyles often depicted in rap. However, his influence can be found in many growling, raspy-voiced artists who emerged after him.
The Death Of An Icon
DMX tragically passed away on April 9, 2021, after suffering a heart attack. The rapper was hospitalized before his passing, and the worldwide response was unlike any other. Well wishes and kind words poured in, but sadly, DMX succumbed to his ailments. Many of his contemporaries highlighted DMX's significant impact on their lives, personally and professionally, and celebrated his undeniable influence on the culture.
In the wake of his death, DMX's music experienced a resurgence in popularity, with fans revisiting It's Dark & Hell Is Hot and his subsequent albums. Streaming services reported a significant increase in DMX's music consumption, underscoring fans' lasting connection with his artistry. As we reflect on the album's 25-year journey, let's honor DMX's memory by appreciating the unforgettable mark he left behind.