One more night of trouble, at least one more night, God keep him warm: a Hip Hop pioneer named Earl Simmons from Yonkers. Nightly, angels swoop in and take the blind, the merciless, the merciful to their final stay. The music he made will keep and persevere, preserving his memory and that of the streets that only vanquished and vicious dare enter.
At 14 years old, Hip Hop was the source of my universe as my mind began to endure the ballistic effects of schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. I played Aceyalone by my bedside nightly because he seemed like the wisest of men, so clever and inspired by language. I wanted nothing else in my life than to be well-spoken while resources were short, and my mind shorted, clinging on to school boy dreams and streets alert and hungry for more young souls. The truth is much of the world I struggle to understand, and many of the lyrics and writings that I’ve drowned myself in are hard for me to de-cypher. But Hip Hop is something you live as well as something you love. The words can miss the listener while driving and inspiring. Hip Hop can inspire the voiceless to speak, the blind to see, the penniless to riches.
I memorized Digital Underground, Gangstarr, Too Short, and Ice Cube lyrics before my teenage years. As I grew more inward, struggling with my identity, Hip Hop was there to give my character edge, provide a path to community and fellowship. Hip Hop quieted the voices cascading in my head, and it cleared my mind when I wandered with ear phones and mean streak markers, alone, out for “dolo”. And now two decades out of the 90s, I’m still going out for “dolo” with an SUV and Nipsey Hussle (RIP) on my speakers. Except now my missions involve making paper, building cities, writing creatively, and pushing towards the finite future.
I say these things because DMX is holding on to his nights and days quietly with a circle of prayer and love by his bedside. He comes to the crossroads after a battle with substance abuse and a massive heart attack caused organ failure.
Why does God take away so many Rappers? Why is it so hard for someone who speaks reality to a cold world? The newspaper is filled with dead bodies but seldom of raw emotion and feeling. When newscasters and media types write they leave out so much that Rappers flesh out. They stick to “facts” and leave their audience hanging until other “facts” emerge. They cause alarm, stories prioritized by classist, racist, sexist discourse coded so as to appear benign but driving towards a collective narrative that does not apply to the masses but a privileged few.
Hip Hop is accessible and speaking forward driven by therapeutic release and collective consumption of dreams.
Dogs are not meant to be part of our human packs, our human reality. They are domesticated as they bring opportunities and fortune. They adapt with the same conditions that humans adapt to. They wander where we wander and are housed where we seek comfort and safety. From pretty and trained, to ravaged and ruthless, dogs wake and crawl to our rhythm our heart beat and lifestyle.
This morning, I pen this tribute for DMX with thoughts of the future, the importance of health, art and community. This morning, I pause for the weary and listen to his immortal words this morning as I write. His words stir me awake with bite and bark in my heart. It is hard to see a fighter nearing his final breath. But his impact will be felt, his words bark life into the day and guard the living with his words preserved in harmony.