DMX (aka Dark Man X) without a doubt is growling in heaven and screaming, “What?!” like only he can. Or at least that’s what I’d like to believe. As a fan, I was disheartened to learn of his overdose, heart attack, and excruciating stay at the hospital on life support. If you’re like me, I choose to remember him in his best light: the X that enlightened us with prayer, gave us hits like “Party Up (Up in Here),” “What These Bitches Want,” and “How’s It Goin’ Down.”
Addiction’s Prevalence in the U.S.
Addiction is a prevalent struggle that many people around the country face, not just celebrities. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 20.4 million Americans (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder in the prior year, but only 10% of them had received treatment. Another hard fact to realize is that in the U.S., people between the ages of 18 and 25 are more likely than people in any other age group to be living with a substance use disorder.
With these facts in consideration, DMX’s death really hit home for me. As the daughter of someone addicted to drugs who was also a career criminal, I instantly thought of my dad. My dad has been on hard drugs such as crack cocaine—and I’m sure others I’m not aware of—since before I was born, and my entire life. I’ve witnessed him going in and out of jail and prison since I was a child. The neglect lingers into adulthood. But drug abuse is a different kind of beast.
I’ve avoided unknown calls from random Florida area codes in fear that it would be someone calling to tell me that my dad has passed. We aren’t close, and although we share the same DNA, we are essentially strangers. But if he were to die today of an overdose, it would still affect me. As a child, I’d always wonder how he could choose drugs over me, and because of it, I’ve vowed to only date a guy that makes me a priority. Now that I’m grown and understand addiction a little better, I see how hard it must be to quit something you’ve become accustomed to for over 30 years. Maturing has given me more empathy for him as well as understanding.
DMX is one of my favorite artists, and I say artists because he was more than a rapper. He told stories, and he was a very spiritual and transparent person. He never hid his shortcomings, and I think that’s what made him legendary because he was so relatable. He let the world see his struggle, he talked about it, and he stood in his truth. And that’s what connected for me: him being completely himself.
What Causes Addiction?
According to Medical News Today, addictive substances “produce a euphoric feeling by triggering large amounts of dopamine in certain regions of the brain responsible for the feeling of reward. Addiction occurs when the act of using a substance takes over these circuits and increases the urge to consume more and more of the substance in order to achieve the same rewarding effect.”
Looking back on DMX’s life, he accomplished many things as an artist, as he was gifted as a rapper, songwriter, and actor. He was the first artist to debut an album at No. 1 five times in a row on the Billboard 200 charts. Overall, DMX has sold over 74 million records worldwide. He published a memoir in 2003 entitled, E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX. And he even starred in a reality television series in 2006 called DMX: Soul of a Man on BET.
Addiction knows no bounds. That means no one is exempt. There’s no stature, class, or hierarchy that’s invincible to succumbing to vices. I believe everyone has an addiction; it may not be as severe, but we all have crutches that we indulge in. And inevitably, too much of anything is bad for you.
Even still, DMX managed to make beautiful art despite his circumstances. J. Cole once said, “It’s beauty in the struggle,” and that statement resonates when I think of DMX’s catalog. He, like so many people in the world, fought to make something of himself, despite the pressure and burdens that he was living with.
DMX’s best friend Swizz Beatz, whom he called a brother, spoke about his selflessness and battles candidly in an Instagram video. What stood out the most is how he pinpointed DMX’s heart and intention.
“DMX was the biggest. And let me tell you why he was the biggest. He was the biggest because he prayed for everybody else, more than he did for himself,” the 42-year-old added, praising him for not flaunting his wealth via jewelry or cars. “He’d get on that stage and pray with 15,000 people, knowing that he needed more prayers than everybody that he was praying for. … My brother would take care of everybody before he would take care of himself,” Swizz Beatz said.
There is much to be said about a person’s humility, especially as big a star as DMX was. Beatz also went on to talk about how money wasn’t a factor for the rapper, as he was a millionaire. Beatz also said DMX was the most loyal person he’d ever known.
DMX’s music and artistic placements have created a legacy that represents who he was unapologetically. His struggles and triumphs collectively gave us the art that he provided.
Additionally, if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and substance abuse, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for help and assistance. It’s free, confidential, and available 24/7, 365 days a year.