All I saw was Black, and all I felt was pain
I come to you because it’s, you who knows
You showed me that everything is Black, because my eyes were closed.”
On today, we mourn the loss of Earl “DMX” Simmons. Dark Man X or “X” left this earth today to return home. Many will try to reduce him either intentionally or unintentionally into an addict, broken or rapper with a violent past. What I see is a man who taught me that it is okay to be flawed. Growing up I found myself battling depression and street trouble that mainly stemmed from my internal struggle with Christianity. I grew up in Tuskegee, Alabama-deep in the Bible South where being Baptist was as much birthright as being Black. I watched Christians backbite, destroy, belittle, be homophobic, be cheaters, destroy homes, and grow up poor. Christianity and God was praised for all the good. I often questioned why the bad wasn’t attributed to. When I spoke back that I wanted to study other religions, my parents spoke firmly against it, which only sparked my fascination with religious studies. The conflict to conform to what just is irritated me. Why should I follow a religion that causes so much grief just because my grandparents and parents say, “Go, do.”?
As a college student that had to hustle and get it out the mud to sustain money to eat let alone graduate, I found the complex duality of wanting to do the right thing but being forced with circumstances that gripped you to make difficult decisions and calculated risks. Later after an accident where a drunk driver hit my car in a hit-and-run, I found myself addicted to pain killers. The doctors at that time were over prescribing powerful narcotics without the information that we have now. Depression linked to the suicide of my best friend (almost a brother) William Brown, Jr., drive by killing of my good friend Cali and death from cancer of my Aunt Rose left me shattered as a man. But for family and God, it could have easily been me with a news article attached that focused on my losses or failures.
The truth is news tags should read: X loved ya’ll. X loved people and that love betrayed him. People betrayed X and sacrificed him. Even through it all, DMX continuously inspired generations of people to believe that no matter your circumstances, if you just had a little faith- that things would be okay. I guess that is why when they said you were dying X, we all played your prayers. We were hoping that a little faith would bring you back to us to finish the great works that you had started.
For many Black men, X was a role model of the moral conflictions and the crossroads that many of us face due to lack of opportunity and environment. It was the grit and realism in his voice that made beauty of the ugly. It was the sincere prayers that lingered long after the song’s final beat had dropped. That duality of roughness and softness was a transparency in hip-hop that we had not witnessed in a Black male rap artist which connected us to his artistry. Some called it rap. I like to think of DMX as a complex poet telling the stories of the time. Isn’t that what poets do? According to James Baldwin, “Poets have a responsibility to bare witness.” X bore witness for us and gave us a voice in the darkness. Who are the voices? Those disenfranchised with religion found God in rap songs. Those that were angry found calm in the beat. Those that are Black found justifiable rage at the injustices pointed out in rhyme. For me, I found the balance between my African spirituality, Japanese Zen principles and Christian roots. I found that a man can be flawed, complex and still be of God’s work.
I owe X with creating an avenue for “Not being okay’ to be “OK.” X made transparency in a male voice alright. For that I will be forever grateful. X asked, “What they really want from a nigga?” The answer X, “Nothing good sir. You did your job.” Rest well DMX.