The rapper and actor DMX, who died from a cardiac event in April at the age of 50, was laid to rest recently after a funeral procession in Brooklyn in which a monster truck carrying his crimson coffin was followed by a parade of motorcycles. It was a larger-than-life ceremony that took up a lot of space, befitting the swagger and the self-assured persona of this artist – and the noise of the engines probably approximated the driving volume of his radio hits and the gruff rumble of his growling vocals.
If you’ve been a fan, then you already have opinions about which of his chart-topping records is the best (he was the first artist to see his first five albums all debut at number one); about whether his charismatic bravado as an actor is best showcased in Romeo Must Die or Exit Wounds; about whether his troubled and street-smart upbringing finds its fullest lyrical expression in “Slippin’” or “X Gon’ Give it To Ya.”
But if you weren’t already well acquainted with DMX, then your likeliest exposure to his work was probably thanks to the ubiquity of his hit song “Party Up (Up in Here),” a pounding and indelibly catchy anthem from …And Then There Was X that shows up on the radio, at sporting events, and on TV and movie soundtracks – often heavily redacted, thanks to its nonstop profanity and violent imagery. In light of DMX’s untimely passing there’s something a little eerie about how death-haunted his biggest hits; in this, as in many of his songs, DMX threatens his enemies with violent reprisals, and the blustery verses pile up with images of graves and coffins and funerals.
But that was among DMX’s sobering gifts as an artist. If his beats invited you to dance, his words were a reminder that for everyone, at some point, the dancing stops.