The narrative of the Black Man in America continues with Daunte Wright, 20, gunned down by a white, female cop in a Minneapolis suburb who thought she was using a Taser.
Does it sound like Fruitvale Station 2009, when Oscar Grant was face down on the ground and shot by an officer who thought he was firing a Taser? And all of this just 10 miles from where another white officer is on trial for excessive force that resulted in the killing of George Floyd.
Earl Simmons would have had a lot to rap about. But the mic has already dropped for the icon known as DMX.
On April 9, I got a news flash at 4:11 a.m. Oakland time. Britain’s Prince Philip died. I slept through it.
Five hours later at 9:35 a.m. the New York Times flashed the real breaking news: “DMX, the snarling yet soulful rapper whose string of No.1 albums electrified audiences and reflected his gritty past, is dead at 50.”
This time, I paid attention. You probably did, too.
DMX sold more records than the Queen’s Duke. And now DMX was pronounced dead from that heart attack he suffered on April 2.
To be honest, I didn’t know the difference between DMX and my old Reeboks.
I grew up with the Temptations, the Stylistics, and Tower of Power. When hip/hop and rap emerged, I was more prone to KRS-1.
By the time DMX hit, I was raising kids and playing “Barney” songs.
I missed out. But when he made Page one of the Times, I listened to all the music of Earl Simmons a/k/a DMX over the weekend.
I got it.
I use the moniker “Emil Amok” when I write my columns, because “amok” described the explosion of the pent-up anger in me. It’s my “rap” name.
But my columns are practically the Queen’s English compared to DMX.
A major voice of Black America, he sang the real headlines of the community.
With multiple arrests for fraud, assault, weapons possession, drugs, DUI, Simmons knew a part of the Black experience well. He did jail time for animal cruelty, drug possession and theft, and then again for tax evasion. It all came out in his defiant music, where he put into rhymes and a back beat what it meant to be Black in America.
After listening to his “Ruff Ryder’s Anthem,” his macho calling card, and his other songs like his hit “Party Up (Up in Here),” you notice he’s in the world that doesn’t use the euphemistic phrase “n-word.”
I live and work in a white supremacists’ world that wants to hide racism and pretend it doesn’t exist. DMX lived in the world where the word is real and exists as a source of agony and identity.
He wasn’t pretending.
He just says the word in full. A lot.
No one censored DMX. His music was raw and ready for a rap battle at the drop of a hat. In his memoir, he said he always made it personal. “Nothing was too rude or vicious for me because I didn’t care.”
That’s what made him a winner. It’s the kind of “nothing to lose” confidence you take to a fight. But he was also known for his introspective songs, like “Damien,” where he wonders “Where’s my guardian angel? Need one, wish I had one.” In concert, he could show a commanding spiritual sense, switching from the profane to the profound, often heard preaching and praying to his audiences.
Simmons was born on Dec. 18, 1970, and grew up in Yonkers, N.Y. He rarely saw his father and lived with a single mother who beat him. He turned to street crime and ended up in group homes or detention facilities. Or on crack. He found love in fighting dogs– ironic because he spent jail time in 2008 for animal cruelty.
In “A Yo’Kato,” (a dog named after a Bruce Lee character? It’s our common ground. I love dogs and Bruce), DMX sings to a favorite dog who died.
“I need you to save me a spot, next to you and the Lord. I don’t know when I’m coming but keep checking the door.”
The angel Gabriel had a dog looking out for DMX.
The New York Times is not where you turn to get the Black experience in America. But they couldn’t ignore the passing of one of American pop culture’s leading Black voices of a generation. Nor can I.
Let the world mourn the Queen’s prince. Where DMX was king, he spoke the news and told the truth.
Emil Guillermo is an award-winning Bay Area journalist and commentator. See his vlog at www.amok.com