Well, we knew this day was coming.
Sadly, foresight didn’t ease the pain.
Earl Simmons, better known to the world of hip-hop as DMX, passed away at 50 today after being on life support for several days following a heart attack, the family said.
Sadly, younger hip-hop fans may only know X for his troubles – a flailing ex-star who seemed to constantly be at war with himself.
But if you were around when he burst on the scene in 1997, you know him as so much more. DMX landed in the game like an absolute force of nature. No one sounded like him. No one rapped like him. No one had his energy. And in mere months he dropped not one but TWO chart-topping albums in the same calendar year, completely reshaping hip-hop in his own image.
The Shiny Suit era of excess and hyperactive samples was dead. It was all about gritty beats, motorcycles, bandanas and oversized Ruff Ryder jerseys.
It was at that point when DMX could be called the greatest rapper on the planet.
Usually in this space I’d do an album ranking or critically analyze his career. But not today. Besides, I already ranked his albums years ago – check it out here.
Today, I want to celebrate, not critique. So join me as I share my 25 personal favorite DMX songs.
Again, I’m not saying these are his best songs (though some truly are). And they’re not ranked in any way. These are just the songs I’ve rocked with the most for more than 20 decades.
To be fair, I haven’t even listened to any of X’s music yet today. It’s just been too hard. But music heals and I’m sure I’ll be back on my favorites soon.
DMX was defined by his faith and his ferocity. Here’s the songs that mean the most to me.
“Slippin'” is without a doubt one of my personal favorite songs of all time, from any artist. The storytelling is just so raw and vivid. It’s DMX at his most vulnerable – and at his best.
The kickoff for DMX’s gamechanging debut It’s Dark & Hell Is Hot is an incredible scene setter. Dark, energetic and intriguing all at the same time. You know you’re in for greatness.
“What’s My Name”
The best part of this song? X cussing EVERYBODY out on the intro. Kills me every time.
“Dogs for Life”
There’s something so serene about Dame Grease’s production on this one. He was the mastermind behind most of X’s stellar debut album and I wish we had more time to see them together on subsequent releases. They made magic.
I was really annoyed a few weeks ago when Twitter tried to compare the Lil Nas X’s demonic publicly stunts to this incredible song. This is so much deeper. DMX literally going face to face with his demons produces one of the most iconic records in his catalog.
I wasn’t a big fan of the “Damien” sequel – just seemed like an excuse to throw Marilyn Manson in the mix and the dynamic didn’t work at all. But part 3 gets us back where we needed to be, proving that selling your soul comes with a price.
“Who We Be”
“Who We Be” was one of X’s last big singles, and what a way to go out. Once again, the energy is through the roof, but it’s more than a party anthem – it’s an affirmation of Earl’s journey.
This banger from DMX’s forgotten Undisputed album is just as good as any of his high-energy singles of his glory years. This one needed more exposure.
“How’s It Goin Down”
The great thing about DMX is even though he had a lot of radio success, his hits rarely sounded like radio singles. “How’s It Goin Down” is one of the few exceptions – but he doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of his aura to make it work. It’s the grimiest love song you’ve ever heard. I only wish we got the Faith Evans version on the album.
“Get At Me Dog”
I still remember exactly where I was when I first saw this video. The black and white imagery, the insane mosh pit setting, the Optimus Prime references – 1998 Edd was instantly hooked. DMX’s first single was a smash and a star was born.
“Stop Being Greedy”
DMX’s creatively was boundless, especially on his debut. X essentially takes the role of the angel AND the devil on his shoulder, showcasing the two sides of his conflicted persona. The menacing beat only adds to the atmosphere.
“N****s Done Started Something”
DMX might possibly be the most formidable posse rapper of all time. There’s a reason why he almost always closes out group tracks. NOBODY is following him. The album closer for It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot is proof, with X outshining all three members of the LOX and Mase (who was basically in his original Murda Mase incarnation – no shiny suits here). Everyone held it down but when X jumped on the track screaming DON’T COME AT ME WITH NO BULL****, USE CAUTION, he already won.
“Have You Eva”
Another hidden gem from that Undisputed album no one remembers, “Have You Eva” is another in a long line of reflective DMX tracks. Certainly he’s had greater success with other songs, but this one always stuck with me.
I’ll easily admit this is the most ridiculous song on the list (and one that’ll cause the usual suspects on Twitter to try to retroactively “cancel” the Dog) but I’ve always found it hilarious. DMX rants and raves about how much he hates his baby’s mother but the sheepishly admits at the end that he’ll run back to her anyway. You can’t stay mad at this guy.
“Bane Iz Back”
DMX’s final official single from back in 2017 was a refreshing return to form. He clearly was back in beast mode and ready for war – it’s a shame we never heard a full project from this era.
“Dats My Baby”
Another song that objectively isn’t that great but I still have a soft spot for. We very rarely get lovey-dovey DMX and he sounds pretty elated here with Tyrese at his side. Fun summertime track.
“We’re baaaaaaaaaack!” Another awesome collabo track from the master, this time fellow Ruff Ryders Eve and Jada come along for the fun. X’s outro, screaming like a super villain about how he’s the five time champ (indeed, all five of his solo albums at that point were all No. 1 hits) gets me hype every time.
“We Don’t Give a F***”
This somewhat random album cut from X’s sophomore set Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood – you know, the one where’s he’s bathing in Frank’s RedHot sauce on the cover – has been a fave from the jump. X, Jadakiss and Styles P wishing death on their traitorous friend feels like an episode of The Wire.
At more than SIX MINUTES, this track gives you all you want and more. Sheek Louch, Drag-On, Cross and InfraRed (trust me, they’re good) and even Syleena Johnson come through for yet another rousing posse cut.
“What They Really Want”
Of course I had to shout out this one. Earl’s infamous roll call of his conquests is what most people remember (“ABOUT THREE KIMS!”) but Sisqo bursting his vocal chords on the hook is what really seals the deal here.
“Get It on the Floor”
A HIGHLY underrated party starter, Swizz Beatz and X had legendary chemistry together. Props to Swizz for creating such a simplistic but addictive beat.
“Let Me Fly”
I always respected DMX for clinging so strongly to his faith and being so vocal about his journey publicly. While “Let Me Fly” ain’t getting played at anybody’s Easter Sunday service, the spirituality is deep and resonates so strongly.
I’m admittedly not the biggest fan of X’s third and most successful album …And Then There Was X but it had it share of gems, including this often overlooked album cut. That hook hits like a ton of bricks today.
The greatest supergroup that never was. Long before Ashanti n’ dem were alllllll over the radio, Ja Rule, Jay Z and DMX were the original Murder Inc and this track was their coming out party. Once again, X absolutely steals the show – no small feat considering the talent here.
“Ruff Ryders Anthem Remix”
I know, we all love the original “Ruff Ryders Anthem,” but you know who REALLY loved the original “Ruff Ryders Anthem?” The radio, which quickly played it to DEATH. That’s why I quickly latched onto the remix, which might not be as legendary but was certainly just as much fun.
What are your favorite DMX tracks? Leave your favorites below.