On the heels of promoter Damon Feldman’s decision to cancel “that” fight (then potentially reneging on that decision), I began to think a bit about how far Dark Man X has fallen over the years. When I was younger, though I probably should have been listening to something more “kid-friendly,” DMX was one of my favorite artists. I thought, even though he was darker than your average mainstream artist, that his career would burn brighter than some of his contemporaries. His way with words, his bluntness on tracks, the unhinged aspect of DMX’s delivery. All of those things, to me, were keys to success. Heck, some of them inspired my own musings. But, alas, like many tormented musical geniuses, it was not in the cards for Mr. Simmons to become as legendary as his early discography would have one believe.

Somewhere along the way, between The Great Depression and (maybe?) knuckling up with that Floridian, he lost it. Granted, DMX was never really an artist that had it all figured out, as his rap sheet is longer than his rap accolades. But, it’s a sad descent nonetheless. With arrests ranging from using indecent language at a concert to speeding to animal cruelty, you’re probably asking me “Speed, why the hell do you feel sorry for this man? Why do you wish that he’d get it together? He’s obviously a lost cause!” And while those things could very well be true, DMX’s descent sticks out in my mind for a couple of reasons.

First, I grew up in Baltimore during the late 1980s and 1990s. I came from an environment where I’d see DMX-like situations pop up almost daily. So, as much as I loved his music, I wanted to do more than just sell dope or rob people or whatever. In some ways, I felt that, somewhere deep down, he spoke on all these issues to shine a light on them. In other words, “don’t do these messed up things if you actually want to get out and make something of yourself.” Which leads me to my second (obvious) point: I wish that DMX would’ve practiced what he (subconsciously) preached instead of practicing what he consciously preached about (in other words, doing a ton of dirt and ultimately, getting screwed up because of it). DMX could have had a Jay Z-like career (in terms of relevancy and the like), but instead allowed his demons to take him under.

Artists, if you take one thing away from this, know the following. Yes, you can come from dirt, you can start from the bottom. But, eventually, you’re going to have to keep yourself from dropping back down to the bottom, regardless of what it takes. If it means switching up your whole demeanor, your circles, or whatever. You want to succeed in this game and not allow yourself to be an artist with infinite potential–and infinite criminal charges against you? Look at DMX’s life as a motivator to do better.

It may be, in some ways, too late for him, but it’s not for you.

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