April 8, 2020 DMX Vigil, Yonkers, NY

You may know DMX as the infamous rapper. But Yonkers knows him as something else. When DMX became famous he took Yonkers with him. He spoke about where he came from with such pride. He wrote about his hometown, he filmed his videos here, he had photographers come to the projects to take his photos. With his forced presence and signature growl he elevated the hip-hop scene in Yonkers to a level that has not yet been duplicated. Throughout the years he gave back to his community through programs that helped low income residents. DMX showed us what success looked like. But he never got complacent because I suspect he knew it could all be stripped away.

He also spoke about the pain. He made it out of the projects but I don't think the projects ever made it out of him. The Yonkers he grew up in was not for the fragile heart. We saw confirmation of a troubled man throughout his career and we heard it throughout his lyrics. In between growls we heard his prayers. Each prayer was like a window into a private confessional booth. We can hear his gratitude and desperation. Always raw, always anguished.

I’m a child of 90’s hip-hop and R&B. But it’s hard for me to talk about 90’s hip-hop without talking about the problematic lyrics that did not age well. DMX has a few and I can’t justify these lyrics. However, when I was out taking photos in DMX’s neighborhood on April 8th, a particular DMX song was played loudly and when the time came I braced myself for those problematic lyrics to flow out of the loudspeakers and echo off the buildings. But instead those lyrics were cut out of the song, and no one was rapping along to what we all knew should have been there.

We’re products of our environment and our circumstances. We all struggle with morality, faith, art, life, addictions. But we’re also ever evolving. We can love a person who is flawed, forgive his past and appreciate what he gave us because we are also flawed. Some of us are just more honest about it than others.

DMX lived many lives but unfortunately he lost his last one yesterday. I never met him but I know who he is. He’s our homeboy. He’s our hometown hero. We claim him because he never forgot where he came from. Yonkers. 

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