Since the announcement of Earl “DMX” Simmons’ death, millions of fans have taken to social media to honor his life and career. The impact of the Yonkers rap legend is immense and wide-reaching—from Maxwell sharing thanks for believing in him in 1998 to others highlighting his charitable spirit—there will truly never be another one quite like DMX. One such fan, Sheila Matthews, detailed how DMX changed the direction of her own life and the lesson she learned during a brief meeting with him.
Matthews, who owns and operated The Black Regina George website, tweeted about her chance to speak with the legendary artist back in 2017. “It was all divine intervention,” she tweeted, sharing that she had heard his inimitable voice while inside her room. “… We spoke for 15 mins.” Details about their conversation were kept close to the vest, but Matthews offered that they talked about addiction and its effect on themselves and their respective families. She said X approached the topic with humble sympathy and encouraged her to forgive her “father for what he couldn’t control.” Matthews admitted she didn’t recognize the significance of the moment until much later in life.
“He said ‘forgive him.’ I needed to hear that. Of all [the] people, it came from someone I grew up listening to [because] of my dad,” she shared. “Sometimes in the moment you don’t understand the significance of a moment until it’s passed. To this day, I credit X for helping me learn forgiveness. I am praying that he gives himself grace — in this lifetime and beyond. His words and impact have left a deep legacy.”
The family of DMX announced his passing on Friday (Apr. 9) morning, exactly one week after he was hospitalized for a heart attack. His attorney Murray Richman told the Associated Press the rapper was placed on life support shortly after he was admitted; however, he did not confirm reports that a drug overdose caused the heart attack. Many have since taken to Twitter to call for others to be understanding of the perils of addiction and abuse, while continually celebrating the light inside of the man known as Dark Man X.
The 50-year-old history-making rapper, actor, and street poet had been fairly revealing when the topic of substance abuse arose. He opened up about his crack addiction during a 2020 appearance on People’s Party With Talib Kweli, and how he turned to drugs as a way to cope. “I learned that I had to deal with the things that hurt me,” he shared. “I didn’t really have anybody to talk to… in the hood, nobody wants to hear that…” he said. “Talking about your problems is viewed as a sign of weakness when actually it’s one of the bravest things you can do. One of the bravest things you can do is put it on the table, chop it up, and just let it out.”
The outpouring of support has been interesting to observe, but squarely places a light on how many Black men deal with the effects of addiction. Cannaclusive co-founder Mary Pryor makes note of this in an Instagram post, writing, “Earl Simmons reminds me of so many Black men, including my father, who dealt with the complex nature of humanity, talent, God, and addiction. I do not know who tried to help him in his life. I do know that the music industry is not known for protecting Black performers and getting them the help they need at times.”
Matthews does acknowledge DMX’s hard-fought battle against addiction, and offers a bit of hope for those who may only be focused on eulogizing the rapper in spite of his situation. “He was the voice of a marginalized and often villainized community,” she tweeted. “We were rooting for him. Just as many families tirelessly root for their loved ones. God used him and his words as a vessel in this lifetime — words that will outlive his earthly existence. Prayers and light to his children and family. May he rest in the power that many of us found in his words and art.”
You can read Matthews’ tweets below and if you, or someone you know, is going through a similar ordeal—please use these links as resources for help.