The Grammy-nominated star's "music inspired countless fans across the world and his iconic legacy will live on forever," his family said in an emotional tribute

By Maria Pasquini and Darlene Aderoju
April 09, 2021 12:13 PM
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DMX has died a week after suffering a heart attack. He was 50.

The rapper and actor, born Earl Simmons, died at White Plains Hospital in New York on Friday, his family confirms to PEOPLE.

"We are deeply saddened to announce today that our loved one, DMX, birth name of Earl Simmons, passed away at 50 years old at White Plains Hospital with his family by his side after being placed on life support for the past few days," they wrote in a statement.

DMX during The 14th Annual Soul Train Music Awards at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California
DMX
| Credit: SGranitz/WireImage

"Earl was a warrior who fought till the very end. He loved his family with all of his heart and we cherish the times we spent with him. Earl's music inspired countless fans across the world and his iconic legacy will live on forever. We appreciate all of the love and support during this incredibly difficult time. Please respect our privacy as we grieve the loss of our brother, father, uncle and the man the world knew as DMX. We will share information about his memorial service once details are finalized."

Listen below to our interview with hip-hop historian Marc Lamont Hill about DMX's incredible legacy below on our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day.

In an additional note, the hospital providing his care said, "White Plains Hospital extends its deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Simmons, as well as his friends and legions of fans who expressed their unwavering support during this difficult time. Earl Simmons passed away peacefully with family present after suffering a catastrophic cardiac arrest."  

DMX In Concert - New York, New York
DMX
| Credit: Noam Galai/Getty

The "Party Up (Up in Here)" rapper was hospitalized in grave condition on April 2 after suffering a heart attack at his home around 11 p.m., his attorney Murray Richman told NBC News the following day.

Upon being admitted, DMX's health was so critical that he was resuscitated and placed on life support, Richman added. He was reportedly deprived of oxygen for nearly 30 minutes.

"He's quite ill," the attorney said in a separate statement to the Associated Press, adding that he did not know what caused the heart attack, nor was he able to confirm TMZ's report that it was triggered by a drug overdose. 

DMX during an interview with host Jay Leno on March 13, 2001
DMX and Jay Leno
| Credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty

In a statement released after news of DMX's hospitalization broke, a rep for the rapper said the star was "in critical condition." 

"Last night Earl 'DMX' Simmons was rushed to the hospital after collapsing at home. At this time he remains in ICU in critical condition," the rep said in a statement to TMZ. "Earl has been a warrior his entire life. This situation represents yet another road he must conquer."

"The Simmons Family appreciates the overwhelming outpouring of heartfelt love, encouragement, support and prayers for Earl," he continued. "Earl is someone whose life and music have been a source of inspiration and strength to so many people around the world. It is reassuring to see his fans return that same passion and energy to him during his time of need."

DMX American Music Awards
DMX
| Credit: Barry King/WireImage

On Monday evening, a prayer vigil was held in his honor outside of the New York hospital where he remained on life support.

The ceremony, which began at 5 p.m., was hosted by the Ruff Ryders to the Rescue Foundation, the Associated Press reported. Hundreds of the star's loved ones, fans and supporters rallied together in celebration of his life and musical legacy.

DMX's ex-wife Tashera Simmons and his fiancée Desiree Lindstrom were also in attendance at the vigil, where they prayed for his recovery. Many attendees held balloons and signs for DMX as others crossed their arms to form an X, in recognition of his stage name. A group of Ruff Ryders and fans also drove through the event in motorcycles and vehicles as hundreds of people played the late star's music near the hospital.

On Wednesday, DMX underwent a series of tests that revealed his level of brain function and activity had not improved following his heart attack and ultimately guided his family's decision-making.

"We are just waiting on the doctors to tell us what the next steps are," DMX's manager, Steve Rifkind, told PEOPLE.

DMX during DMX Signs to Sony Urban Music/Columbia Records - Press Conference at 447 West 53rd Street in New York City
DMX
| Credit: J. Kempin/FilmMagic

DMX, who rose to fame in the '90s, has been open about his battle with substance abuse after the star said he was introduced to drugs by an adult who he looked up to "like an older brother" when he was a child. Also during his childhood, DMX suffered physical abuse at the hands of his mother's partners, battled severe bronchial asthma which resulted in almost nightly emergency room visits and was reportedly hit by a drunk driver.

"I loved this guy like an older brother; I didn't have any brothers," Simmons explained during his November appearance on People's Party with Talib Kweli of the man whom he says laced his marijuana with cocaine. "I would beatbox and he would rap, then he suggested one time, 'Why don't you write a couple rhymes and I'll beatbox for you?' .... That's where my first rhyme came to me."

DMX
DMX
| Credit: Taylor Hill/WireImage

He continued, fighting back tears, "But this guy ... He introduced me to what would be the best part of my life, which would be the rap, but he also [introduced me to drugs]. The thing with my life, it's blessed with a curse and the curse aspect of it was — Like I said, I didn't smoke cigarettes, I didn't smoke weed. I didn't do anything, I was 14 years old ... I never felt like this before. I later found out that he laced the [cannabis] with crack."

"Why would you do that to a child?" DMX said. "He was like 30 and he knew how I looked up to him. ... Why would you do that somebody who looks up to you?"

Dmx
DMX
| Credit: Jonathan-Mannion

As Simmons detailed the experience, he said, "A monster was born. I wouldn't do that to my worst enemy. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy, especially to someone that you supposedly love ... I put that in a song called 'Pain' ... He acted like he loved me.'"

In 2017, DMX canceled a series of planned performances to reenter a rehabilitation facility, according to Rolling Stone.

"It is important right now that he take some time off to focus on his health so that he can be a better father, friend and entertainer," his manager at the time, Pat Gallo, said in a statement.

DMX
DMX
| Credit: KMazur/WireImage

He returned to rehab in 2019, shortly after he was released from prison on tax evasion charges. "In his ongoing commitment to putting family and sobriety first, DMX has checked himself into a rehab facility," read a statement shared on his Instagram that October. "He apologizes for his canceled shows and thanks his fans for their continued support."

Born Dec. 18, 1970 in Baltimore, Maryland, DMX released 15 Billboard Hot 100 megahit songs, including "Party Up (Up In Here)" which peaked at No. 27 on the list and charted for 21 weeks. His collaborative tune "Money, Power, Respect" with The Lox and Lil' Kim peaked at No. 17 and charted for 20 weeks.

DMX has also appeared in 15 films, including Belly, Fast and Fierce: Death Race and Romeo Must Die — the latter alongside Jet Li and fellow hitmaker Aaliyah (who died in 2001 at age 22). The star has also made several TV appearances, including his roles guest starring in South Park, Moesha, Half and Half, Fresh Off the Boat and Eve.

Throughout his music career, DMX was signed to Columbia Records and Def Jam.

DMX
DMX
| Credit: Prince Williams/Wireimage

In 1999, the star was nominated for the Billboard Music Award for R&B/hip-hop albums artist of the year — he has earned multiple BBMA nods. That same year, he was up for the Soul Train Music Award for the Sammy Davis, Jr. male entertainer of the year prize.

In 2000, DMX won the American Music Award for favorite artist in the hip-hop rap category. He was nominated for the AMA once more in 2001. The hitmaker was been nominated for five MTV Video Music Awards, including best breakthrough video.

DMX has earned three Grammy Award nominations over the course of his decades-long career, including best rap solo performance for his smash hit song "Party Up (Up in Here)" and best rap album for his fan-favorite ...And Then There Was X — both nominates came in 2000. In 2001, he was up for the Grammy for best rap solo performance for his jam "Who We Be."

DMX is survived by his mother Arnett Simmons, his siblings, his children and their mothers.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.