DMX: Dark Man X and rest of us
BY: Celestine Mel
The media space has been filled with tributes to Earl Simmons, popularly known as DMX, the American charts-topping music legend and rapper, who passed on yesterday at the age of 50. Eulogies and tributes have poured in from across the world and from all races. All the tributes focus on the impact of his music, his acting career, his inspirational messages and his stardom. That is to be expected. After all, DMX lived in the spotlight and has died in our faces. His death has created a huge vacuum in the hearts of his fans, especially because of his unmistakable kind of voice and genre of music, which still fills our cars and our living rooms. My heart goes out to his family and his huge fans.
But what killed DMX?
We do not need to look far for answers. His predictable end, could easily be gleaned from the words of the intro to his autobiography in Amazon books, captured with surreal frankness thus: ´The dark journey of a boy who became a man, the man who became an artist, and the artist who became an icon. A talent for rhyme saved his life, but the demons and sins of his past continue to haunt him”.
There are tons of multimedia materials on the internet that depict DMX as a man who was hooked to drugs. But why?
DMX grew up under the care of a single mother who did not really care. At 14, he was already in the streets, fending for himself to escape from a mother who had grown into a serial child molester. In the streets, he met a man who tricked him to smoke Indian hemp laced with cocaine. And he got hooked. It was the moment that defined him for the rest of the remaining 36 years.
Combined with his pangs of asthma and the need to feed, Earl fell in love with dogs in the streets and ended up stealing one. As a result, he was sent to jail. Before finishing his time, he collaborated with a cellmate to break jail, got back to the society and was returned to jail by his mother.
He honed and nurtured his singing skills in jail and came out to produce good music that appealed to a generation. DMX was the first artist to release five consecutive albums on top of the Billboard charts. He had to his belt, eight albums in all, which grossed hundreds of millions of US dollars and earned him a fortune.
His success in the industry competed frighteningly with his time in drug rehabilitation homes and prisons. Earl was jailed at different times for different offenses ranging from car-jacking, illegal drug possession, cruelty to animals, drink-driving, illegal possession of weapons, resisting arrest, possession of marijuana, aggravated assault, theft to tax fraud, etc. From age 14 to his death at 50, DMX lived a rough-life that was split between drugs, women and jail. He had 15 children from different women and divorced his wife of 11 years after fathering four children with her. It is therefore needless to say that he succumbed to drug overdose, which caused all his vital organs to fail. And he died.
DMX is not alone. In the great beyond, he would meet other multitalented artists who died from drug abuse. Mac Miller. Prince. Amy Winehouse. Chris Farley. Natalie Wood. Anna Nicole Smith. Brian Adams. Bobbi Kristina Brown. Whitney Houston. Michael Jackson. And tens of hundred others.
Parenting is a huge responsibility in making the society. According to Gorsuch, a drug addiction expert, the absence of mother or father has a significant relationship with drug abuse by the children. Most of the issues we have in today’s world, even the issues that confront our country Nigeria today, stem from the failure of the family to be what it should be: a mold for the child. According child psychologists, children learn by observation of everyday life in the family. Once a child is born into a home that is devoid of any moral anchor, such a child is setup for struggles, no matter how gifted. And those struggles impact negatively on the larger society.
Take northern Nigeria for example. The problem of drug addiction is ravaging the region. And I have a personal experience to share. I spend most of my Saturday mornings hunting for plantain and banana in the various small holder farms in the FCT. That search began when I discovered five years ago that most of the ripe plantains and bananas sold in the FCT, (and in most Nigerian cities generally) are laced with carbide and other cancerogenic substances, which the sellers use to force them to ripe. A story for another day.
Im my Saturday-Saturday farm explorations, I have met hundreds of young persons in the undergrowth of Abuja, smoking and sniffing their lives away. At the farm adjacent old Dunamis Church in Area One Abuja; at the farm opposite the National Mosque – Abuja. At the farm opposite Ceddi Plaza- Abuja, etc. One finds them completely soaked in all sorts of substances all day long, milling around doing nothing other than drugs. Those are the poor versions of DMX.
Children of the elite encircle Wuse II every night to get high. Between the hours of 12 midnight and 5.00am, Wuse II is a drug addict’s paradise. I have a couple of friends who have literally been reduced to nothing as a result. Sons and daughters of senators, former senators, ministers, traditional rulers, former ministers, etc., compete among themselves to indulge. Funny enough, these are mostly kids, whose parents leveraged on their connections in society to place them in high-flying careers within the public sector and whose careers are suffering as a result.
Manpower needs of Boko Haram and other violent insurgent groups are met and sustained by the power of drugs. By a whiff, a young person can forget his sorrows and cling to guns for pleasure. Drug addiction ruins young people, which in turn ruins the society.
As we mourn DMX, let us take the moment to reflect on our individual roles in creating a generation of drug addicts. As parents, how are we keeping eyes on our children? As Pastors, how are we using the pulpit to disseminate preachments against drug abuse? As elites, what are we doing to help keep our children off drugs? As government officials, how can we stem the scourge?
In the end, the success or failure of society is the sum total of our individual successes and failures. We need to each own the fight and stop drugs from making a DMX out of every child. Let us begin from our children. And our neighbors. And our friends.
***Celestine Mel BSc. Calabar, MBA UK, ACIS, ACIBN, MCP is a chartered banker and public affairs enthusiast. He writes from Abuja – FCT.