Accompanied by the roar of bikes of around 80 riders of the Ruff Ryders Motorcycle Club, fans of the late rapper DMX gathered Wednesday evening in a park in the city where he was born to pay tribute to his life by remembering his good works, singing songs and dancing together.
Around a thousand people converged on Fourth Street Park in Mount Vernon to remember the man who never forgot where home was – and was never too famous to give a helping hand to the community that will always remember him.
DMX, whose real name was Earl Simmons, died at White Plains Hospital Friday after he was rushed there April 2 following a heart attack. He was 50 and leaves behind 15 children.
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The atmosphere Wednesday evening was celebratory, despite DMX’s sudden death. Speakers said he taught others that despite his struggles, success was possible. Many people on hand were raised on the rapper’s music, but also remembered him for his love of others.
“I want to talk about the depth of his darkness, but his life shined brightly,” said Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard. “He lived his life out loud. He gave lessons.”
Priscilla Echi, who knew DMX for 33 years, said she felt like he was still with her.
“This is kind of probably what he wants, for his celebration to go on and for us to keep his memory alive,” she said. “He was a person that wasn’t for himself, he was for everybody else, he was for the people and this is a representation of that.”
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Katrina Simmons, a cousin of DMX, said no matter how many albums and movies he made, he was still able to individually impact people’s lives. He was a philanthropist for those less fortunate than him, she said.
DMX rose to prominence in the late 1990s with the Ruff Ryders rap group — from which the motorcycle club takes its name — breaking through in 1998 with the his first studio album “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot.” The album included well-known hits like “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem,” “Get At Me Dog” and “Stop Being Greedy,” that catapulted it to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.
He released seven albums and earned three Grammy nominations. He also worked as an actor and appeared in films such as “Belly,” “Romeo Must Die,” “Exit Wounds” and “Cradle 2 the Grave.”
The vigil in Mount Vernon carried on as dusk fell on a cool spring day. Rap and hip-hop blared on speakers as an emcee had people form an X with their arms to honor the rapper. At one point, several dozen motorcycles and four-wheelers revved their engines around the perimeter of the rectangular park, an ode to his Ruff Ryders’ roots.
The crowd placed a series of prayer candles to spell out the letter X at one side of the park, and hung balloons and other tributes on fences around its perimeter.
There was another local remembrance Tuesday in Yonkers, where DMX grew up. Despite his international fame, DMX was seen around Westchester a man who was always gracious and never forgot his roots.
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Mayor Patterson-Howard said she worked with DMX to help keep kids safe after school, get guns off the streets and feeding hundreds of families. Reinvesting in his community was important to DMX, she added.
“The only thing that eclipsed his stardom was his service and his love for his community and for his family,” Patterson-Howard said.
“He always came back home,” she said. “Some people become famous, they make their money and they move across the country. He stayed home.”
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