DMX And The Lost Art Of Compassion

Though there are conflicting stories about his health, DMX is still fighting for his life, and his children are with him.

In 1998 DMX put Def Jam records on one shoulder, the music industry on the other, and began one of the most storied careers in rap history.

His first five albums went to number one. In 2014 he became the 5th best selling Rap or Hip-Hop artist of the Neilsen SoundScan era in the United States with the sale of 23.3 million albums, and he went on to sell more than 74 million albums worldwide through the course of his career and beyond.

When he was involved in a few car accidents/incidents between 2000 and 2005, I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t get it together. In having the discussion with someone in 2005, the person said to me, “He was probably high.” At most I thought maybe he was either high or drunk, but a severe drug addiction just didn’t dawn on me.

I wanted to kick myself after taking a second, third, and fourth listen to some of his songs, and then reading about his issues with drugs at the time. I knew from the music he was struggling with demons and darkness, but not to the extent of straight up addiction.

I felt terrible for him, and felt terrible for even assuming he could just “get it together”. Drug addiction is not that simple.

To then in 2020 hear the full story of how his addiction started (someone he looked up to gave him a crack laced blunt at 14 years old) added another layer of tragedy to DMX’s story. His drug addiction predated his rap career, and the fame and power of his celebrity surely exacerbated the issues that were already there.

As part of the “War On Drugs” in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the “Just Say No.” campaign was created to show Americans, particularly young people, that doing drugs was bad. The almost natural correlation than became that people who did drugs were bad. Though this was a particular sticking point in my memory, linking drug use to “bad people” probably goes even further back than Nancy Regan’s creation of what would become an extremely popular (though questionably effective) moniker.

Even with all the positive energy being spread for DMX’s recovery, there’s still a peppering of negativity around the kind of person he is and the looming question I was asking years ago, “Why couldn’t he just quit?”

Two things here.

First, in as much as celebrities are talented and get to live out their entertainment dreams, they are givers. They use their gifts as art to enhance our lives by entertaining us and uplifting us. To that extent, some of them give even when they don’t have anything left.

Even in the height of addiction, Whitney Houston gave every inch of her life to us. She knew she needed to get better and she tried, but she knew in a sense we needed her voice and her talent and she continued to pour everything out of her that she had.

In the Showtime documentary on her life, at one point during a concert she as back stage having a meltdown. She was crying and went to bury her face in her hands, then she suddenly pulled it together and went out on stage to give another of the many incredible performances of her life. She gave through her pain.

DMX clearly had issues with addiction before he even dropped his first album, and as his star began to rise higher, his struggles got no better. His suffering was still audible even in the upbeat music he created.

Because celebrities have money, the rest of us too often think they shouldn’t have problems. While I don’t believe all celebrities deserve our pity when they have issues (or at all), because of their lifestyles we sometimes don’t give them the grace to be who they are: human.

Just because some celebrities do drugs don’t make them bad people. Just like there are those we know in our personal lives that may have a drug addiction but aren’t bad people. DMX was tricked into drug use by a friend. Whitney Houston talked about drug use as an escape from the extreme pressure she was under. None of this makes either of them bad people, nor does it create any ease for them to just “get over” their addiction.

Second, people are determined that social media attention is going to heal what they lack.

Apparently some people were even questioning whether or not DMX had fans, as if that has anything to do with the fact that he’s fighting for his life.

As much as I like social media, I abhor what it has turned some people into. They crack jokes and are unnecessarily mean or evilly clever at the expense of someone else’s suffering. As much faith as I try to have faith in humanity, it’s insanely frustrating the way people throw rocks at others in their lowest moments instead of dealing with themselves.

People use detachment when it’s convenient for their benefit and as an excuse for not showing compassion. “Oh do you know DMX?” (I got the same question when I interacted with someone who made a terrible Whitney post years ago). Part of me understands. We have enough pain/issues to deal with in our personal lives. Why take on the misery of someone we don’t even know?

That line of thought makes sense, but to then turn that around and hurl it at someone, celebrity or not, who is struggling or suffering points more to a person/people who are so unwilling to deal with their own hurt that they’d rather hurt someone else.

Compassion is a living breathing art that should be thriving, but it’s shunned instead. We saw it ignored with four years of Trump in the White House. It’s buried in pop culture, a lot of which is dictated by social media. People simply don’t feel the need to care about others, or at least to not display just how much they don’t.

Contrary to the popular beliefs of being “self-made” and “fuck feelings”, we were put here on this earth to love and support each other. To uplift each other, and show compassion to others, even those we don’t know or whose lives we have no stake in. Showing feelings and compassion for others isn’t weak. What’s actually weak is people who are unwilling to deal with their own feelings so they bury them away to appear strong. Diving into the tragedy of celebrities/strangers isn’t necessary, but they should at least be given the space to be flawed.

Because all of us. Each and every one of us are flawed, and at some point in our own lives, we’ll want someone to show compassion to us.

Prayers up for DMX.

Writer of life, Actor, Host/Comedian, and Spoken Word Artist. The last great Atlanta native.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store