Earl Simmons (born December 18, 1970), better known by his stage name DMX also known as Dog Man X or Darkman X or The Dog or just simply X, is an American rapper and actor who rose to fame in the late 1990s. His stage name pays tribute to the Oberheim DMX drum machine, an instrument he used when he made his own rap beats in the 80's. To date, his best-selling album is his 1999 album ...And Then There Was X, which featured the hit single "Party Up (Up in Here)". As an actor, he also starred in the films Belly, Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds, Cradle 2 The Grave and Last Hour, and his own reality television series Soul of a Man on the American cable television network BET. In 2002, DMX wrote an autobiographical book titled E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX.
In 1991, Gabriel Grevenstuk from The Source magazine praised him in its "Unsigned Hype" column, which highlighted unsigned hip-hop artists. Later, he was signed to the Columbia Records subsidiary Ruffhouse in 1992; under that label he released his debut single "Born Loser", which did not get much airplay. However, Ruffhouse promoted many other artists on its roster rather than DMX and so agreed to release him from his contract eventually. In 1994, he released a second single, "Make a Move". In 1997, he made a successful guest appearance on LL Cool J's "4, 3, 2, 1". Additional guest spots on Mase's "24 Hours to Live" and "Take What's Yours", and The LOX's "Money, Power & Respect" created an even stronger buzz. DMX also made a cameo appearance in the Sum 41 music video for "Makes No Difference".
In May 1998, he released his debut major-label single under Def Jam Recordings, "Get At Me Dog", which was certified gold by the RIAA. His first major-label album It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, which included the single Ruff Ryders Anthem, was released in May 1998 and debuted on the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart in the U.S. It earned Simmons numerous comparisons to Tupac Shakur and sold over four million copies. Soon after the release of the album, DMX was nearly imprisoned for allegedly raping a stripper in the Bronx but was cleared by DNA evidence.