By Fwamba Nc Fwamba
‘’Don’t make it a murder scene
Give a dog a bone, leave a dog alone
Let a dog roam and he’ll find his way home
Home of the brave, my home is a cage……..’’
My fellow hip-hop and rap enthusiasts knew I was mourning a close friend and was therefore limited in saying or writing anything on DMX’s passing. Collins Okendi called me yesterday and said he understood this situation. Stazo Omung’ala and Rex Omole understand this too.
If you asked news channels all over the world how their stories would sell, they will easily have sensational reports on how DMX died because of drug addiction than they would on the impact of his life and music across the world.
After completion of high school in the late 1990s, my peers who loved rap and hip-hop all over the globe were divided between the Westside and Eastside. This divide resulted from gangsta rap wars and circumstances that led to the high profile deaths of Tupac Shakur on 13th September 1996 after fatal shooting on 7th September 1996 in Las Vegas, Nevada and that of The Notorious BIG on 9th March 1997 in Los Angeles, California.
When I joined the University of Nairobi towards the end of the year 2000,I was a staunch loyal fan of Tupac and paid limited attention to other rappers. After the death of Shakur and Biggie, people paid a lot of attention on what else came out of gangsta rap.
At the faculty of Architecture, Design and Development (ADD), we were a small community and our interactions between various academic departments were quite close. From Mamlaka, Prefabs, State House Road Hostel and Hall 13, we were one community and almost knew where all our classmates’ room numbers.
Architecture and Design students spent their time in ADD studios most of the time. The academic projects we worked on would take a lot of time to complete and music was an important ingredient in the assembly of pencils, technical pens, drawing boards and T-squares.
For the love of rap, obsession went beyond just listening to the music. Every rapper was identified in each one of us. Ngetich loved Sisqo, had a dragon tattoo and liked making dragon sketches any time he idled.We nicknamed Jared Mayaka Ja Rule(Esther Nyoro called him Ja Lule).Raphael Mutiso loved Jay Z until he became Jay Z himself. Chris loved Xhibit. Joyce Musola loved Eminem. Dr Dre’s Up in Smoke Tour and The Chronic 2001 introduced more rap and hip-hop artists to the world. Mike Muiruri and Jesse Kihoro wanted to become rappers. I am still waiting for the launch of their album 20 years down the line.
It was my classmate Alfred Odhiambo, who made me like DMX. Most of the time one passed by Alfred’s room you’d hear the un-ignorable loud sound of the motorbikes in the Ruff Ryders Anthem.
‘’ Stop, drop, shut ’em down, open up shop
Oh, no, that’s how Ruff Ryders roll
Stop, drop, shut ’em down, open up shop
Oh, no, that’s how Ruff Ryders roll’’ (Antony Kibagendi chose this in his facebook tribute to DMX)
And… ‘’There was Brenda, LaTisha, Linda, Felicia
Dawn, LeShaun, Ines, and Alicia
Teresa, Monica, Sharron, Nicki
Lisa, Veronica, Karen, Vicky
Cookie, well, I met her in a ice cream parlor
Tonya, Diane, Lori, and Carla
Marina, Selena, Katrina, Sabrina
About three Kims, LaToya, and Tina
Shelley, Bridget, Cathy, Rasheeda
Kelly, Nicole, Angel, Juanita
Stacy, Tracie, Rohna, and Ronda
Donna, Ulanda, Tawana, and Wanda
Were all treated fairly, but yet and still………’’(I have seen Jimmy Nyikuli’s facbook post and I know what he means)
The signature DMX hoarse voice and the chorus always caught our attention. The now Ohangla fan, Alfred Odhiambo was a super rap fan, knew this stuff well and got the lyrics right in most of the rap tracks.
DMX’s influence not only grew through his music. As an actor, his roles portrayed him in his real human character. The combination of his roles and his own songs as soundtracks made movies great successes and more entertaining. Aint no sunshine in Steven Seagall’s Exit Wounds, X Gonna Give It To ya (Jimnah Kamau says this is not English) and We Right Here in Jet Li’s Cradle to the Grave portrayed DMX as a super talented man.
DMX represented the struggle of the black man in America. He named himself Dark Man X. He believed that even if the black American race got the civil rights towards justice, equality and fairness remained a pipe dream. The X is derived from the Nation of Islam’s teaching about the identity of any black man in America whose ancestors were forcibly kidnapped, taken into slavery in America and given slave masters’ names. His African identity of X was more important in his life than Earl Simmons; his slave master’s name.
In We Right Here,the revolutionary DMX affirms that black Americans are in the United States to stay and then can never be wished away. The hoarse, aggressive and assertive voice accompanied by the message in the song is a rallying call for all people of colour to have a sense of rightful belonging as citizens. I know Silas Nyanchwani understands this context very well.
My former classmate at UoN Velma Kiome reminds me that in DMX, there are many lessons beyond the music and the movies. She quoted a tweet by Sean P of C. Spaniels: ‘’ My oldest son is 14, the exact same age that DMX was when his so-called mentor Ready Ron tricked him into smoking a blunt laced with crack. I lack the time to fully articulate ALL of my thoughts, so let this suffice for now: men need to do right by the children in their care’’.
DMX’s own struggle during childhood, his eventual breakthrough, his problem with drug addiction and his commitment to Christianity, show a man who lived his life in full albeit short, made mistakes, struggled with his mistakes, admitted the mistakes tried to change and never gave up trying to change.
‘’I know that my saviour lives and at the end he will stand on this earth
My flesh may be destroyed but from this body I will see God
Yes I will see him for myself and I long for that moment’’