Outside of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, a crowd of proud bikers all decked out in leather gear with large, unmistakably striking “R’s” stitched on the backs of their vests stretched as far as the human eye could see. Hundreds of motorcyclists rode together Saturday (April 24) from Yonkers to Brooklyn to honor the late DMX and his home team, the Ruff Ryders, ahead of X’s official memorial service.
This weekend (April 24-25), hip-hop icon DMX will be laid to rest, and it all began with an appropriately massive “Celebration of Life” memorial service at the Barclays Center to honor the late legend’s legacy.
The Yonkers-bred MC, born Earl Simmons, passed away on April 9 after experiencing a heart attack triggered by a drug overdose. He was 50.
DMX had a larger-than-life influence on his community. It came as no surprise that the entire perimeter of Barclays was blocked off and packed several hours prior to the event, only to let an enormous monster truck — carrying a bright red casket that was reportedly DMX’s — arrive on the scene.
Doors for the memorial opened at 2:00 p.m. ET, with only family, friends and media in attendance, though a live stream was available on DMX’s YouTube channel for supporters around the world to tune in. His funeral service will be held Sunday at 2:30 P.M. ET and will be broadcast live on BET and the network’s YouTube channel.
At 6:20 P.M., a bone-chilling silence finally swept the stadium, so quiet the sound of a single can of soda cracking open would echo across the enormous venue. More than 10 minutes later, the collective voice of a powerful choir seeped through the stadium speakers, and the stage opened up to reveal a red light-tinted center with DMX’s casket front and center, where it would remain for the rest of the night.
The stage then closed back up to allow a video to play: the infamous clip of DMX on a Sling Shot ride with his daughter. “Daddy’s here, daddy’s here,” DMX says reassuringly in the video, which created a somber tone as attendees reminisced about his well-known reputation as a father figure.
The choir returned, now more clear that it was Kanye West’s Sunday Service choir, entirely decked out in matching red hoodies. As they chanted their “keep moving” chorus, the memorial officially kicked into full swing with an undeniably uplifting spirit.
During their closing song, X’s family joined them on stage. His son Manny was given the mic and immediately began to sob. “If it wasn’t for my dad I wouldn’t be great at a lot of things. He was the best dad ever, and me and my brother showed our dedication and wrote a song about him.” He then recited the lyrics he wrote dedicated to his father, which included an account of the moment he found out his father passed.
Next to take the stage was Nas, who recalled a memorable moment between the two. “We did a great movie together, and he was just rising as a star but he knew his journey was about to start,” said the fellow rap veteran. “He looked at me, tears in his eyes because he knew about the journey he was about to embark on: become a hip-hop icon.” Then, a video of DMX saying a prayer started to play as it led into a live performance of Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam.”
Afterwards, the Ruff Ryders were in the spotlight. Dee thanked Eve, The Lox and the rest of the Ryders family and led the audience into a DMX chant. A few of X’s fellow Ryders took turns to say a few words, each member delving into what the legendary DMX meant to them and the bond they shared:
Drag-On: “I don’t exist without this man. The air I breathe, he put it in my lungs.”
Jadakiss: “The world knew a dog but we know a different dog. It hurts anytime you lose a soldier, but this one was different because he was the main piece on the board. There’s no way I could ever repay him.”
Styles P: “If you’re from New York, you know what he means to us is indescribable. If it wasn’t for X, we wouldn’t be on. What made it special, that man did nothing but celebrate us. He accomplished something no one ever accomplished. And was in pain the whole way.”
Swizz Beatz: “Our gain is real because we have a real serious soldier to look down on us. We gotta learn how to celebrate each other while we’re here.”
As memorial-goers slowly left the stadium, the streets surrounded Barclays were still as jam-packed and lively as when the doors first opened earlier. Bikers were still circling the block, DMX’s timeless anthems were still blasting and people were still chanting his high-energy, gritty lyrics.
The collective sound of countless motorcycle engines still echoing off the Brooklyn buildings nearly six hours later represents the grip DMX has on his community, and will forever be immortalized by this impact. The legend can sleep in peace, as his legacy will be remembered and honored.