DMX Memorial: Ruff Ryders and Fans Gather at Barclays

The event at Barclays Center was closed to the public, but fans congregated outside to honor the rapper’s life.,

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The mood around Barclays Center in Brooklyn was electric on Saturday afternoon in the moments before a memorial service began for DMX, who died on April 9 at age 50.

More than 1,000 people, largely members of the Ruff Ryders motorcycle club, formed a procession earlier in the afternoon from Yonkers, N.Y., to Brooklyn, ending with cheering fans and revving engines around Barclays.

The memorial for the rapper, born Earl Simmons, was expected to start around 4 p.m. A separate homegoing service will be held at a New York church on Sunday. Both events will be streamed online, but closed to the general public; in New York, indoor arenas are limited to 10 percent capacity because of the pandemic.

About 2,000 people — celebrities, family members and close friends — were expected to gather inside Barclays for the ceremony.

Leading the wall of motorcycles traveling from Yonkers was a massive monster truck with “Long Live DMX” inscribed on the side. The truck’s bed held a maroon coffin decorated with the Ruff Ryders logo.

“X wanted to be remembered for touching people all over the world, through his music, with his words,” said Joaquin Dean, also known as Waah, one of the co-founders of the Ruff Ryders music label where DMX rose to prominence. “He didn’t have family but he found family through Ruff Ryders — and then he made a worldwide family and touched them with his music.”

Those family members traveled from nearby neighborhoods and outside of the state and country to congregate outside Barclays on Saturday, where a large “X” made of off-white flowers was set up directly in front of the main entrance.

The streets around the arena were completely blocked off to traffic, with parked motorcycles and cars lining the road. Most fans would not be able to enter the arena for the invite-only memorial, but a group of hundreds started their own impromptu commemoration a block away from Barclays.

They blasted the rapper’s most popular hits, dancing to his music along the sidewalk, carrying oversized golden “X” balloons and holding signs that read “Forever DMX” or showed photos of his album covers. Several fans set up lawn chairs, expecting to watch the memorial from the screens outside.

DMX, who received three Grammy nominations, sold millions of records throughout his rap career and became the first musician to have his first five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard chart.

But even when DMX was the most popular rapper in the world, the connection to him remained uniquely personal for many New Yorkers.

ImageMore than 1,000 people, largely members of the Ruff Ryders motorcycle club, formed a procession Saturday from Yonkers, N.Y., to Brooklyn.
More than 1,000 people, largely members of the Ruff Ryders motorcycle club, formed a procession Saturday from Yonkers, N.Y., to Brooklyn.Credit…Simbarashe Cha for The New York Times

After his death, stories of “that one time I met X” flooded social media, where people shared memories of running into him at barbershops, receiving his help lugging bags out of grocery stores, listening to his advice on addiction and forgiveness in hotel hallways, and being brought to inescapable smiles after randomly hearing him shout, “What’s up” from across the street.

Many tales were infused with the sense that even with his talentand troubles, DMX’s gruff exterior was penetrable in his everyday interactions, especially those in New York City and Westchester County, N.Y., where he was raised.

In DMX’s final days, family and friends gathered with hundreds of fans outside White Plains Hospital and on School Street in Yonkers, near the housing project where he grew up, playing his music, praying, crossing their arms above their heads in the shape of an X. After his death, an artist painted a mural of DMX at a Yonkers community center where, as a teenager, the rapper tagged a basement wall with his stage name, followed by the words “the great.”

Another portrait went up in the Bronx, outside a restaurant owned by a member of the Ruff Ryders motorcycle club. The phrase “Ecclesiastes 3” is written alongside the image, a nod to the spirituality that permeated DMX’s music and performances, and a reference to the Bible chapter that includes the verses, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die.”

The motorcycle group held a vigil for DMX last week alongside hundreds of fans.

DMX came to Barclays in 2017 for a reunion show with Eve, Swizz Beatz, Drag-On and other artists from Ruff Ryders. He last performed at the arena in 2019 for the annual “Masters of Ceremony” show, one of his final large productions, which came amid a comeback after public struggles with addiction and his release from prison months before.

Years earlier, in 2012, DMX had made another return, for his first New York concert following a gap in performances there. The moment, he said in an interview, was significant.

“Any performance I do, I give 110 percent,” he told Billboard at the time. “But it’s New York — it’s special.”

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