“I really didn’t expect to live long…”

Those are lyrics, words, a “Prayer” from rapper DMX, who died today after overdosing on narcotics. We wish him peace, after what has been a self-admitted difficult, tumultuous, and traumatic life that was dotted with moments of brightness, great success, and much fanfare. DMX was the shit, ya heard! Nobody could make us lose our minds… say it with me… “up in here, up in here” like the Dark Man. He kept it trill always, and we wish him serenity and calm and happiness. We love you DMX!

This mantra of dying young is one we hear way too often by young Black successful rappers. Their lyrics are filled with premonitions of early death.

“What’s the 27 club? We ain’t making it past 21.” Juice WRLD, deceased

“Every breath I get closer to the death of me.” Like Me, Joey Bada$$

“Never we sleep, a thug doesn’t rest,
Cause a wise man said: it was a cousin of death”-Who Is a Thug, Big Pun, deceased

“I never sleep, ‘cause sleep is the cousin of death”, N.Y. State of Mind, Nas

“Tell the homies I’m in heaven, and they ain’t got hoods.” Thugz Mansion, Tupac, deceased

I don’t wanna live no more, sometimes I hear death knockin’ at my front door.” Everyday Struggle, Notorious BIG, deceased

When we look at reality, so many of these young Black rappers die at an early age. Jam Master Jay, XXXTentacion, Pop Smoke, King Von, Fred the Godson, Pimp C, Eazy-E, Nipsey Hussle, Nate Dogg, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Proof, Soulja Slim, Heavy D, Prodigy, Guru, MC Breed, Blade Icewood, Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly, Mac Dre, Craig Mack… the list sadly continues. Then television and media feed us the deaths of Black men littering the blood stained pavement like used napkins and receipts thrown out of moving cars. Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Oscar Grant, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. We are inundated with images of young Black men dead; the Emmett Till photos are permanently etched in most of our brains. So there is a generational, cultural, and social preoccupation with dead Black men that MOST DEFINITELY impacts their physical and mental health… and clearly their living… their LIVING.

Yes, DMX died by his own hand, but he needed help. He has needed help for a long time. He knew he needed help. Yet, for so many brothas, death is just a next step, the next progression of life. Wrong. Death is the finality of this life, regardless of what might lie beyond it. Yet when you are used to watching an image that mimics your own, dying or dead all over every source of media available, it is no surprise death isn’t expressly avoided but almost welcomed. It’s health avoidance and rejection… risky behaviors, narcotics, alcohol, unprotected sex, seeking whatever thrills one can in life to either deaden the trauma or excite the depressed mind.

It is common to accept as nutrition what is fed to you daily. So you eat poison, when poison is what is on every commercial. You similarly injest self-hate and Black phobia when that is what you see everywhere you turn. Black folks are too hood, too thuggish, too dumb, too poor, too violent, too scary, too colorful, too loud, too alive. The opposite of alive is dead. Even when we are dead there is an examination into how much drugs were in our system, how thugged out and violent we looked in photos, and how disappointing we were as humans when we were alive. Black life has no value, and Black death has no repercussions. This is the poison these Black boys and men are tasting daily. No wonder they have bitter feelings about their own existence.

We have to, as a community and culture, reject these images socially for our own mental and emotional health. While watching Derek Chauvin kill George Floyd proves his guilt on video, it does nothing but desensitize us to and normalize young dead Black men. Parents are not generally supposed to bury their children, that is not the natural order of things. Yet this is more and more common as these young men perish too soon. We want to normalize Black men living into old age, healthy and happy. We want to normalize images of old Black men in rocking chairs… not young Black bodies lying like fallen strange fruit on the ground. We want to normalize Black rappers rapping about living… not dying.

“And for as long as I can, as long as You permit me
Please give me the strength I need to live, bear with me
Amen” -Prayer II, DMX

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