Earl "DMX" Simmons
A formidably talented and somewhat nihilistic performer, menacing, muscular and magnetic rapper DMX put his powerful charisma to good use, starting his film career in 1998 as his recording career was on the ascendancy. Born Earl Simmons in Baltimore, the youngster and his five half-sisters relocated with their mother to Yonkers, New York in the early 1970s. A troubled home life led to problems at school, and a series of group foster homes where young Simmons would be sequestered due to his violent tendencies. While robbery was the way the young man made his living in his teens, a developing talent in the field of music emerged. He started out as the "beat box" in freestyle rap shows, but quickly found that more glory went to the rapper, and pursued that career. Freestyle competitions (like one where he and fellow future superstar Jay-Z were the last men standing) won him notice in the "Unsigned Hype" column in the hip-hop monthly The Source. A founder of Ruff Ryders Entertainment (the group that would go on to include and foster the talents of such stars as Eve and The Lox), DMX was signed to Sony's unrelated Ruffhouse Records in 1992, but lack of promotion left the rapper with the desire to leave his contract. Faced with his fizzled single and hot properties like Cypress Hill already on board, Ruffhouse let DMX out of their deal.