Mon. Apr 12th, 2021

Arts & Culture

NEW YORK - DMX, the raspy-voiced hip-hop artist who produced the songs "Ruff Ryders' Anthem" and "Party Up (Up in Here)" and who rapped with a trademark delivery that was often paired with growls, barks and "What!" as an ad-lib, has died, according to a statement from his family. He was 50. The Grammy-nominated performer died after suffering "catastrophic cardiac arrest," according to the hospital in White Plains, New York, where he died. He was rushed there from his home April 2. A statement from relatives said he died "with his family by his side after being placed on life support for the past few days." The rapper, whose real name is Earl Simmons, had struggled with drug addiction since his teenage years. His lawyer, Murray Richman, had earlier said he could not confirm reports that DMX overdosed.   DMX made a splash in rap music in 1998 with his first studio album, "It's Dark and Hell is Hot," which debuted No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The multiplatinum-selling album was anchored by several hits including "Ruff Ryders' Anthem," "Get At Me Dog," "Stop Being Greedy" and "How It's Goin' Down." DMX followed up with four straight chart-topping albums including "... And Then There Was X," "Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood," "The Great Depression" and "Grand Champ." He released seven albums, earned three Grammy nominations and was named favorite rap/hip-hop artist at the 2000 American Music Awards. DMX arrived on the rap scene  around the same time as Jay-Z, Ja Rule and others who dominated the charts and emerged as platinum-selling acts. They were all part of rap crews, too: DMX fronted the Ruff Ryders collective, which helped launch the careers of Grammy winners Eve and Swizz Beatz, and relaunch The Lox, formerly signed to Bad Boy Records. Ruff Ryders had success on the charts and on radio with its "Ryde or Die" compilation albums.   Along with his musical career, DMX paved his way as an actor. He starred in the 1998 film "Belly" and appeared in 2000's "Romeo Must Die" with Jet Li and Aaliyah. DMX and Aaliyah teamed up for "Come Back in One Piece" on the film's soundtrack.   The rapper would later open Aaliyah's tribute music video, "Miss You," alongside her other friends and collaborators, including Missy Elliott, Lil' Kim and Queen Latifah, after Aaliyah's 2001 death in a plane crash at age 22. The rapper also starred in 2001's "Exit Wounds" with Steven Seagal and 2003's "Cradle 2 the Grave" with Li.   But while DMX made his mark as one of hip-hop's most recognizable names for his rap artistry and as an actor, the rapper was personally stifled by his legal battles — he was repeatedly arrested and jailed within a decade — and drug addiction. His addiction first took hold at age 14 when smoked a marijuana cigarette that was laced with cocaine. DMX pleaded guilty in 2004 after he posed as an undercover federal agent a nd crashed his SUV through a security gate at New York's Kennedy Airport. He was arrested in 2008 on drug and animal cruelty charges following an overnight raid on his house in Phoenix. He tried to barricade himself in his bedroom but emerged when a SWAT team entered his home.   In 2010, he was sentenced to a year in prison for violating terms of his probation. After he was admitted to rehab numerous times over the next year, he said he had finally beat his drug addiction. First responders helped bring DMX back to life  after he was found in a hotel parking lot in New York in 2016. The rapper said he suffered from asthma. A couple years later, DMX was sentenced to a year in prison for tax fraud. Prosecutors said he concocted a multiyear scheme to hide millions of dollars in income from the IRS and get around nearly $2 million in tax liabilities. After his release, DMX planned a 32-date tour to mark the 20th anniversary of "It's Dark and Hell is Hot." But the rapper canceled a series of shows to check himself into a rehab facility in 2019. In an Instagram post, his team said he apologized for the canceled shows and thanked his fans for the continued support. Besides his legal troubles, DMX took the initiative to help the less fortunate. He gave a group of Philadelphia men advice during a surprise appearance at a homeless support group meeting in 2017, and helped a Maine family with its back-to-school purchases a couple years later.   Last year, DMX faced off against Snoop Dogg in a Verzuz battle, which drew more than 500,000 viewers. He is survived by his 15 children and mother.... Read More
LONDON - Prince Philip, the Greek-born consort to Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest sitting monarch, has died at the age of 99.     In a statement released to the media and posted on the gates of Buckingham Palace Friday morning, the royal family said, "It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.”   "His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. Further announcements will be made in due course. The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.”... Read More
NEW YORK - George Bradley used to love watching the Academy Awards. The 28-year-old Brit now living in San Diego would stay up late back home just to tune in. Though he's now in the right time zone, he's just not interested, and that's due primarily to the pandemic. "The rising dominance of the streaming services has taken the gloss off the Oscars for me," he said. "You just don't get the same warm fuzzy feeling from when you recognize a movie from the silver screen." Whether you watch out of love, because you love to hate or have given up like Bradley, awards shows have suffered since the coronavirus shuttered theaters and shut down live performances. But the ratings slide for awards nights began well before Covid-19 took over. For much of this century, the Oscars drew 35 million to 45 million viewers, often just behind the Super Bowl. Last year, just before the pandemic was declared, the hostless telecast on ABC was seen by its smallest audience ever, 23.6 million viewers, down 20 percent from the year before.   The pandemic-era Golden Globes a little more than a year later plummeted to 6.9 million viewers, down 64% from last year and barely besting 2008, the year a writer's strike forced NBC to air a news conference announcing winners. Last year, pre-lockdown, the show had 18.4 million viewers, according to the Nielsen company. In March, Grammy producers avoided the Zoom awkwardness of other awards shows and staged performances by some of the industry's biggest stars — to no avail. The CBS telecast reached 9.2 million viewers, both television and streaming, the lowest number on record and a 51% drop from 2020, Nielsen said. John Bennardo, 52, in Boca Raton, Florida, is a film buff, film school graduate and screenwriter, and runs a videography business for mostly corporate clients. This year is a no-go for the Oscars. "I love the movies and aspire to be on that very Oscars stage receiving my own award some day," he said. "I watch each year and take it in, enter contests where I try to pick winners and try to see all the films. But something has changed for this year." For starters, he hasn't seen a single film nominated in any category.   "Maybe I'll watch `Zach Snyder's Justice League' instead. It might be shorter," Bennardo joked about the Oscars show. Like other awards shows, the Oscars telecast was pushed back due to pandemic restrictions and safety concerns. The show had been postponed three times before in history, but never so far in advance. Organizers last June scheduled it for April 25, as opposed to its usual slot in February or early March.   Count that among other driving forces behind Oscars fatigue. Another, according to former fans of the show, is having to watch nominated movies on small screens and keeping up with when and where they are available on streaming and on-demand services. It's been one big blur to some. Priscilla Visintine, 62, in St. Louis, Missouri, used to live for watching the Academy Awards. She attended watch parties every year, usually dressed all the way up for the occasion. "Definitely the shuttering of the theaters created my lack of interest this year," she said. "I didn't get any sense of Oscar buzz." Not all diehards have given up their favorite awards show. In Knoxville, Tennessee, 50-year-old Jennifer Rice and her 22-year-old son, Jordan, have for years raced to watch as many nominated films as possible. In years past, it was their "February Madness," she said, and they kept charts to document their predictions. She even got to attend the Oscars in 2019 through her work for a beauty company at the time. "My other two children, ages 25 and 19, have no interest in the Oscars. It's just something special for Jordan and I," Rice said. "The Oscars actually push us to watch movies that we may have never picked. I'm not as excited this year, but we're still trying to watch everything before the awards ceremony." As real-life hardship has intensified for many viewers, from food insecurity and job disruption to the isolation of lockdowns and parenting struggles, awards shows offer less escapism and razzle-dazzle than in the past, often relying on pre-taped performances and Zoom boxes for nominees. In addition, data shows little interest among younger generations for appointment television in general.   Lifelong lover of movies and a filmmaker himself, 22-year-old Pierre Subeh of Orlando, Florida, stopped watching the Oscars in 2019. "We can barely stay put for a 15-second TikTok. How are we expected to sit through a dragged out, four-hour awards ceremony filled with ads and outdated offensive jokes? We're living in the time of content curation. We need algorithms to figure out what we want to watch and to show us the best of the best," he said. As a Muslim, Middle Eastern immigrant, Subeh also sees little inclusion of his culture in mainstream film, let alone on the Oscars stage. "We're only mentioned when Aladdin is brought up. I don't feel motivated to gather up my family on a Sunday to sit through a four-hour award ceremony that never has any sort of mention about our culture and religion. Yet as Muslims, we make up roughly 25% of the world population," he said. Jon Niccum, 55, in Lawrence, Kansas, teaches screenwriting at Kansas State University. He's a filmmaker, went to film school and has worked as a film critic. He and his wife host an annual Oscar party, with 30 guests at its heyday, including a betting pool on winners for money and prizes. It will be family-only this year due to the pandemic, but the betting is on.   And watching all the top films at home? For the most part, he said, "It was less satisfying." Less satisfying enough to dump the Oscars telecast? "I haven't missed an Oscars since 45 years ago. I'll watch every single minute of it," Niccum said. In Medford, New Jersey, 65-year-old Deb Madison will also be watching, as she has since she was a kid and her mom first took her to the movies.   In 2018, while on an RV road trip with her husband, she made him bike into town with her in Carlsbad, New Mexico, to find a spot to watch. The ride back was in pitch darkness. Another year, when she was working reception at a huge party in Philadelphia on Oscars night, the coordinators laid cable and provided her with a tiny TV hidden under the welcome desk so she could tune in. This year, trying to keep up with nominees from home has stifled her excitement, Madison said. "I'm a sucker for the red carpet and the gowns and, `Oh my god, I can't believe she wore that.' Another thing is, I don't particularly need to see these actors in their home environments," she said with a laugh. "This year, if I missed it, it wouldn't be tragic. Nobody would need to lay cable this year. But I still love the movies."... Read More