NEW YORK >>Rapper DMX is being mourned at a memorial with family and close friends at the Barclays Center in New York.
Saturday’s memorial at the Brooklyn arena was closed to the public and restricted to only close friends and family because of the coronavirus pandemic. Organizers said in a statement they will follow New York’s COVID-19 testing guidelines and protocols.
The ceremony, which was being livestreamed on DMX’s YouTube channel, began more than two hours late.
Kanye West’s Sunday Service Choir kicked off the ceremony with gospel. The hoodie sweatshirt-wearing ensemble performed a few songs including classics “Oh Lord, How Excellent” and “Keep On Movin’.” The choir took the stage during other moments of the ceremony performing “Ultralight Beam” and the Whitney Houston-assisted hymn “Jesus Loves Me.”
In a touching moment, DMX’s 15 children gathered on stage to talk — and sometimes rap — about the star as a father who taught them such lessons as “always say thank you,” “be kind to everyone” and that being afraid can sometimes show a person how to be brave. Relatives emphasized his love of Jesus and his drive to make his fans happy, giving audiences the best show he could every time.
Nas reminisced about having a conversation with a teary-eyed DMX during filming a scene of “Belly,” a crime drama. He said DMX became emotional knowing the rapper was about to embark on a journey to become a “hip-hop icon.”
“It’s a sad day as well as a glorious day,” said Nas, who starred with DMX in the 1998 film. “That was my brother. We did a great movie together. On that movie, he was just rising up as a star. His first album didn’t even come out yet, but he knew his journey was starting.”
Eve said she was still having a hard time with DMX’s death, remembering him as a “man, a father, a friend.” She stood on stage with the Ruff Ryders collective, which included several members such as Swizz Beatz, Jadakiss, Styles P and Drag-On.
After Eve spoke, Styles P spoke about a time when he and DMX were both in the same jail. He said and DMX fetched him from his cell then took him to a part of the jail where he had a band set up and a string of MCs.
“DMX was the ghetto-est person that ever existed,” Styles P said. “What he means to us is indescribable. … Whenever you seen him, that man was in pain, but he was built of out of love.”
Jadakiss said DMX was the “happiest he ever been in life” during the last couple years.
A massive black big-wheel truck with the words “LONG LIVE DMX” on side of the vehicle carried DMX’s shiny red casket for more than 15 miles from Yonkers, New York — where the rapper grew up — to the Barclays Center. A plethora of motorcycles trailed the truck during the procession before arriving at the arena, where thousands of people crowded the streets.
Thousands of motorcycle riders surrounded the monster truck, revving up their engines. Others gathered at the arena while some of biggest songs from “Where The Hood At” and “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” played from the crowd.
Cynthia Roberts, a 57-year-old Brooklyn resident, said she has been a fan of DMX since his Ruff Ryders days. She showed up at the arena to pay homage to the rapper, saying she was struck by his rhymes, voice and musicianship.
“He was a true guy. He spoke his truth. He touched my soul,” said Roberts, who was sporting a DMX T-shirt. She called the rapper’s music “timeless.”
“I tell myself he was put here for that,” she continued. “We all have a job to do, and he did his job.”
DMX, whose birth name is Earl Simmons, died April 9 after suffering a “catastrophic cardiac arrest.” He spent several days on life support after being rushed to a New York hospital from his home April 2.
Programs with images of DMX were handed out to service attendees. The four-page booklet had different images of the rapper, including one with his arms folded with wings and another photo of him standing on stage during a performance.
No details were given about who may be appearing, performing or speaking.
The 50-year-old Grammy-nominated rapper delivered iconic hip-hop songs such as “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” and “Party Up (Up in Here).” He also starred in several films including “Belly” and “Romeo Must Die.”
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.
His funeral service will be held at 2:30 p.m. EDT Sunday. It will be broadcast live on BET and the network’s YouTube channel.