A teen with a violent troubled past with time spent in gangs, Earl Simmons rose from his roots to hip hop stardom after he was discovered at 21 competing in a talent show. Signed up by Columbia, he released his debut single Born Loser 1996 but failed to make any impression on the hip hop scene that was being dominated by the US hardcore rap talents of 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G. The hip hop scene was decimated by the loss of its biggest talents shortly after, but when the business recovered DMX (aka Earl Simmons) was its rising star; and he proved to be one of the most prodigious, albeit fiery, talents in the rap world. His debut as DMX came with It's Dark And Hell Is Hot in 1998, featuring Damien and Prayer, and eventually sold three million copies. The follow ups, Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood (1998) and ...And Then There Was X in 1999 both hit the top of the US album charts. The Great Depression and Grand Champ followed, again both topping the charts on the other side of the Atlantic, but started to show DMX up for the mainstream rapper he had become, compared with other talents emerging.