DMX, rap’s explosive, tortured star, dies at 50

DMX performs during the BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta on Oct. 1, 2011. (AP)
Updated 10 April 2021

DMX, rap’s explosive, tortured star, dies at 50

NEW YORK: DMX, the hardcore hip-hop star whose raw, snarling raps chronicled the struggles of the American street and his own inner pain, has died. He was 50 years old.
The rapper’s longtime lawyer confirmed DMX’s death to AFP, with a statement from his family saying the artist, born Earl Simmons, died after nearly a week on life support following a heart attack.
“Earl was a warrior who fought till the very end,” the statement released Friday read, saying the rapper died at White Plains Hospital north of New York City, with loved ones by his side.
“He loved his family with all of his heart and we cherish the times we spent with him,” the statement read.
The rapper — who reigned over the late 1990s and early 2000s with hits including “X Gon’ Give It To Ya” and “Party Up” — was among hip-hop’s darkest yet most endearing stars.
He laid out his inner demons for the masses in gritty, hard-driving anthems, with a distinctive poetic vulnerability that gained him commercial and critical acclaim.
Raised in the New York suburb of Yonkers, the artist endured a grim childhood, growing up in housing projects with his mother and siblings where he suffered abuse.
Simmons was burdened with a reputation as a problem child, and shuffled in and out of homes for troubled boys for much of his youth.
At 14, he began struggling with addiction and entered a cycle of incarceration, both of which would persist throughout his life.
Even after achieving international celebrity for his artistry, DMX continued to have run-ins with the penal system, with charges including drug possession, animal cruelty, reckless driving, failure to pay child support and tax evasion.
But while his criminal record made headlines, it was his blunt, confessional raps delivered in his powerful, gravely voice that would cement the artist’s legacy, leaving an indelible mark on hip-hop and gaining him legions of fans.
“DMX was a brilliant artist and an inspiration to millions around the world. His message of triumph over struggle, his search for the light out of darkness, his pursuit of truth and grace brought us closer to our own humanity,” said Def Jam Recordings, the label with which DMX released some of his most iconic albums, in a statement following his death.
“DMX was nothing less than a giant.”
He began beatboxing in the mid-1980s, writing lyrics and peddling mixtapes.
The charismatic artist spent most of the 1990s making a name for himself in New York’s underground scene, especially in rap battle rings.
It was late in that decade that he grew into the blazing, urgent style of performance that would become his calling card, emanating a singular presence at once hypermasculine and sincere.
In the mid-1990s, he famously battled with Brooklyn’s up-and-coming star Jay-Z, who was then primarily an emcee, for hours in a smoky pool hall in the Bronx.
“It was dope. DMX, at the time, I had never really heard of DMX. I didn’t know who this kid was,” the producer Ski Beatz, who was in attendance, told the site HipHopDX.
“But to hear him rhyme live, I was like, ‘This dude is really ill’.”
DMX’s love of dogs was such that he integrated barks and growls into his teeth-baring brand of rap.
“Your dog will die for you,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1999.
“That’s how dogs get down, unconditional love. Humans are not really capable of unconditional love.”
He released his debut major-label single “Get At Me Dog” in 1998 with Def Jam, which came off his first studio album “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot.”
The record debuted at number one on Billboard’s top album chart and boasted another hit single, “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem,” ushering in commercial success that would last for years.
Defying his ferocious, testosterone-addled image, DMX also charmed with his goofier side, notably in an impromptu remix of the holiday classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” that went viral in 2012.
He was vocal about his commitment to Christianity, even expressing hopes of becoming a pastor.
DMX suffered from addiction to drugs including crack, which he said a mentor tricked him into trying at age 14 by lacing a blunt, exposure that led to a life of torment.
“Why would you do that to a child?” he said in an emotional interview on rapper Talib Kweli’s weekly podcast in late 2020. “I didn’t really have anybody to talk to.”
“In the hood, nobody wants to hear that... Talking about your problems is viewed as a sign of weakness, when actually it’s one of the bravest things you can do.”
Tributes poured in Friday from fans and fellow artists. T.I. called DMX a “cultural icon,” as Missy Elliott dubbed the loss “heavy for the HipHop family.”
“No one radiated more agony, pain, and atomic energy,” tweeted rapper Biz Markie. “The struggle incarnate.”
Snoop Dogg, who last year faced off with DMX as part of the Verzuz series, posted: “What they thought was a battle ended up being a family reunion. Of 2 Doggs who loved everything about each other thank. U. X for loving me back.”
“God’s poet,” wrote Nas. “I love you.”


Part-Saudi model Shanina Shaik takes to social media with touching pet plea

Model Shanina Shaik took to Instagram with a touching plea for help. Getty Images
Updated 03 May 2021

Part-Saudi model Shanina Shaik takes to social media with touching pet plea

DUBAI:  Part-Saudi model Shanina Shaik took to Instagram this week to ask fans to help reunite her with her pet dog Choppa. The Victoria’s Secret model recently moved back to the US from the UK, where she had spent the past year in quarantine with her beloved French bulldog. The 30-year-old disclosed that while she was able to make the trip across the Atlantic, her pet was unable to accompany her and now she is doing everything she can to bring her furry friend home.

“We’ve come to a few roadblocks,” she shared with her 2.2 million Instagram followers, adding it’s been “really difficult.”

She went on to ask if any of her friends or followers are traveling to the US from the UK and would be able to help her return her pet pooch home.

“I’m asking any of my friends who are flying private, or anyone who’s flying private from the UK and coming back to the USA if you could please contact me and DM me. I would be happy to pay for Choppa’s flight and seat on the plane,” Shaik said. “I’d be so appreciative if you did that for me,” she added.

It is unclear why Shaik cannot undertake the trip herself, but the model has had visa-related issues in recent history and only in February obtained a visa to enter America, thanks to US Immigration Attorney Carlos Rosas who helped her and made “the unimaginable happen,” according to an Instagram post.

In a past interview, Shaik revealed that she had left two dogs in Australia when she first moved to New York aged 17 to pursue her modeling career. After moving, she adopted Choppa.

The model, who is of Saudi, Pakistani, Australian and Lithuanian descent, regularly takes to social media to gush about her dog and even set up an Instagram account for her canine companion, which she has had for several years.

The dog is also ever-present on Shaik’s social media accounts and regularly travels with the jet-setting model, who has walked the Victoria’s Secret runway five times.

“My travel buddy,” she captioned an adorable snap of the canine during one of her trips last summer.

Indeed, Shaik’s beloved pet has been present for some of the most monumental milestones of the Melbourne-born model’s life.

Choppa accompanied Shaik at her legal marriage ceremony to her ex-husband DJ Ruckus (born Gregory Andrews) in the Bahamas in 2018.


What We Are Reading Today: Mom Genes by Abigail Tucker

Updated 30 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Mom Genes by Abigail Tucker

Mom Genes is an interesting mix of research and memoir with many fascinating facts for the reader.
“Part scientific odyssey, part memoir, Mom Genes weaves the latest research with Abigail Tucker’s personal experiences to create a delightful, surprising, and poignant portrait of motherhood,” said a review in Goodreads.com.
“It’s vital reading for anyone who has ever wondered what rocks the hand that rocks the cradle,” said the review.
It said the book “is amazing and interesting for Moms and anyone interested in genetics and motherhood.”
It added that the author “is herself a mother and uses the insight she has gained from motherhood to highlight and accent areas in this book.”
“The author does a wonderful job making the content relatable and interesting by using personal anecdote and humor,” said the review.
It said Tucker “explores countless studies that examine motherhood in the animal kingdom and the implications they have for our human parental experiences.
The research spans the globe and includes an intriguing variety of topics related to maternity.”


What We Are Eating Today: Grandma’s Jar

Updated 30 April 2021

What We Are Eating Today: Grandma’s Jar

Grandma’s Jar is a homemade Saudi brand that offers authentic jam recipes for sweet-toothed connoisseurs that will make you reminisce over your tasty childhood recipes.
The home business was inspired by a grandmother who used to offer freshly made jam for every family breakfast during Eid, which everyone was eager to enjoy.
The fresh fruits are the main components of the heavenly jars. The healthy, natural jars are filled with just three ingredients: Cane sugar, fruits and lemon, without any pectin or gelatin.
They are available in eight different flavors: Strawberry and rosemary, mixed berry, mango, apricot, orange, cherry, quince, and the brand’s signature fig jam mix with nuts, sesame and black seeds.
Fruits used in Grandma’s Jar jam are taken from the business owner’s backyard. Seasonally produced, their fresh and cold mango jam marks the arrival of summer.
Their jams can be used in plenty of dishes, such as desserts, sandwiches and cheesecakes.
If you were thinking of Eid Al-Fitr’s surprise or gifting to family and friends, the brand offers three choices of smartly packed boxes, ranging from two to six flavors of your choice.
They offer shipment around the Kingdom too. For more information visit their Instagram @grandmasjar or their website: https://salla.sa/grandmasjar


Why Nablus is known as Palestine's capital of sweet treats

Updated 29 April 2021

Why Nablus is known as Palestine's capital of sweet treats

  • “Qatayef is a dessert that we only prepare in the holy month, and customers travel from everywhere to buy it here at my shop,” said Al-Nimr
  • Halawa said: “Every household consumes these sweets during Ramadan. Nablus is known for its sweets, and their prices are reasonable”

NABLUS: Nablus, in the northern West Bank, is known as the capital of sweets in Palestine. The kunafa made in the city is popular in all Arab countries, as well as in the West.
During the month of fasting, kunafa is part of an authentic Palestinian Ramadan and becomes a special treat for the faithful, who have it for iftar.
From the early morning hours, Mohammed Al-Nimr is busy preparing qatayef dough for customers of his shop on Al-Nasr Street.
“Qatayef is a dessert that we only prepare in the holy month, and customers travel from everywhere to buy it here at my shop,” said Al-Nimr, while pouring the liquid dough onto a hot plate.
Mazen Halawa, 73, stands behind several large pots filled with Zainab’s fingers, cheese-stuffed pastries, and awama, or sweet doughnut balls, which he has been making for 50 years. During Ramadan, demand for these desserts increases greatly.
Halawa said: “Every household consumes these sweets during Ramadan. Nablus is known for its sweets, and their prices are reasonable.”
During the holy month, many restaurants also produce sweets to meet the huge demand. 
However, shop owners have had reason to complain of low sales due to the outbreak of the pandemic and the ensuing partial closures imposed in the West Bank.
Majdi Arafat, owner of a sweet shop in Nablus, said: “The number of buyers this year is much lower compared to previous years.”
Arafat attributes the decline in shoppers to the deteriorating economic situation caused by the pandemic and lockdowns.
The dessert culture of Nablus has spread to various other Palestinian cities and Arab and Islamic countries.
Taher Bakeer, a researcher specializing in the history of Nablus, said: “The Abaza sweet shop was the most famous in Nablus. A famous sweet maker in the Levant told me that Abaza was the one that taught us how to make kunafa. The Turks took it from the confectioners of the Levant after we brought it there from Nablus.” 
Historian and traveler Ibn Battuta wrote about Nablus in his book: “It is an industrial town, famous for making sweets and tahina, in addition to soap.”
In addition to the ones previously mentioned, the most popular sweet delicacies made in the city are cheese pies, cream pies, khudoud Al-sitt, kullaj, shafaef Al-sitt, aratis with milk, Al-burma, sira bint Al-malek, bin narayn, karakeesh, harisa, and qazza.

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What We Are Buying Today: Saudi Arabia’s natural healing soaps Taleed

Updated 23 April 2021

What We Are Buying Today: Saudi Arabia’s natural healing soaps Taleed

Taleed is a Saudi brand of natural healing soaps. Its products are free of chemicals and harmful additives.
Inspired by a love of nature, Taleed is an Arabic name that means “inherited from ancestors,” which reflects the concept of the brand.
The company produces 30 soaps made of natural and organic ingredients including herbs, oils, petals, seeds, and grains that are free of artificial coloring.
Body soaps by Taleed are suitable for all skin types, as they are vegan-friendly and an ideal option for people with sensitive skin. 
They also can be used for the face and hair, and are safe for children and pregnant women.
Each soap has a specific natural element, and customers can pick soaps that suit them best. 
One of the most interesting options is the black musk soap, it has a powdery, musky natural note that will make you feel fresh and clean, removing unwanted bacteria on your skin.
Unlike other soaps on the market, the brand makes sure to apply pure glycerin that is free of alcohol, fragrances, or other chemical ingredients that could irritate sensitive skin.
Taleed offers delivery services for all regions of Saudi Arabia. For more information visit Instagram @_taleed.