DMX’s personal photographer during the late-90s and early 2000s, Sharief Ziyadat, was able to capture some of the most intimate and iconic images of the late superstar.
Ziyadat began his photography career in the late-90s, traveling around the world with DMX and Ruff Ryders at the peak of their run. Sharief documented X’s story on tours, video shoots, night out with friends and more.
During an exclusive talk with The Source, Ziyadat details how he met DMX, moments that stuck with him from their time together, and more.
How did you first meet DMX?
I first met X while I was a student at the School of Visual Arts. One day, I saw Ruff Ryders CEO Waah Dean standing in front of Powerhouse Studio, so I approached him, told him that I was an aspiring photographer, and volunteered to help Ruff Ryders with creative. Waah brought me in right on the spot, so at one point, I went to the back of the studio, saw X sitting on the couch, and personally introduced myself. After letting him know I was a fellow Yonkers native, I asked X for permission to take photos of him and he said ‘Of course’ with no hesitation. I still remember capturing three photos – it was 2 full body pictures and one headshot – and expressing my gratitude for X because that moment meant a lot to me. Fortunately, that encounter blossomed into an ongoing, professional relationship.
What was a moment that stuck with you about DMX’s character?
X was passionate about everything he did – even when he was a local Yonkers star and before the international fame. When I first met him at Powerhouse Studio, he asked me if I loved photography. I responded ‘Yeah’ and X told me ‘Good, if you love what you do, you will never have to chase money, it will chase you.’ At the time, I was just a student who was figuring life out, so those words resonated strongly with me and still do more than 20 years later.
Being with him as a personal photographer, what type of conversations did you share?
X always valued the hard work and efforts of the Ruff Ryders family, so I just remember how much he prioritized and talked about loyalty. As he blew up from local to national superstar, he never changed and always made sure that everyone within the team was in position to succeed and win.
When was the last time that you spoke to DMX?
My last interaction with X was about a little over a year ago, when I ran into him at a spot in Yonkers. He was just vibing out, showing love to everyone who came up to him and he was just in a great space. X always had amazing energy and our last interaction was no different, so I’ll always be grateful for that final memory of him in a positive environment.
Beyond rap – fans knew X was religious, how much of that was shown through his daily interactions with others?
X’s spirituality was sincere and he definitely gave his heart to those around him. At each show or appearance he made, I would always capture him sending his blessings and prayers to his adoring fans and those were powerful moments. Behind closed doors, he would definitely pray anytime at any moment for whoever needed it.
Do you have a favorite picture of DMX?
My favorite picture I ever took of X was during a break from the ‘Where The Hood At’ video shoot. At the end of one of the shoots, X was feeling very emotional after the recent passing of his friend Kato, which came not too long after Aaliyah’s tragic death. During this particular day, he was committed to honoring the memories of Aaliyah and Kato, so he asked me to take a picture of him kneeling in front of a car that had paintings of Aaliyah and Kato. He was in a prayer position and it just hit me hard to see the pain in his eyes that day – he was still grieving. That moment still sticks with me to this day because he had genuine love for them both.
Is there something you wish you could tell him before he left us?
I wish I could’ve thanked X for helping me find my purpose and passion as a photographer. At the onset of my career, he motivated me and challenged me to become a better photographer. My experience with X equipped me with the experience to make it in this industry, expand my brand and do what I love. He was a big inspiration to a lot of people, including myself.