Many claim to find God in prison, and DMX is no exception. But he is different because he's clearly still straddling the fence. He has made handfuls of gospel songs, and says he wants to change. At the same time, he says he's "hungry and angry." And he hasn't changed. Remarkably, he doesn't seem to be faking either side. He's a convicted man in more ways than one.

Those close to Simmons say they're doing everything they can to help him get his life together, but he frequently ignores their advice and makes bad decisions. They all say he's had streaks of sobriety, but ends up backsliding. They agree he has a potential hit album, but every time they get ready to release it, he gets arrested. For Walker, there's more at stake than just his freedom and an amazing new album. "If we don't get Earl together," she says, "X is not gonna exist."

DMX was last released from jail in July and began to build buzz around one of his new songs, "Y'All Don't Know." Over dark synthesizer hooks and a slugging rhythm courtesy of renowned producer and artist Swizz Beatz, he raps: "The sky's the limit, so I'm reaching for the stars/I'm tired of being a nigga that they keep behind bars."

DMX at Morning Star Sanctified Church with Pastor Barbara King (center) and another parishioner.
Courtesy of Barbara King
DMX at Morning Star Sanctified Church with Pastor Barbara King (center) and another parishioner.
Don Salter at the boards at the Saltmine Studio Oasis.
Jamie Peachey
Don Salter at the boards at the Saltmine Studio Oasis.

Riding radio interest, Walker started booking shows for DMX. At the Scottsdale club in November, he was on fire, bouncing around the stage like a man possessed, tearing through the tongue-twisters in his lyrics. To the hundreds of screaming people who watched him flawlessly perform his top 10 hits, it was clear that DMX was back.

Six days later, he was arrested at his home in Cave Creek, on the outskirts of metropolitan Phoenix, for violating the terms of his probation (again) and sent to jail without bond. (And throwing a wrench into plans to interview him.) When Walker visited him the following week, he told her, "I can't live like this anymore. This is crazy."

And "crazy" has only been the half of it.


It's around 5 on the evening of DMX's Nov. 12 show, and he's getting ready to sound check. Dressed in a black shirt, long shorts, and hiking boots, he paces around the stage. Suddenly, he brings the microphone up to his mouth and hollers, "WHAT?!"

Walker, who's sitting in front of a speaker, covers her ear and winces. DMX chuckles and lowers his voice, imitating a smooth jazz radio DJ. "Hellooo, and welcome to a mellow evening with DMX," he croons. "Tonight, we'll be playing all of your favorites, like this classic tune ..."

The DJ cues the track for "Slippin'" from DMX's second album, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood. Near the end of the song, DMX changes the last line of the chorus: "Hey yo, I'm slippin', I'm fallin', I can't get up/Hey yo, I'm slippin', I'm fallin', I gots to get up." The music takes a sudden pause as he screams, "I want to make records but I'm fucking it up!"

Walker's cellphone rings. It's somebody asking what DMX wants in his dressing room, aside from the list they have: fried chicken, Now and Laters, Skittles, and a bottle of Hennessy.

"Hey, Earl, what do you want in your dressing room?" Walker yells.

"Butt-naked women and jelly beans!" he replies with a big grin.

"Make sure it's somebody Angela likes," she jokes, referring to the woman with Simmons, an aspiring model he'd introduced earlier as "my baby mama."

Simmons puts his arms around Angela and hugs her. Earlier, he'd taken her aside and given her a necklace. "So you can look at that and think of me, and know I'll always be with you," he'd told her.

This is the side of DMX people rarely see: the real Earl Simmons. Simmons and those closest to him agree that he and X are two different people. Simmons raises money for his church, loves his kids (all nine, from five mothers), and collects toy cars and trucks because he's still a kid inside. X, on the other hand, frankly doesn't give a shit. He's the ruthless one who steps up to smack people down when Simmons wants to hide.

"Earl is a person who still holds onto a lot of things he suffered in the past, as a child," Walker says, "instead of talking about things and releasing. He expresses himself through his music."

Asked how his new material reflects his life over the past few years, Simmons says, "Indirectly. But that's pretty much been my life up to this point anyway. Not much has changed — jails, streets, speak for the people."

Earl Simmons was born on Dec. 18, 1970, in Mount Vernon, N.Y. His 19-year-old mother already had a 2-year-old daughter by another man. According to Simmons, his father, an artist, came around only when he was trying to sell paintings in New York City. In his 2002 autobiography, E.A.R.L., he writes that his father "never called me on my birthday or helped raise me at all."

As a child, Simmons lived with his mother and sister in a one-bedroom apartment in Yonkers. They were on welfare. He had no father figures, save for his mother's boyfriends, who rarely paid him attention.

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9 comments
sekesegyename
sekesegyename

You are a strong black brother, and your struggle has not been easy. No one can judge you, for we all have  sinned and come short. I encourage you to listen often to this particular web site.

mosque7.org His messages don't miss a beat. You are not alone. God was with the prophets in the past, and he'll be with you. Come all the way clean. God sees and know all things.Go back to the beginning, because you can't fight all those Pharoahs.. Get you house in order. God will bring you out. Hold on, and be strong.  Alafia

Yorated
Yorated

IAM RALPHY JESUS SALAS JR I SPENT 2 YEARS WITH DMX IN CHILDREN VILEGE HE IS THE BEST FRIEND ANY ONE CAN HAVE, HE IS ALWAYS IN HEART AND PRAYERS, LOVE YOU MY BROTHER YOU STAY SRTONG, YOU ARE GODS SON RALPHY AKA RATED R 1st TEAM PROD LLC

cierra jones
cierra jones

i dnt care if dmx have a prblem cu i no partialy hw he feel i stll listen to hys musiq t2da cu hes real he speks upon hys lfe wit no lys n really i luk up to hym as a male rapper cu he feels pain he wnts hlp n i c it i lu u dmx an my drems will sty truuue (GROWL).............

Carlosegodinez
Carlosegodinez

I can't believe that the author didn't cite "Belly" That's the coolest movie ever. I grew up on that movie. I'm also surprised the author didn't talk about the song on the album "It's dark and Hell is hot" where he talks to Damien. The article was really informative, but bias.

Romanowski45
Romanowski45

"Many famous rappers from troubled backgrounds — including Lil' Wayne, T.I., and Too Short —have been jailed on various charges. But DMX has sold more records in the U.S. than they have, and his rap sheet is the longest."

Now why you have to lump in Too Short with these guys? How many times was he arrested ?I could find one for his attack on a Security Guard, in Boise last year. And I googled that from bed.

The SF WEEKLY'S stories start to sound and look like the NY Post.

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linaimai

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Vera
Vera

Life is not fair. Simmons is blessed but he is his-own-worst enemy.Good news, God helps those that help themselves.

steve
steve

X hold yah head, you'll make it back soon!

 
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