By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
DMX was last released from jail last July and began to build buzz around one of his new songs, "Ya'll Don't Know." In the song, driven by dark synthesizer hooks and a slugging rhythm courtesy of renowned producer/artist Swizz Beatz, DMX 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."
Riding radio interest, Walker started booking shows for DMX. His last public performance took place November 12, at the Venue of Scottsdale. He was on fire that night, bouncing around the stage like a man possessed, tearing through the tongue-twisters in his lyrics with intensity. To the hundreds of screaming people who watched him flawlessly perform his top-10 hits that night, it was clear that DMX was back.
Six days later, Simmons was for violating the terms of his probation (again) and sent to jail without bond (throwing a wrench into our plans to interview him at home). When Walker visits him the following week, he tells her, "I can't live like this anymore. This is crazy."
IT'S AROUND 5 on the evening of DMX's November 12 show, and he's getting ready to do a sound check inside Venue of Scottsdale. 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, his voice gliding through the speakers like James Earl Jones's.
"Hellooo, and welcome to a mellow evening with DMX," he says. "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, he 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!"
According to Simmons and those closest to him, 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, the character that steps up to smack people down when Simmons wants to hide.
Earl Simmons (no middle name) was born on December 18, 1970, in Mount Vernon, New York, the only child of Arnett Simmons and Joe Barker. His mother already had a two-year-old daughter by another man when she became pregnant with Earl. She was 19.
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., Simmons 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, New York. They were on welfare. He had no father figures, save for his mother's boyfriends, who rarely paid him attention.
We couldn't reach either of Simmons's parents. He reportedly hasn't spoken to his father in years, and he's estranged from his mother. "My mother beat me for every man that did her wrong, for every man that fucked her and left her," Simmons wrote in E.A.R.L.
Simmons discovered his talent for words in the third grade. One day, he ran home and proudly proclaimed, "I can spell 'Empire State Building'!" But he says his mother just glanced up and told him to run along.
So Simmons started doing other things to get attention, like fighting and throwing chairs at teachers. He was first incarcerated at age 10, when the courts sent him to a children's home for 18 months.
After Simmons returned home to his mother, he ran away often. Many nights, he slept inside the clothing bins outside a Salvation Army. By his teens, he was using drugs, stealing, and mugging people on the streets of Yonkers. Growing up poor, he never had new shoes or nice leather jackets, so when he saw a kid wearing them on the streets, he took them.
And he started taking in stray dogs. He'd look all over the neighborhood for strays, the mangier the better, sometimes following them for hours, trying to coax them to his side. The dogs became his only companions, and since dogs weren't allowed inside his apartment building, he slept with them on the roof. He would lay up there, looking up at the stars, and think how he trusted dogs more than people because dogs loved him back and would never betray him.
One day, a neighbor kid contacted animal control about Simmons's dog, Blacky, and the officers shot Blacky right in front of him. A week later, a pissed-off Simmons went to school with a sawed-off shotgun taped to his leg. He was sent to a juvenile detention facility, the first of many where he would have an extended stay.