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Other new songs address his relationship with God. Fly with Me Later consists entirely of gospel hip-hop songs. In one of them, "Have You Eva," he raps about struggles we all face over R&B music and soulful female backing vocals: "Have you ever seen something that you wanted so bad?/Then you got it and wished it was something you never had? Don't beat yourself up like 'Where did I go wrong?'/Just get back up, pray on it, and go on."
Many of the tracks feature beats contributed by Swizz Beatz, the nephew of Waah and Darrin Dean of Ruff Ryders. Beatz sold his first beat to DMX when he was 17. He's gone on to produce music for Beyoncé and Busta Rhymes, and now runs his own label, Full Surface Records.
When Beatz initially sent the music, DMX had been out of jail for a while. "He was very diligent at being clean and maintaining his sobriety. He was very clear-headed," Salter says. "I think he really did buy into the idea that he was going to get his life together and get his career back."
But by 2010, Simmons's career had fallen apart. He'd left the Def Jam label in 2003. For years, Simmons claimed he left because the new president of Def Jam, Jay-Z, wasn't promoting his albums. Others in Simmons's camp, like his manager Nakia Walker, say Jay-Z let Simmons go so he could deal with his problems, and didn't demand the $2 million Simmons would have owed for not fulfilling his contract.
Simmons signed to Bodog Music in 2007 to record and release Walk with Me Now and Fly with Me Later. After Bodog Music shut down in 2008, International Arts Management and Her Royal Majesty's Records retained the rights to the songs. According to IAM CEO Peter Karroll, the plan is still to release the record.
"I've always felt the guy was a creative genius and deserved another shot," Karroll says. "This is a big record. I think this album has the potential to take him back to number one."
Karoll says he's received several investor offers, but negotiations collapse every time DMX lands in jail. Ideally, Simmons could buy his licenses back, but he doesn't have the money. Somebody who's sold millions of albums could conceivably live off publishing royalties, but Simmons admits he never looked at his finances during the first 10 years of his career.
When Walker came on board and looked at Simmons's business papers last year, she says she discovered someone has been stealing his royalties for more than a decade.
On April 26, 2010, Simmons filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court against Rich Kid Entertainment, a company he'd hired in 1999 to collect his royalties. The lawsuit alleges that instead of taking the 10 percent cut its contract dictated, Rich Kid pocketed 100 percent of Simmons's publishing profits.
The lawsuit is still pending. Walker says she's busy putting out plenty of other fires, including promoters threatening to sue over concerts DMX missed because he was incarcerated.
Walker says she's doing everything she can to keep Simmons focused on positive things. "We're reaching out to Swizz [Beatz]. Busta Rhymes is calling, he wants to help. Flavor Flav is calling, he wants to help,'" Walker says. "And I'm not lying to people. I'm telling them, 'He needs help. It's time we address it. It's time we come together and save his life. Or else he's going to die.'"
DURING HIS HIGH-ENERGY performance last November in Scottsdale, DMX took a break to talk to the crowd. What he said—and the fact that someone in the audience videotaped it—could be a major blow to his comeback aspirations.
"New York to AZ, niggas must be craz-y, I'm a dog—fuck Jay-Z! Ya hear? Ya hear?"
"I need a little feedback," he continues. "What do ya'll think is the state of the record industry right now? You know, I'm an artist, so I kind of have biased views, but I think most of those niggas suck. I think they not only suck, but they suck dick."
The video of DMX's outburst hit the internet that night. By the next afternoon, it had gone viral, and his "Fuck the Industry/Fuck Jay-Z" speech was the talk of countless hip-hop forums.
Ironically, Swizz Beatz had released DMX's new single, "Ya'll Don't Really Know," that day, and was getting positive feedback. He told Walker that Jay-Z had even approached him about maybe doing something with DMX before he heard about the video.
Beatz defended DMX in an interview with Vladtv.com. "There's no problem with DMX, with Jay," he said. "X is forever my brother...he's had this trouble in his life that nobody cared about when he wasn't successful."
Walker says DMX has "no problem" apologizing to Jay-Z. "They don't have any ill intentions toward one another," Walker says. "The reason Earl did that, and this is something that came out of his mouth, is because it rhymed with 'AZ,' and it got a roar out of the crowd."
Shortly after Simmons was sent to jail, he stopped granting us interviews. According to Walker, he wanted to wait until after his sentencing on the probation violation charges.