If he opts for a traditional headstone over a pile of vials and human skulls, or if he’s even capable of dying, then there may be no better statement to serve as DMX’s epitaph than “Let a dog roam and he will find his way home”. Thanks to regular cocaine binges, lyrics about raping teens and a history of impersonating federal agents, X seems doomed to roam forever, a hip-hop outlaw too volatile for the mainstream and too corporeal for the Supreme-clad underground. It would therefore be fitting to have this line from "Ruff Ryders Anthem" marking the spot where he’ll finally be at peace.
But is it harsh to suggest that DMX will spend the rest of his days wearing Phat Farm in cultural purgatory? Chewing his cheek in the back of a cab while a guy from XXL explains the internet to him as he gurns toward another shitty controversy? Maybe so, because between the jaw-clenching histrionics and hotel nakedness, I believe there’s a well-meaning, talented artist desperate to find his place in the world and peace within himself. If you have a life away from the TMZ/Gawker muck-spreader then you may have missed the reports about him fighting George Zimmerman in some dubious celebrity boxing bout. As well as a chance to pay off a shit-load of child support, I think he sees it as an opportunity to right a litany of wrongs without having to temper the aggression that’s defined his career - a rare thing, given his recent attempts at redemption.
Before the sit-downs with Dr. Phil, there was the music. And it was fucking great. "X Gon’ Give It To Ya"/"Party Up (Up In Here)"/"Where The Hood At" each served as a thesis statement spat out in caps lock, but I think "Where The Hood At" is DMX at his best. No other rapper has so effectively shown his disdain for "homothugs" before rounding off a song with an entire bar about forcing a man to blow him while all his mates watch. You can see why it’s been hard for him to maintain an air of stability.
The thing is, X’s motivation has always been power, and his style unbridled fury. This explains the baffling lyrics about non-consensual homoeroticism, but more importantly, it’s willed him to be the best — his first four albums went straight to number one. It’s only recently that he’s had to remind everyone that there’s a man behind the snarling beast barking its way through Yonkers on a Kawasaki. If you watch the interview with Dr. Phil, he’s incredibly open about his life, recounting his difficult upbringing and struggles with addiction. The audience fawns, Dr Phil chuckles and we realise that we’re all capable of mistakes, but it takes a real man to admit to them on the Oprah Network. I don’t think a lesser rapper would be so candid (this means you Lil Wayne vs. Katie Couric).
Then there’s the other side. The growling, frustrated drug addict who can’t reign in the anger that made all of his songs the soundtrack to UFC highlights. Now I do feel bad about the farcical reunion with his eldest son. If, for whatever reason, you haven’t seen your kid in a year and a half you probably don’t want a TV-psychologist telling you not to smoke while you talk about your feelings. Unable to hold it together, he storms out of the room, baffled that an outsider has been enlisted to resolve the sort of issue that transformed Earl Simmons into DMX when he was his son's age. I’ve only heard him angrier when he found out who Lil B was.
This is his main problem. Personally, he wants to do right by everyone he neglected when he was in his prime, but he can’t relinquish the aggression that left them in his wake. Professionally, he’s constantly out of his element; forgotten by the public as his peers run ahead of him, unable to catch them up as he attempts to battle his own demons. I don’t think the Zimmerman fight will ever actually happen, and even if it does, there are far greater issues surrounding it than George’s perverse celebrity and DMX’s personal problems: It won’t repeal the Stand Your Ground law and it won’t rid the world of people who think a black man walking is a threat.
But what if it did happen? All complex questions of morality aside, I think everyone except Floridians and the NRA would have at least a glimmer of admiration for DMX. He could walk out to the intro from "It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot" just like Tyson used to. And like Tyson, he’d be so ski’d up that he wouldn’t even feel Zimmerman’s flabby blows fall upon his numb face. After he wins (he’ll win, he’s DMX) and his name reverberates around the arena, he can pour into that microphone every word he’s ever wanted to say, knowing he’s the hero who just fulfilled the base desires of every right-minded person on the planet. He’ll forget the embarrassing YouTube moments and Daytime TV confessionals, and when the highlights make the rounds with "X Gon Give It To Ya" repeating over the knockout blow, he will—at least for a moment—feel as if he’s finally home.
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