"I've been through mad different phases like mazes, to find my way." The recording of "Slippin'," the standout on 1998's Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, brought a New York City courtroom to silence this week. Sitting at the center of the room, at the defense table, was its passionate author, Earl "DMX" Simmons.
As reported, the rapper was ordered to serve one year in prison for tax evasion, after pleading guilty to the charge back in November. As a means of giving the court a sense of the impassioned man behind the fervid lines, such as "actions become bolder, heart got colder, chip on my shoulder," Simmons' attorney Murray Richman played the record for everyone in attendance on Wednesday (March 28).
"The video and "Slippin" was played in court, because I felt it physically demonstrated that the song was a good indication of what he went through in his life," Richman told REVOLT over the phone. Over the sullen production, X bares his trials and tribulations in pensive manner, allowing his visceral reality bites to ring the eardrum and tug heartstrings. In his ability to convey these palpable emotions, while pulling them out of others on first listen, he was once described as the "Miles Davis of rap" in a cover story for Vibe in 2001. "Revolutionary and tormented," the article read. On "Slippin" specifically, Richman describes X as being at his most "demonstrative" of "the terrible life he led leading up to these events."
Even with the emotional depth of the song, Judge Jed S. Rakoff later sentenced the rapper to a year in prison, stating, according to a report by New York Times, that it was necessary for him to be punished for a "particularly brazen and blatant" crime.
X was charged with failure to pay income tax for a 12-year period. He was ordered to pay $2.3 million in restitution. "The US Attorney wanted five-years, we argued for literally no time and the judge gave him one year," Richman clarified. "He's been in for a couple of months, so he'll be in for a few more months, [and then] he'll be home."
Still, even with the sentence handed over, the song worked in eliciting a reaction from the judge. "In the court's view Mr. Simmons is a good man, a very far from perfect man," Judge Rakoff said, according to the NYTimes report. "In many ways he is, to give the cliché, his own worst enemy."
Rakoff's statement is one that has followed X for the better part of his career.
In his prime, DMX was a walking powerhouse. His first three albums all debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album charts — a record-breaking feat at the time. The first two — It's Dark and Hell is Hot and Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood — released seven months apart in 1998 and swept up the rap world like a broom. "We never really thought about 20 years from now, we just thought about the album we was doing right then and there," X's longtime friend Darrin "Dee" Dean," co-founder of Ruff Ryder remembered about the making of the legendary albums. Along with his brother, Joaquin, and sister, Chivon, Dean founded the label in the late '90s and went on to take the world by storm with its dynamic roster. X played a big part in that success.
"The first time I met X was a change for me in my life because I wasn't going in the right direction at the point," Dean remembered. "I was in the streets and he was the first person to make me believe in music, talent wise." According to the Ruff Ryder exec, there was something about the man's voice, and his spewing out gritty truths like a street-edged pastor, that spoke volumes to him in their first encounter. "I always listened to music, but talent wise, when I heard him and he rapped to me, I was like blown away. This nigga here is the truth. It stuck with me ever since. I never seen anybody that's ever took me by storm like he did."
After Flesh of My Flesh, the rapper released ...And Then There Was X, which further cemented him as a crossover success with an important voice.
Unfortunately, with all the accolades in the world, X also become attached to drama. In 2004, he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of drugs after plowing through the gates of New York's John F. Kennedy airport parking lot and claiming to be a federal agent. The incident was followed up with a series of legal troubles for the rapper, including jail time in 2009.
But even with his much-talked about rap sheet and the headlines attached to his brushes with the law, there's still a side to the rapper that has yet to be publicized. "He's a passionate guy who has great depth and feelings," Richman detailed. "He's a loyal friend. I've been with him for 20 years." The same sentiments was shared by Dean, who was also with the rapper upon his 2017 arraignment hearing in New York City.
"He's very religious, they don't talk about that. And most of all, he's got a good heart. A great heart," Dean added. "If you met him, you wouldn't believe none of what they told you because he has a good heart. They say bad things about him because he has a problem, which is a drug problem, but that has nothing to do with his heart."