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DMX Interview with MTV's Sway
The man spits blood. He bathed himself in it for the cover of his second album Ü the one that earned him the title of first artist to ever make two number one debuts on the Billboard 200 in the same year. Dark Man X came into his own in 1998, kicking up the stones alongside the road most traveled by hip-hop's ice-and-cheddar charttoppers to show what lay beneath. He brought it to the surface, blazed a trail and gave it a voice, three letters: DMX. He came to stir your soul, if not save it. Now with some 9 million certified album sales shared by his three solo LPs Ü 1999's ... And Then There Was X and 1999's It's Dark and Hell Is Hot and Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood Ü the dominating growl of the Ruff Ryders clique is branching out with a new label, Bloodline Records; a book deal; two new movie projects ("Exit Wounds" with his "Romeo Must Die" director Andrzej Bartkowiak and the next "The Crow' film); and commanding presence on "Do You," the lead-off single from the upcoming Funkmaster Flex LP. Considering these apparent diversions Ü along with DMX meeting more than his share of legal run-ins in recent months Ü some may wonder if he's straying from his path. But this is DMX we're talking about. No one can see DMX's path more clearly than DMX himself. With that in mind, MTV News' Sway sat down with DMX for a rare, one-on-one interview. He set the record straight about the rumored drama with Ruff Ryders over the formation of his new label and spoke candidly about his treatment by the mainstream media. He opened up about his family life, his repayment of debt to his community, and his plans for his fourth album. Check it out...
MTV News' Sway: To start off, I want to touch on something a lot of people don't know: that you've been married for a long period of time. There are a lot of cats in our line of business that really don't build on family.
DMX: That goes to show who they are. I'm a man with a strong foundation; I've got a wife, two beautiful kids. That's my foundation. That's what's important to me, not the 2000 Bentley, or that they got 23-inch rims now, or 'My chain is bigger than yours.' All that is superficial. It comes and goes. If I lose all that, I will still have my wife and my family. That will always remain my foundation. [My wife] is my best friend. We talk about everything. After 11 years, man, every day I love her more.
Sway: How has fame affected your family life?
DMX: Less time, but it makes the time that we do spend more precious than it already was.
Sway: What about your kids? Are they the most popular cats on the block now?
DMX: My son, I tell him every time we switch schools, "Don't tell nobody who your father is." Somehow or another, the whole school finds out. They're giving him letters to bring home, pictures to bring home, "Sign this, get your father to ... " You know? He'll learn to keep his mouth shut.
Sway: I was watching a tape of a show that you did in Philadelphia, where you were saying a prayer, and in the middle of the prayer you just broke down. I was thinking how powerful that was. Could reflect on that moment and tell me what was going through your mind at that point?
DMX: I think that I felt all the love in the room, dog. It was incredible to have 20,000 people be quiet enough so that you could hear the person way in the back if he coughed. To have that much respect for you ... then to actually feel what you are saying to the point where they cry with you, man, it's overwhelming. I've never felt anything like that, anything, in my life. That is part of the blessing the Lord has for me; part of the gift he has given to me. That is a small part of it. If I continue on that track, there are many more blessings to come.
Sway: What's up with the next album?
DMX: I'm still trying to catch up with the third one. First one, second one, they're still selling, I'm going to give them a minute, but really it's the movie, the tour, and another movie. I'm going to hit 'em again. I'm already writing; I've got songs done already, and I never stop writing, 'cause I stay hungry for the title. And the title, believe it or not, is The Ear. That's the title to me. The ear that listens to the voice; the voice that speaks through me. Not A Bigger Chain, not A Bigger House, not Fifty More Dogs, Oh I Got My Own Private Jet. The real title is The Ear. As long as I have that, I'm good.
Sway: Talk a little bit about "More 2 a Song," from your last album.
DMX: Stop talking about how much jewelry you got, stop talking about how much p---- you get. Stop talking about how many hoes you got, how big is your house, 'cause you got people really listening and living off of what you're saying. You can't be promoting all that.
Sway: Do you think that hurts society?
DMX: Yes. It has [people] looking for the wrong things, when you're looking for the wrong things, you get the wrong things a lot earlier, but [people] have to pay for it with a couple of years of their lives behind bars. You didn't tell me that part, did you? You left out the part of how many years you did before you got all that. You failed to tell me about the part that you ain't robbing n---as anymore or selling drugs no more. You're rapping, but talk about selling bricks. Leave it alone, man. Tell them about what you did and what you're doing now. That's a much better message than "I still got bricks, and I got cake." Like, get the f--- out of here. That shi-- is crazy.
Sway: What's your relationship with the press like?
DMX: I'm a personal type of person. I'll speak when I have something to say, not 'cause someone just wants to know something. Sometimes I get caught up in the wrong time. Then you get the person who says one question, and asks you 20. I mean, I don't know. I can't get along with everyone who does an interview with me. Anytime I get arrested, it's on the news, primetime, one of the headline stories, "Rapper DMX in more trouble," but they never say when rapper DMX gets off the hook. When charges get dropped, when DNA says that can't be true. If they would even out the news, our perception of the world wouldn't be so bad. But all we hear is about bombs, killings, rapes ... that's all we hear on the news. If they put other sh-- on the news, like, "Oh, somebody didn't die," you have a better conception. "OK, the world isn't that bad." 'Cause people look at the news and be like, "Sh--, I'm getting a gun right now."
Sway: Let's talk about the positive side of X. You're fixing up a church in Yonkers.
DMX: I was home one night, and I saw [the church had been served an eviction notice] on the news, and I was like, "What? That can't happen." 'Cause I remember a long time before I got signed, the church was there. It was one of the darkest times of my life, despair, a feeling of hopelessness; been rapping for so long, ain't getting nowhere. I went to church. I was down one day, and someone was like, "Let's take a walk," and that's where we ended up. It was a community church; people who gave up all their money for the Lord. That's why I respected to be there. To hear and to be talked to. I was like, OK. I know what it meant for me.
Sway: You actually bought the church building.
DMX: And I renovated it. The place was, like, a hundred years old, but it was a nice size of property, so it's going to be a nicer looking church. The meaning will be just as forceful, but we're just going to have everything we need.
Sway: I understand that you might be building a shelter and a kitchen? DMX: Yeah. That's the foundation. My wife is in charge of it. It's called the Mary Ella House, after my grandmother. It won't be for the homeless. It would be for teenage mothers. We'll take them in. Rather than give them a job, we will put them back in school. Give them knowledge. Get a GED, and then send them off to college. Then they'll feel a lot better about themselves. They're in there for the kids, and they'll stay there, but they have to stay in school. You leave school, you leave here. We only help those who want to help themselves. I know it's hard out there. A lot of teenage mothers, man.
Sway: And these are the DMX stories you don't hear on the nightly news.
DMX: There's a lot of different sides, like I said. You don't want to show just the bad. There has to be a balance to it. "Oh, he's a thug." But what is a thug? What do you mean when you say that? You don't know a motherf---in' thing about me. "He's a thug, and that's bad. Don't listen to him, he curses." You curse more than me! What the f--- you talking about?
Sway: How come you weren't able to make the 2000 VMAs?
DMX: I was filming ["Exit Wounds"]. When you're on a contract to do one job you just can't [leave it]. I had a tight schedule. Movie with a big budget, a whole bunch of other actors involved, you just can't [leave]. So that was that. It was nothing against MTV. It happens. Was already in Canada. I didn't win anything.
Sway: Talk about your new label, Bloodline Records.
DMX: Everybody on my label comes from my bloodline. I had something to do with the development of that artist, and I will continue to. I know they've got it in them, ready to scratch at any time. So if I raise a dog, it's going out. That's how my artists are. Big Stan, Jinx; Cashmere, Iceberg shorty from Chicago. Jinx is from Harlem, Stan is from Yonkers. My dog Sinclair, he's from Yonkers. He's like my best student. I sat down with him for hours.
Sway: What happened with Ruff Ryders?
DMX: It's like this. We built Ruff Ryders together. From day one. It was started 'cause we came together. I'm still on the label, but seeing as we built it together, I feel I should [have] had some part of it. I have nothing, and that's what made [me want] to get my own label. That doesn't mean I'm going to leave that label, 'cause I'm not on Bloodline. I feel it's somewhat of a conflict to be on your own label. Because of that, I'm branching out and developing. A lot of phone calls. The threats. It shouldn't even be like that man.
Sway: What kind of threats are you getting?
DMX: Serious ones, but for what I've already given you; something I helped build, I can't get my own. That's funny right there.
Sway:Will you still be collaborating with Swizz Beatz, Eve, Jadakiss? DMX: Yeah. It's crazy.
Sway: You're working on your autobiography too. What made you start it now?
DMX: I've got a lot to tell. I have an incredible story, and it's one of a soul being saved, for real. I went from nothing to everything I wanted overnight.
Sway: Is there a message there for people who lived lives that are similar to yours?
DMX: Don't think that the street life is all you have. If you put as much initiative in following your dreams as you would to get a quick buck on the block, you might just get that dream.
Sway: How intense is that?
DMX: It's a pain in the ass, man. That's one of the reasons I don't like interviews, 'cause they just want to hop on, "So what's happening with that gun charge you have?" Damn, man, you didn't even ask me about my kids. What you want to know about the gun charge? Sh-- like that.
Sway: In closing, what would you like to say to those who support your music and support you?
DMX: Take it for what it's worth. My birth was a blessing. Sent to live and die on Earth; it's a blessing. We each have a star; all you have to do is find it. Once you do Ü everyone sees it Ü you won't be blinded. They'll say that you're bright and that you have a future, but when you turn your back, the same cats will shoot [you]. I look at both sides of the fence and look at what you do, when you do, when you talk, and see what you really meant.