Dark Man X: The Resurrection
MARK ANTHONY GREENAWOL ERIZKU
September 23, 2019 8:00 AMPHOTOGRAPHS BY AWOL ERIZKU
Coat, $6,950, and sweater, $2,250, by Ermenegildo Zegna XXX / Pants, $8,550, by Hermès / Shoes, (price upon request), by Isaia / Sunglasses, $475, by Linda Farrow / Ring, his own
DMX’s life and career have been a roller coaster of highs and lows. Now, after a year in prison, he’s out and ready to start living again.
It’s 2 a.m. and DMX is snoring. (Imagine DMX snoring and you’ve got exactly the right picture.) We’re in an SUV, driving to a pool hall in Westchester, New York, which is where he grew up and currently lives. He’s wearing headphones and just barely holding an iPad that’s fruitlessly playing an episode of Ozark. Exodus, DMX’s three-year-old son, is in the far back seat, blasting that baby-shark song that drives parents insane. The duet of deep snores and dooo-dooo-da-dooo is the soundtrack of our 50-minute trek from Lower Manhattan.
It’s easy to forget how successful DMX was. To this day, he’s the only rapper to have his first five studio albums debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. He is the only living rapper to have two albums go platinum in the same year. He starred in massive-budget action films. And he made millions. It’s easy to forget the highs because of his lows. X has, for example, been to jail some 30 times in his life. Charges against him vary—from drug possession to robbery to probation violation and everything in between.
He’s struggled with an addiction to crack cocaine.He has 15 kids and unsuccessfully tried to file for bankruptcy as recently as 2016. (The case was dismissed.) But his latest return from prison feels different. Even in a world where hip-hop is now controlled by kids a fraction of his age with fuchsia-colored dreads and face tattoos, there seems to be a cultural demand for DMX. He did Kanye’s Sunday Service weeks after being released—where he delivered a prayer that was harder than any freestyle we had seen that year. People began to tweet old clips of him performing in his prime. Friends like Swizz Beatz began to hype up the Dog’s return.
Eventually the now 48-year-old
DMX returns from his nap and Exodus falls asleep. Which is when we head inside the quaint pool hall. He puts $2 in the jukebox and runs through nothing but love ballads (Teena Marie’s “Out on a Limb” kicks things off) before beating me, handsomely, in a round of pool. He also beats a white guy wearing an “I Stand for the Flag” T-shirt who was starstruck by DMX.
Coat, $8,750, by Berluti / Sweater, $1,950, by Hermès / Pants, $325, by Ami
But before all of that, though, I learn this: It’s impossible to have a lighthearted conversation with DMX. When I asked him what his favorite dessert was, he claimed he didn’t have one. Trying to be funny, I asked, “Well, what do you do after dinner?”
“Drink,” DMX replied.
There was an awkward pause. I tried again to lighten the mood: “What’s your favorite candy?”
To which he responded: “Now and Laters.”
He smiled big, the first time he had smiled in a while. I asked him if he had any cavities, so I could share that I had a few myself. Because I, too, love Now and Laters.
DMX’s answer: “You have to have teeth to have cavities. I don’t have many teeth left. I think the average person has 36 teeth, right? I have like 20 left.”
I’d later learn (you will too) that two of DMX’s teeth were knocked out by his abusive mother when he was only six years old. This story, like most of his stories, is tragic. But that’s his cross to bear—and in a way, he’s proud of that. As a devout believer in God, DMX looks at the bad, all of it, as testimony. As living proof that if he could make it through this, you could make it through whatever you have going on as well. He doesn’t know if the bad times are done. But as we sit outside that pool hall in Yonkers, in what will be his first interview since going to prison in 2018 for tax evasion, he’s willing to open up about a few things. Timberlands, for starters.