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The Devil in DMX

Can the celebrated rapper get out of trouble long enough to top the charts again?

Ruff Ryders arranged a record deal for DMX with Def Jam Recordings. His first album, It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, was released in May 1998. It debuted at number one on the Billboard chart in the U.S., thanks largely to hit singles like "Get at Me Dog" and the "Ruff Ryders Anthem."

Simmons's career flourished over the next eight years. His second album, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, was released in December 1998, and also debuted at number one. He was the second rapper to have two albums debut in the top spot that year; the other was Tupac Shakur.

DMX released three more albums over the next five years: ...And Then There Was X (1999), The Great Depression (2001) and Grand Champ (2003). All debuted at number one. His last studio album, Year of the Dog...Again, was released by Columbia Records in 2006. It fell short of debuting at the number one spot by about a hundred copies.

DMX gestures on his way to jail in December.
Jamie Peachy
DMX gestures on his way to jail in December.
MUG SHOTS COURTESY OF THE MARICOPA COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE, EXCEPT (G) COURTESY OF THE ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
Mugshot A — May 6, 2008: charged with, among other things, reckless driving and criminal speeding Mugshot B — May 9, 2008: charged with animal cruelty and felony drug possesion Mugshot C — July 2, 2008: arrested for failure to appear in court Mugshot D — July 19, 2008: charged with providing false information to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale Mugshot E — March 9, 2010: charged with probation violation Mugshot F — November 18, 2010: charged with probation violation Mugshot G — December 20, 2010: DMX’s latest mug shot, taken after his transfer to the Flamenco Mental Health ward at the Alhambra prison complex in Phoenix

In between albums, Simmons starred in several movies, including Last Hour, Exit Wounds and Romeo Must Die.

But despite his commercial success, Simmons's personal problems continued. His rap sheet, like his music, would become epic.
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In June 2004, DMX made headlines when he was arrested at JFK International Airport in New York. He'd reportedly tried to steal a car by telling the driver he was an FBI agent, then crashed his SUV — with a billy club and a bag of crack in it — through an airport parking lot gate. Simmons was charged with impersonating a federal agent, possession of cocaine, possession of a weapon, criminal mischief, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and attempted carjacking. He pleaded guilty, paid several fines and served a seven-day sentence.

A couple years later, he was sued by a Maryland woman named Monique Wayne, who claimed Simmons was the father of her child. He was married and denied it. When paternity tests showed he was indeed the father, he told media, "She raped me. I mean, you know, that might sound like some bullshit."

He started racking up arrests in Arizona three years ago. His November arrest marked his sixth in Maricopa County. He stayed in Arizona between arrests, despite his previous statements to never return. "At one point, I think I said I'd rather fly around the state than over it," Simmons says outside the Venue of Scottsdale, between puffs of a Newport cigarette. "To tell you the truth, I haven't left yet. I think I'm gonna stay. I've been in jail out here, so I guess it's home now."

Simmons had recorded his third album, ...And Then There Was X, in Phoenix at Chaton Studios in 1999. He says he fell in love with the desert and "all the openness" and bought a house in Cave Creek. "I like to go out in the desert and ride quads. It's just me and God out there," he says. "Back then, Pima and Princess was the last exit on the 101, so I'd set off at Pima and Dynamite, and we could ride from the house straight to the trails."

He lived primarily in New York until 2005, when he relocated to the outskirts of metropolitan Phoenix. Arizona was supposed to be a new beginning. He had a half-million-dollar, adobe-style home in Cave Creek, near 11 miles of open trails for riding his ATVs. He had his family, and he had several dogs, including a black and white pit bull named Phoenix. He made six episodes for a reality show on BET called DMX: Soul of a Man. He was clean for a while, by all accounts, and worked hard in the studio. But at some point, everything went astray again.

In August 2007, Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies raided Simmons's Cave Creek home. According to court documents obtained by New Times, they found 15 firearms, which Simmons was prohibited from possessing, including a .50 caliber Desert Eagle handgun and a 12 gauge double barrel shotgun. They also found a Bell Atlantic bag containing baggies "with a yellow rock substance, possibly methamphetamines," as well as three dead pit bull dogs and a dozen others in bad condition. Simmons wasn't home during the raid, and wasn't charged with anything until almost nine months later — when he was slammed with a slew of charges, including seven misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and four felony drug possessions.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who's long been a crusader for animal rights despite the ongoing string of human abuses in his jails, told local media, "We have to send a message that we're not putting up with animal cruelty, no matter who they are."

Simmons was in New York in the weeks leading up to the raid, and says he'd hired a caretaker to look after his dogs before he left. He says he wasn't aware until after the raid that the caretaker was only checking on them once a day. The caretaker, Brad Blackwell, told sheriff's deputies he'd agreed to watch the dogs "for just a couple of days" while Simmons found another caretaker, and that he didn't want to look after them anymore.

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