By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
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 United States, thanks largely to hit singles like "Get at Me Dog" and "Ruff Ryders Anthem."
Simmons' 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.
Between albums, Simmons starred in several movies, including Last Hour, Exit Wounds, and Romeo Must Die.
But despite his commercial success, Simmons' personal problems continued. His rap sheet, like his music, would become epic.
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 of years later, he was sued by a Maryland woman named Monique Wayne, who claimed Simmons was the father of her child. The married rapper 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 that he'd never return. "At one point, I think I said I'd rather fly around the state than over it," Simmons says outside the Venue 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 1999 at Phoenix's Chaton Studios. 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 says he fell in love with the desert and "all the openness" and bought a half-million-dollar, adobe-style home in Cave Creek, near 11 miles of open trails for riding his ATVs. "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 had his family and he had several dogs, including a black and white pit bull named Phoenix. He made six episodes of 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' 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 bulls 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 checking on them only 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.
The MCSO search log details the conditions of the dogs found on Simmons' property, including three canines found with fecal matter on their legs and four with various scars.