In honor of the 10-year anniversary of DMX’s classic 1998 debut It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, XXL tracked down the elusive Dark Man X in Arizona to discuss what it was like making the album (that story in the May issue, on stands now). We also got the scoop on his present state of mind. In December 2007, having been released from his Sony contract earlier in the year, X inked a deal with Bodog Music, a division of the Canadian online gaming company Bodog Entertainment. Due later this year, his next projects are two separate albums called Walk With Me Now and You’ll Fly With Me Later. The former disc will be devoted to straight rap, while the latter is X’s first gospel-rap endeavor, which comes as no surprise given his spiritual background. Both feature production by his longtime collaborators Swizz Beatz, PK and Davine Bars. In the last week of January we caught up with the Yonkers MC and chatted about the status of his current project, the shape rap is in, and some guy named Obama.
There’s talk of a new album for you. When’s that coming out, like what’s up with that? Can you tell me what stage you’re at as far as recording?
Well, I’m bout to start working on the gospel album.
Yeah, the gospel album. It’s like a double album right?
It’s two different albums. Two albums, separate albums. I got a couple more tracks to do on it and that’s done. It’s the first time anybody did anything like this—two separate albums on the same day.
What made you want to release a gospel album now?
I’ve done gospel songs on every album. I figured I’d just dedicate a whole album to it.
Right. Can you tell me signing to Bodog, how that came about?
I don’t even really remember how it came about. Some real shit, I don’t remember who did what about what. I remember when I met ‘em it was in Miami.
You met who?
I met, you know, the people from Bodog in Miami and we had dinner and it was just a good vibe, good energy.
When was that? Do you remember?
But you were still signed to Sony at the time?
Nah, I had already gotten a release.
What happened with the situation at Sony? You weren’t happy there, right?
Nah, they did my whole shit—they just fucked my whole project up.
As far as marketing and stuff?
Every way. Every possible way.
So as far as this album, what should people expect from this album? What’s your mind state? What kind of songs are you doing?
Banging joints, just like the last album. Just banging joints. I’ll have a couple of ’em on my MySpace page in a couple days.
Okay, you’re on MySpace now?
I been there.
How do you feel about the digital—like, everything going through the Internet as far as…
I don’t even think about it. I don’t even think about it.
The music business is pretty much going in that direction.
I don’t know. That’s just… that’s probably not… People want the actual CDs not no shit that’s disposable.
It’s like the ringtone rappers are the guys that are selling right now.
Good for them, good for them. I’m glad they eating right now.
You don’t feel a certain way about that.
Nah, I don’t even think about it, for real. I mean, it’s a waste of energy to think about what somebody else is doing and how they doing it. I’ma just do what I do. All that shit is a headache.
What do you think about where the rap game is right now? Do you think it’s in a good space? ’Cause rap sales are down.
We’re coming around to a good space. Quietly, a good position.
Sales are down, though.
It goes in cycles.
Right, but do you think there’s a reason that rap isn’t selling like it was in your day?
Yeah ’cause niggas ain’t saying nothing. People ain’t saying nothing. Ain’t but so many people… Some people buy records just to dance to ’em. Some people buy records to listen to the radio. And there’s people that buy records ’cause they listen to every song. They not feeding the people properly.
You mean the artists?
Yeah, the artists. It’s the same ole bullshit. That’s how it get. There has to be some fuckin’ substance.
Do you think it’s a good thing that Southern music is pretty much dominating the game? There’s no cats from New York, you know. It seems like there hasn’t been in awhile. What do you think about that?
What do I think about Southern music?
I really don’t think about it.
You don’t think about it?
I really don’t care for it. To focus on other shit is a fuckin’ headache.
Right. So what artists are you listening to right now?
Same ones I been listening to—Nas and Scarface.
Nas and Scarface?
Yep, Nas and Scarface.
Have you recorded any songs for the new album?
Yeah, half the album is pretty much done, the gospel album.
Can you tell me about some of the songs, a couple of the songs that you did?
Like, what do you wanna know?
What was the first song…
The single is a joint called “All Ready.”
What were you doing in between—from the last album to this one, that whole time? What have you been up to?
Life. I been up to that. It’s been crazy. Fuckin’ police keep on fuckin’ raiding my house and shit for nothing. They took all my fuckin’ guns. All they did is take is take my guns. All they fuckin’ do is fuck my house up and take my guns. That’s all they did. Straight robbed me—that’s what they did.
Are you happy with how your last two albums did as far as sales?
Oh yeah, I’m happy. I’m happy with whatever they do.
Would you ever think about becoming the president of a label, like running your own label?
There was a video on the Internet recently, I don’t know if you saw it, like with you in the studio.
Nah, didn’t see it.
It was like you in the studio and I guess some other producer and you were recording some songs and you were talking about some random stuff. Do you remember that?
Yeah, I think so.
People were really concerned about you or whatever.
That was a while ago. I didn’t see it.
Do you remember when you were in the studio?
Vaguely. I’d just flown in or something. I know I was tired as a muthafucka.
Tired from recording?
I just flew in. I just flew in.
Do you worry about people getting the wrong perception of you?
No, I really don’t. People could say what they want. I don’t really care. I don’t give a fuck.
Anything that’s not positive, I don’t have the energy to focus on it. Anything that’s not going in the right direction I don’t have the time or the energy. If somebody step to my face, I’ma take care of ’em, that’s something different. What people think, I don’t give a fuck about none of that shit ’cause they ain’t putting money in my pocket. They ain’t taking no money out of my pocket. They all suck dick when they see me so it really doesn’t matter.
Are you following the presidential race?
Not at all.
You’re not? You know there’s a Black guy running, Barack Obama and then there’s Hillary Clinton.
His name is Barack?!
Barack Obama, yeah.
What the fuck is a Barack?! Barack Obama. Where he from, Africa?
Yeah, his dad is from Kenya.
What the fuck?! That ain’t no fuckin’ name, yo. That ain’t that nigga’s name. You can’t be serious. Barack Obama. Get the fuck outta here.
You’re telling me you haven’t heard about him before.
I ain’t really paying much attention.
I mean, it’s pretty big if a Black…
Wow, Barack! The nigga’s name is Barack. Barack? Nigga named Barack Obama. What the fuck, man?! Is he serious? That ain’t his fuckin’ name. Ima tell this nigga when I see him, “Stop that bullshit. Stop that bullshit” [laughs] “That ain’t your fuckin’ name.” Your momma ain’t name you no damn Barack.
So you’re not following the race. You can’t vote right?
Is that why you’re not following it?
No, because it’s just—it doesn’t matter. They’re gonna do what they’re gonna do. It doesn’t really make a difference. These are the last years.
But it would be pretty big if we had a first Black president. That would be huge.
I mean, I guess…. What, they gon’ give a dog a bone? There you go. Ooh, we have a Black president now. They should’ve done that shit a long time ago, we wouldn’t be in the fuckin’ position we in now. With world war coming up right now. They done fucked this shit up then give it to the Black people, “Here you take it. Take my mess.”
It’s all a fuckin’ setup. It’s all a setup. All fuckin’ bullshit. All bullshit. I don’t give a fuck about none of that.
We could have a female president also, Hillary Clinton.
I mean, either way it doesn’t matter. I don’t care. No one person is directly affected by which president, you know, so what does it matter.
Yeah, but the country is.
I guess. The president is a puppet anyway. The president don’t make no damn decisions.
The president…they don’t have that much authority basically?
But Bush pretty much…
You think Bush is making fuckin’ decisions?
He did, yeah, he fucked up the country.
He act like he making decisions. He could barely speak! He could barely fuckin’ speak!
Can’t be serious. He ain’t making no damn decisions.
Well Barack has a good chance of winning so that might be something.
Good for him, good for him.
How’s your family and your kids?
They’re good. My son is rapping now.
Did he see you? I’m sure he was inspired by you.
Yeah, yeah. all that. Took him to shows and everything.
What does your wife Tashera think about him rapping?
She likes it. She’s the one who told me. She told me.
Did you talk to him? What do you tell him about the industry? Do you give him advice about the industry?
He knows it, he knows all that shit. Ah, man. I give him some advice.
What kind of advice do you give him? Like, watch out for, you know…
Advice about life, advice about girls, whatever a father would tell his son. Everything. Advice about everything. Everything. Advice about everything.
Do you think you’ve been a good father up ’til now?
[Pauses] I don’t know. I’ve done the best that I could.
I guess you never know, right?
They’re all well mannered. I hope I instilled something positive in ’em.
Would you ever do a second—like, your reality show again? ’Cause the first one did pretty well.
Yeah, I will.
After that Snoop had a show and Irv Gotti so it kind of kicked off the reality shows after you did it. Right?
Yeah I guess. Good for them. Everybody’s doing it big.
What do you think about Lil Wayne? People think he’s the hottest rapper.
He is nowhere near the hottest nothing right now. You can’t be serious.
Why do you say that? He’s on like every song.
He has to do that.
Is there anybody that you’re excited about? Are there any new rappers that you’re excited about?
What was the last time you got excited about a new rapper? When was the last time that you really liked somebody that was coming out?
I don’t recall being excited about a new rapper ever.
Is it that bad?
No it’s not that bad. I just don’t, I’m real picky about what I fuck with.
Right, you don’t really listen to other people?
Nah, not really.
All right, well is there anything else that I missed? Anything that you’re working on?
Working on life.
Working on life.
Yeah, working on life.
Are you happy right now?
I don’t wanna be happy.
’Cause when you happy you get locked in sleep. You get sleepy happy. I always wanna be on point. I always wanna be aware.
Right, ’cause when you’re happy you think you’re safe and you don’t…
Yeah, you get sleepy happy.