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He pleaded guilty to four of the charges stemming from the raid on his home by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, and he was sentenced to 90 days in jail and 18 months of supervised probation. During his time in the Lower Buckeye Jail, he was placed in solitary confinement for allegedly throwing a food tray at a guard.
Simmons was released on probation in late April 2009. Everything seemed fine until 11 months later, when he was arrested after a drug test came back positive for cocaine. He pleaded guilty to violating his probation and got six months in jail. "It was a pretty good stretch," Simmons says. "At least I was in the A/C."
He was released early for good behavior last summer, after serving four months. A couple of weeks later, Tashera Simmons announced that they were separating.
Simmons says he's trying to do positive things. Before his arrest in November, he had planned to participate in a charity event to raise $500 each for 20 Phoenix families in need.
Many of the new DMX songs were written and recorded on the first take, right after Simmons heard the beats the first time.
"He is truly one of the world's greatest rappers and a genuine poet," says Don Salter, owner of the Saltmine Studio in Mesa, Arizona, where DMX recorded Walk With Me Now. "He has a spontaneous ability to rhyme, reason and record masterpieces on the fly."
The new material reflects DMX's chaotic life in Arizona. Perhaps most haunting is the track "Soldier," which begins with a collage of sound bites from news stations about his various arrests, laid down over a melancholy piano hook and a martial beat. In the first verse, DMX raps: Ran through the streets, made it out of NY/Come to AZ, cowboys trying to end my/Man, you can't be serious homie/Besides mountains, ain't a fucking thing you can show me.
Whenever DMX has been arrested in Phoenix, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been right there, helping make it a media production, saying the rapper "never learns his lesson" and vowing to treat him the same as any other prisoner, which includes making him wear pink underwear like the rest of the MCSO inmates. A couple of years ago, DMX told TMZ, "For the record, fuck Sheriff Joe."
Asked if he feels that he's been treated unfairly by Arpaio, Simmons says, "I'd say I've been given a lot of unfair treatment. But I'm not gonna let that dictate what I do."
Many of the tracks on his new recording feature beats contributed by Swizz Beatz (Kasseem Dean), nephew of Waah and Darrin Dean. Beatz was 17 when he sold his first beat to DMX. He has gone on to produce music for Beyoncé and Busta Rhymes, and he now runs his own label, Full Surface Records.
When Beatz initially sent the music, DMX had been out of jail for a while. "He [DMX] was very diligent at being clean and maintaining his sobriety. He was very clearheaded," Salter says. "I think he really did buy into the idea that he was going to get his life together and get his career back."
But Simmons' career had fallen apart by 2010. He left the Def Jam label in 2003 and, for years, claimed that he left because the new president of Def Jam, Jay-Z, wasn't promoting his albums. Others in Simmons' camp, such as Walker, say Jay-Z let Simmons go so he could deal with his problems, and Jay-Z didn't demand the $2 million that Simmons would have owed for not fulfilling his contract. (Jay-Z's publicist at Universal Music did not respond to interview requests for this story. An interview request through his book publisher was declined.)