Newly released from New York’s Rikers Island after serving more than two months for violating the terms of a plea deal, rapper DMX has parted ways with longtime label Def Jam and signed a new, three-album deal with Sony Urban.
His new album, and first studio release in three years, “Here We Go Again,” is expected to reach stores this summer.
The artist, whose real name is Earl Simmons, explained that he reached an impasse at Def Jam. “I wasn’t really happy there,” he told Billboard during a series of interviews last month at Rikers Island. “Recording was like work.”
Simmons said he and current Def Jam president/CEO Jay-Z could not work together. “We’re both too big,” he said. The album was originally recorded for Def Jam, and Sony Urban bought the rights to it as part of Simmons’ deal. However, only a handful of the original songs will be on the final release. Def Jam declined to comment on the subject for this story.
He was imprisoned after being arrested on two different occasions last year for driving incidents. The arrests violated the terms of a deal struck in 2004 after he crashed his car through a parking gate at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport after taking Valium.
DMX is the only rapper to have all five of his studio albums debut at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 and go multi-platinum. The artist is known for mixing the sacred and the profane in his rhymes, balancing his roughness with a deeply religious side.
In addition, Simmons has three movies in the works, including the indie film “The Last Hour” with David Carradine and Michael Madsen, as well as a reality TV series.
The artist recalled that in 2003, he reached a personal crossroads. His DMX side was fed up with the business. “I either wanted to kill someone, or myself.” After releasing the album “Grand Champ” and promoting his box-office hit “Cradle 2 the Grave,” he announced that he would devote himself to his spirituality. He wanted to become a preacher. Simmons sighs and points a finger to the sky. “Problem is, I never heard the call,” he said.
It was Simmons’ friend Mase (a.k.a. pastor Mason Bertha, one of the few successful rappers to date to turn preacher) who talked him out of retirement. “Mase told me I have to do what I can with the talent the Lord has given me,” Simmons said. “The Lord will call me when he wants me to do something different.”