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March 2004
Never Die Alone: An Interview with DMX

By Monikka Stallworth

Never Die Alone: An Interview with DMX

Never Die Alone is a pivotal film for DMX because he establishes himself as an actor. As a fan of Donald Goines' hardcore street novels, DMX was honored to have the opportunity to play the most mythical kingpin character of King David. He was so drawn to the project that he also came onboard as a producer. "Never Die Alone" is not your typical rapper-in-a-movie movie, and DMX is not your typical rapper. We sat down at the W Hotel in Los Angeles to discuss his latest role...

Recurring themes of redemption and living a life of crime show up often in your music and they are certainly grand themes in Never Die Alone. How did you merge these themes into your acting?

DMX: I had actual events and issues to draw from. I think that is the theme of my life, you know, right/wrong, good/bad, heaven/hell. I think you have to know both in order to honestly choose one. So, I'm familiar with both sides of the fence.

And how did you apply those real life events to the role of King David?

DMX: That was the character be a grimy nigga' for a minute, then fuck around and get a conscience.

What attracted you to this film and the role of King David?

DMX: I've read every single one of Donald Goine's books. So as soon as I heard that there was an opportunity for one of his novels to be turned into a movie, I jumped at the opportunity.

How did you discover Goines and how did you apply what you read?

DMX: I was locked up when I first heard of Goines and read his novels. It was like, here were a set of novels that didn't always have a happy ending. There were a lot of situations that I could relate to and a lot of the characters, I knew.

This is your fifth film; can you talk about how this character differs from the others?

DMX: Yes, in my last three movies, all with Warner Brothers, I was kind of the same person the black guy doing karate, lot of money and that's all right for one or two movies, but there's not much realism in that character. With this character (King David), I don't walk off into the sunset. Reality hits despite the fact that Kind David has come to terms with the things that he's done, he still gets what he deserves.

Were you or are you feeling pigeon holed by that "black guy doing karate" role? And what would your ideal role be?

DMX: Yes. There are a lot of roles that I'd like to play. Giving you an idea of the character would be somewhat giving away the story and these are things that are on the table right now. But more realistic movies with good stories. I think that's very important.

Is there any film that you'd like to remake if you could?

DMX: Not to take anything away from Samuel Jackson, I think he's a great actor, I'd love to work with him, but I would have loved to have done Shaft.

Is there a message in Never Die Alone and if so, what is it?

DMX: Do dirt: get dirt. King David was a ruthless bastard. I didn't like him as a character, but I'm glad I was able to play him.

What was it like working with Ernest Dickerson?

DMX: The energy level was intense because we had a short time to shoot it. There wasn't much time for error. We did a lot of shots in one or two takes, but that's all due to the fact that we had a great cast, a great crew, we all got along, everyone worked with each other and that made for a great product.

With the pressure of shooting a scene in one or two takes, did you feel comfortable as an actor with that?

DMX: Yep. I actually became the character for the duration of the movie, on and off set. I try to stay not all the way in where I expect someone to call me King or something, but I might take the walk home, or the way the character speaks I might take that home or the body language.

I understand that you had to slow down your speaking voice for the role, what else did you have to do?

DMX: I did a couple of things. For one, I had to learn how to walk comfortably in a suit because I don't wear suits at all, so that was one of the hardest things, not just walk in it, but walk like I like to wear suits. The talk, I usually talk kind of fast, I didn't think that King David was as amped as I am. He doesn't have as much energy as I do, so I had to play him down and get on some ole grandfather shit, old man talkin' shit to a younger person "what's wrong wicha' boy?" It's almost a Southern type of thing,but it wasn't that hard.

You're a producer on NDA, what was that like?

DMX: I had to attend a lot of meetings. I didn't really enjoy that part of it, but I did it. I was in on the casting and everything.

Some may look at you as one-sided, but you are an actor, a rapper and now, a movie producer. Your wife is a co-producer and your son is in the movie as an actor. Can you talk about DMX, the family man?

DMX: Well, when I'm at home I don't discuss business. I don't talk about business. I don't answer the phone. It's just me, my wife, my children, my dogs and that's my world. I'm a totally different person at home than when I'm working.

What about your film production company, Bloodlines?

DMX: This is our first project, I'm glad it went as well as it did stayed in the budget, it looks great. And my next 3 or 4 projects will be under Bloodline as well.

So will you only do movies that are produced by your company, Bloodlines?

DMX: No, I wouldn't say that, but now that's what I'm focusing on.

So what are some of the differences between working in the music industry versus working in the film industry?

DMX: The difference is the money, there's a big difference.

Where's the better money?

DMX: In movies. In music, the highest paid artist gets 18 cents off the dollar and the record company still owns the finished product. It's robbery, straight robbery. They give you nothing, everything is an advance, but they'll offer it to you. "Hey we were looking at the new Range Rover and thought it'd be a great idea if we got it for you." And you're like "great, thank you," And they get it for you and you look on your P & L report (profit and loss report) and you see "Range Rover - $80,000" and you end up thanking yourself. It's robbery and I can't be a part of it anymore. I feel like I'm being disrespected. You do so much for the record label, you make so much money for them and then, at the end of the day, you're nothing but a number and if you don't cooperate, then they play games and say "well, okay, we'll not promote you as much as we normally have and see what happens then". They want to keep you hungry; keep you wanting that advance.

So how has this film career affected your relationship with your record label?

DMX: The first time they heard I was doing a movie, they were upset. They were like "he can't do a movie, he has to go over here and do this!" I was like "What the fuck you mean I can't do a movie? You stick with the music, mind your fucking business, I'm going over here and I'm going to do this movie!"

Have you ever thought of releasing your own music like over the internet or something?

DMX: Yes, I've actually started a union to protect the rights of the artists. We have no one to look out for our rights. We have a few in terms of collecting our money, but what about what's right in a contract. A standard contract is for 5-7 years, 5-7 albums. How the fuck do you call me a risk, yet you hold me down for 5-7 years? And the average expectancy of any artist is three years. So you're already holding me for longer than you think I'm gonna last. There is no risk factor. They have a lot of artists out there that are straight garbage and they play them so fucking much that after a while you find yourself singing their shit. They control the market. They got BET and MTV in their back fucking pocket, they do favors for each other. All the radio stations are bought and paid for. It's not even about talent any more, it's about who they like, who's their guy, who's their buddy. And I'm nobody's fucking buddy. Fuck that. I'm not cooperating.

So your recording career is over?

DMX: Yes it is.

You're not gonna record anymore?

DMX: I refuse to give another dime to that record label, to Def Jam. I gave them their best year. I made 144 million dollars for them in one year and guess how much they gave me?

3 million?

DMX: Nope.


DMX: Nope.


DMX: There you go! They didn't give me shit! What they did was they loaned me $3 mil towards my next album. So as soon as they give you that money, you already owe them 2 more albums. They don't give you anything. They advance you, or give you something and have you pay for it later.

So you don't find this sort of problem in the film industry?

DMX: Nah, not that problem.

And as a producer, you're going to own this movie?

DMX: Yeah.

So when does your contract with Def Jam expire?

DMX: 2 years.

You have developed quite a fan base and you seem to be very gracious and receptive to them. How difficult is dealing with the fans for you?

DMX: Extremely. People don't understand that I am a person, I might not be having a particularly good day and they'll walk up and just ask me for shit without saying hello. Don't ask me for shit until you've spoken to me first! I get this all the time "I want a hug." ":I want a picture."

Have you ever had a moment where you lost it with a fan?

DMX: Once.

What happened?

DMX: It makes me look bad either way, whether I'm right or wrong. I'm yelling, kids are around but I was in the mall one time, walking around, minding my business. I had just gotten my food and there's about 10 or 15 of us sitting down at the table. So this girl walks up and starts waving her hands in the air and yells, "Oh, since you so big time, Mr. Celebrity, I guess you paying for my lunch!" She yells it out, crazy loud. And keeps going on "You makin' all this money, I guess you paying for my lunch!" I'm like "Yo girlfriend, you don't even know me to be talking to me like that! Ain't nobody said to come to the food court without no money!" That was one time that just got to me.

When did you know that you had something special, such a unique voice?

DMX: It's funny you ask, because I listened to a tape of myself at 16 and my voice sounded nothing like this. I always knew that I was different; I knew I wasn't like a lot of the other kids. I knew I was smart, I knew I was bright.

What other Donald Goine's books would you like to produce?

DMX: We're doing another one, Daddy Cool.

Are you going to play Daddy Cool?

DMX: I don't know. I'm not going to star in every one of my movies. But what I will bring to this film industry is the same thing that I brought to the music industry when I came into it realism. Uncompromised, unconditional dog love. Not love for everybody, but we have a click, we're tight and we're gonna bring official shit to the table. No animated bullshit - the truth is undeniable.

What's your favorite movie?

DMX: Zoolander.

What do you think about the whole Janet Jackson thing? In your opinion, has she been treated fairly?

DMX: I think it's been blown a little bit out of proportion. And you know what, I gotta say this Michael Jackson will always be the King of Pop. Always. And I personally don't think he committed any crimes as far as touching kids. You don't wake up one day and start touching kids. And if it was happening for a while, why is it just coming to light?

Do you admire him for standing up to Sony?

DMX: Yep. I admire anyone who stands up to their record label.

Thank you.

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