E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX

E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX

4.8 38
by DMX, Smokey D. Fontaine, D

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The dark journey of a boy who became a man, the man who became an artist, and the artist who became an icon. A talent for rhyme saved his life, but the demons and sins of his past continue to haunt him.

This is the story of Earl Simmons.

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The dark journey of a boy who became a man, the man who became an artist, and the artist who became an icon. A talent for rhyme saved his life, but the demons and sins of his past continue to haunt him.

This is the story of Earl Simmons.

Editorial Reviews

Anthony DeCurtis
Earl Simmons, the rapper better known as DMX, has had his first four albums enter the charts at No. 1—the only artist ever to run off such a successful streak. That record is especiallynotable because, in a hip-hop world rendered blindingly bright by the glint of diamonds and bling-bling ostentation, DMX keeps it ruthlessly real. His songs are ferocious, street-level battlegrounds, charged in equal part by explosive violence and a desperate yearning for spiritual redemption. Those same currents drive his autobiography, a collaboration with the journalist Smokey D. Fontaine. Characteristically, DMX makes no effort to justify his depredations—particularly the violent robberies that provided his livelihood for long stretches of his teens and early twenties. He depicts himself in such incorrigible terms, in fact, that by the time he's beaten so badly that his jaw needs to be wired shut for three months, you feel he's gotten only what he deserves. Still, somehow, you're rooting for him every step on his long, slow climb to stardom. That contradiction sums up why this book is like hip-hop at its best—it's a fearsome, unrelenting narrative that raises many more issues than it resolves, and leaves the reader feeling both exhilarated and deeply unsettled.
Publishers Weekly
With lyrics that balance an extremely bleak view of urban ghetto "thug life" with a deep spiritual yearning for communion with God, DMX (Earl Simmons) has produced four consecutive No. 1 releases over the past six years, making him one of the undisputed superstars in the hypercompetitive world of hip-hop. On the eve of his fifth release, DMX (with Fontaine, the former music editor of the leading hip-hop magazine, The Source) has chosen to tell his own version of his already well-publicized life story. Born to a single mother in the projects of Yonkers, N.Y., DMX led a life of "running, robbing, rapping" for his first 25 years, serving numerous jail terms until being discovered by the legendary rap record company Def Jam. But this is no quickie celebrity biography: the obvious model is Claude Brown's Manchild in the Promised Land, the classic tale of the rise and fall and redemption of a tough inner-city youth. Like Brown, DMX is unsparing in describing the details of his hard life, including the brutal beatings he experienced at the hands of his mother and her boyfriends and the ease with which he adapted to his incarcerations ("I was used to sleeping on hard surfaces, used to eating rotten food"). As successful as his best recordings ("It's Dark & Hell Is Hot") in describing the tension between the author's street and spiritual sides, this is a painfully honest account of how one individual overcame "a lifetime of suffering" by discovering and believing in his lyric talent. (Nov.) Forecast: To be published just before Simmons's latest recording is out, this should gain a wide readership. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Born to an abusive mother and a father who drifted out of his life, DMX was a bright child in the gritty projects of Yonkers, New York. Too unruly for school, he was sent to a group home. When released, he turned to theft and eventually earned the nickname, "Crazy Earl." He wrote some of his best material and developed his signature style at various trips to jail. Brushes with the law and a violent attack that nearly took his life threatened to derail his career; however, his determination, faith, and superior skills as an MC enabled him to achieve his dreams and sell more than 25 million albums worldwide. Although the writing quality is inconsistent, teens with an interest in hip hop and rap culture or those who enjoyed books such as Sister Souljah's Coldest Winter Ever (Pocket, 1999) or Angry Blonde by Eminim (Marshall Mathers, Regan/HarperCollins, 2000/VOYA December 2001) will devour this first-person account. As DMX recounts his past to Montaine, an editor at Source magazine, nothing is sugar-coated. Mature readers will appreciate DMX's honesty about his criminal past and his passion for his family. The appearances of Mary J. Blidge, Jay-Z, and Sean "P-Diddy" Combs add to the authenticity. This book is highly recommended for libraries whose customers are interested in rap and in books that are set in an urban milieu. It should be noted that the coarse language, depictions of violence, and descriptions of women might be deemed highly offensive by some and should be considered when placing the book in a young adult collection. An appendix of his song lyrics is provided. Appendix. VOYA Codes: 2Q 2P S A/YA (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; For the YA with aspecial interest in the subject; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2002, HarperEntertainment, 346p,
— Aimee Lurie
Library Journal
Simmons's rise from impoverished child in Yonkers, NY, to successful hip-hop artist DMX known the world over is indeed an inspiring tale. But here the performer, aided by Fontaine (former music editor of The Source magazine), puts a bit too much emphasis on his violent formative years. Readers must wade through endless accounts of fights, beatings, and compromising positions involving the subject before reaching DMX's later critical and commercial success. Curiously, his artistic accomplishments are given only cursory treatment when they deserve much more; only serious fans will be interested in all the minutiae of his life revealed here. Although this is the first book devoted to DMX, libraries would do better to wait for a more balanced treatment. Not recommended. [DMX will release a new album in December, which may generate some demand for this book; because it will attract many YAs, librarians should take into account its graphic content.-Ed.]-Caroline Dadas, Hickory Hills, IL Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Paperback Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.91(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

First Memories

My name is Earl Simmons. I was born December 18, 1970, in Mount Vernon, New York, the first and only child of Arnett Simmons and Joe Barker. I've always hated my first name because it always sounded so corny to me and no, I don't have any middle names. Why my mother couldn't give me the names of some of the other men she dated, I don't know. There were certainly enough of them around. My mother found out she was pregnant with me when she was nineteen. It was bad because she already had a two-year-old, Bonita, and hadn't planned on having another baby. So she moved into this home for unwed mothers in Mount Vernon and asked her sister to take Bonita off her hands for a while because her "nerves were shot." My sister ended up staying with her until way after I was born while my mother tried to get her life together.

When I was one, my mother's mom died and even though she didn't grow up with her, my mother lost the only other person she felt she could look to for help. Laverne wouldn't take both of her kids, so my mother was forced to realize that she had to find a place of her own. Yonkers had more low-income housing than Mount Vernon, so that's where we went.

We lived in a small, dark, one-bedroom apartment in a building called the Roker. My mother was on public assistance and it was really hard for her to take care of us and pay all the bills and the rent at the same time. I was also sick a lot as a child. I inherited a bunch of allergies from her and bronchial asthma from my father. My shit used to be real bad. I remember many scary nights waking up not being able to breathe. My mother used tohave to take me to the emergency room and they would often end up keeping me overnight. Sometimes my asthma got so bad they would keep me for a whole week and they never could find the right thing to do. One night I had to go back to the hospital three different times because the drugs they were sending me home with kept making me sick. Then the doctors would give me breathing treatments. I had to lie down in this criblike bed that had a white net over it and they would pump in this medicated air. You couldn't move or get out and I remember being trapped in there having to just breathe in and out for hours. In the spring and summer I was under that net almost every week. I never knew if it helped or not. One time I had such a bad asthma attack my sister told me that my heart stopped beating and the paramedics had to take me out of my house in one of those sit-up stretchers because I almost died. I don't remember that, but I do remember the day I got hit by a car.

I was playing by myself in the street and found a dime. I was so excited; it was all silver and shiny. I immediately wanted to go to the store but the problem was that I knew I had to cross Riverdale Avenue to get there, and that was a pretty major trip for a kid my age.

But after a few seconds, I summoned up my courage and with a little burst of speed, made it across and got to buy what I wanted: a lollipop and a superball. You know those balls that bounce all crazy and go in different directions? Yeah! I'm the man ...

It was on the way back that I caught it. The impact was so hard, I got knocked halfway up the street, all the way under a parked car. But for some reason, even though I was badly hurt, I didn't feel nothing. All I was thinking about was how my mother was going to whip my ass because I wasn't supposed to be outside.

When I tried to get up, this white lady with a clipboard was standing over me; she must have been checking parking meters or something.

"Stay down! Stay down!" she kept yelling.

Then other people walked by and they started screaming. I can imagine how folks must have felt to see a little boy pushed under a car like that, though. Everyone crowded around and then somebody gave me a jacket to put under my head and I just lay on the street until the ambulance came.

Luckily, I didn't break anything, so I got better in a few weeks, but what hurt the most was when I found out later that I could have gotten some money from the accident. See, not only had the driver run a red light, but he was also drunk. A month after the accident an insurance company man had come to my house talking about a settlement and my mother turned down ten thousand dollars!

"Thank you, but we don't need your money, sir," my mother told him. "My family is Jehovah's Witness and our faith teaches us to be self-sufficient."

Huh? That was the loot that was supposed to be mine when I got older, the money I could have been straight with! Half of the kids in the ghetto get a little bit of money when they reach a certain age for something that happened to them when they were younger. Why not me? And if the insurance company was offering ten thousand dollars, my mother could have held out and got a lot more, too. Hitting a child, drunk driving, and running a red light? I didn't understand why Jehovah's Witness would have wanted to mess with my money ...

E.A.R.L.. Copyright � by Elizabeth DMX. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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