One of my favorite hobbies is going to concerts and music festivals. I was fortunate to be raised by parents with the same hobby and saw Journey, Steely Dan, and other awesome bands as a kid. They also recognized my early passion for artists like Britney Spears and 98 Degrees and took me to see them, as well. Bless their hearts. Hell, my family even ditched back to school night when I was a freshman and my brother was a junior to see The Who. Beyond enjoying concert going, my brother played drums all hours of the day and night while we were growing up. This gave me exposure to all different genres since he would listen to anything he could find with an intricate or unique drum beat. I also have an affinity for any music that will make me dance. This led to me being exposed to a lot of hip-hop and rap in my early teens, where I credit my deep love for that particular style. As I do with everything, I take this passion as far as I can. I chose to spend my money going to Bonnaroo over going to prom. I went to a music festival in Montreal before I went to college. At this stage in the game, I attempt to go to a concert around once a month or so. I chalk it up to self-care and sticking to my roots.
Back in December, I was searching “local” venues’ schedules as I usually do. For me, local means anywhere within a drivable distance or a train ride or two away, particularly Philadelphia and New York for bigger acts. I try to research upcoming shows every few weeks or so, just to make sure I don’t miss anyone good. In one of my routine searches, I stumbled upon FREAKIN’ DMX playing at the Theater of Living Arts in Philadelphia. I immediately thought of all my amazing and tolerant friends I could convince to accompany me to such a magical evening. If my true friends know me, they know that any time DMX comes on anywhere I have no choice but to dance and rap along. I am obligated to do so. I have no say in the matter. But I digress. While fantasizing about seeing him live, I remembered my best friend /slash/ former roommate, Matt, still needed a birthday present. What’s a better present to give than one you want for yourself AND get to enjoy together? None. He took me to see Tegan and Sara’s The Con X Tour for my birthday, so I thought it’d be an even trade-off. I immediately sent him an emergency text informing him of his gift and he was down. Fantastic. I frantically ordered the tickets and knew X was gon’ give it to us.
January 27th rolled around and I was ready to GO. Traveling to concerts in Philly always feels like a mini-adventure for me since it takes over an hour to get there from ~The Jersey Shore~ and somehow just ends up being an escapade because of the antics I get into. Luckily, Matt lives closer to Philly so it helped break up the trip a bit. I stopped to pet his roommate’s dog. Again, another thing in life I’m just obligated to do- pet all the animals I have access to. We switched drivers and headed into the city of brotherhood for some shopping, sushi burritos (which are AMAZING), and DMX-ing.
We got to the TLA around 8 pm, hoping the opening acts would have at least started. This was true, however we didn’t get the memo that this DJ, which Matt and I recall to be named Dirty South Joe was going to play for over two and a half hours! I’m not complaining yet. The DJ played a chill mix of current songs and old jams. It allowed time for Matt and I to dance around and be silly. It was a decent time killer and gave everyone plenty of time to drink and smoke copious amounts of whatever they wanted. For real, people were even smoking cigarettes inside. I’m sure it was due to the frigid temperatures, but still. Other people were fully capable of stepping outside. As suspected, this led to quite a handful of people having too much fun and being escorted out of the venue. I even pulled a Social Worker Assist and helped a security guard by talking to a kid who was too high to make sure he was okay. Turned out he didn’t eat enough, hit his pen too hard, and fainted in the crowd. I even had an extra drink than I had originally intended (bought for me, you know how it goes… guy ~accidentally spills his drink on me and friend takes it as an opportunity to buy me a drink sort of gig~ even though I was with my male friend).
Around 10:30-10:45 pm, the crowd began to verbally express frustration toward the length of time we had to wait for His Royal Highness by booing and shouting other obscenities. We then heard people mumbling, saying he canceled his show the previous night and didn’t announce it until midnight. Since it was ~Matt’s birthday present~ I gave him the responsibility to decide what we were going to do. I will find any excuse to pawn decision-making onto someone else but this seemed valid to me. He suggested we wait it out a little longer, and thank goodness we did. The way the rest of the night unfolded was worth the over four-HOUR wait to see DMX for a multitude of reasons.
As I mentioned before, the longer they kept the crowd waiting, the more vocal about their frustrations they became. In hopes of easing the crowd, X sent out some artists to spit rhymes while we continued to wait for him. People were openly booing the supporting rappers seemingly nonstop their entire performances. Of course Matt and I were laughing at the social scene we were witnessing and basking in all the opportunities to people watch. There was a dude wearing a backwards tucker hat with the words Sick Day printed across trying very hard to hit on multiple girls. Sick Day actually climbed under a railing and stuck his head through to talk to a girl. If you’re reading this, Sick Day, thank you for the pure entertainment. Matt also photobombed pictures of girls posing hard to make me laugh. A girl sitting next to us was complaining on Instagram Live about the wait. You know, the usual drunk and annoyed concert crowd.
It was around midnight. Matt and I mutually confessed how hungry we were and debated what would possibly still be open by the time we get out. I checked in again to see if he wanted to keep waiting and he said he did. We ultimately remembered Wawa is always there, no matter the time, to save the night (morning, technically). This ended up being the moment the crowd was SO PATIENTLY waiting for. DMX finally emerged onto the stage. We were genuinely surprised to see DMX at his own show.
It was well worth the wait. I have to say he did put on an amazing show. He seemed to genuinely enjoy performing and knew exactly what he was doing. It appeared to be second nature for him. He exuded confidence while also remaining humble and appreciative of the fans. Matt and I started watching his performance from the balcony then ultimately made our way down to the crowd to bop around to One More Road To Cross. After performing his first few songs he began discussing how much he loves performing. He said, and I quote, “When I’m on stage in front of a room full of people that love me, it’s better than the best pussy I ever got in my fuckin’ life.” The crowd exploded with cheers. I was hysterically laughing, NOT because I didn’t appreciate the sentiment, but because HOLY CANNOLI DMX IS LOW KEY HILARIOUS! He then told us “we knew what time it was,” and proceeded to climb the speakers on stage right. Matt commented that he “hopped on like an old person,” which was a fair and funny observation. He is 47. After some brief crowd hyping, he jumped into Ruff Ryder’s Anthem, which made everyone go wild.
I admit I didn’t do my due diligence of documenting every song he played as I wasn’t intending on writing a review in the first place. I’ll blame it on the anticipation, extra drink, memory problems in general (a familial disease we call Can’t Remember Shit) and the need to jam out with my best friend for his birthday. I promise to improve on the memory-recall thing for next time. I do prominently remember him going into What These Bitches Want with lots of pent-up energy. He seemed to feel really passionate about these women mentioned in the song. It’s another one of those giggle songs for me. We were then blessed with Party Up (Up In Here), which is arguably one of his most recognizable songs. Even my mom knows the line, “Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind, up in here, up in here.” It is also the song I am particularly under obligation to rock out to, regardless of where I am or who’s watching. I have friends who first met me in such instances. The crowd mutually rocked out together and shouted the lyrics with the dawg himself. This trend continued with a follow-up of X Gon’ Give It To Ya, another classic to get down with.
I could tell the concert was coming to an end a little after one am. He was starting to give some parting words and was transitioning to his last song. He closed with Slippin’, which ended up being quite the predictor of what was to come for Earl Simmons in real life in the next few days and months to come. The crowd was filled with lighters and cell phones beaming light at X whiles he performed one of his most personal songs. He was continuously singing, “Yo, I’m slippin’, I’m fallin’,” throughout the closing of the show. Maybe it was a cry for help. Maybe it was an acceptance of his reality. I haven’t figured it out yet. The lights came on soon after and we made our way out.
Matt and I felt truly lucky to have seen him in all his glory. He put on a spectacular one hour and 15-minute performance despite the over four-hour hold up. We felt it was totally worth the time and hunger. I felt accomplished for providing an awesome birthday celebration. We quickly made our way to the nearest Wawa, much like most of the remaining concert goers, to prepare for our trek home. It was a successful evening on our side. While writing this article, I asked Matt for his most memorable moments from the evening since 1) he was sober, 2) it was ~his birthday present~ and 3) for added commentary. He mentioned the dude fainting and someone thinking Matt was proposing to me in the smoking section outside, which I had previously forgotten about. He bent down to tie his shoe as I was innocently standing next to him. A nearby woman shouted, “Oh my god, are you proposing to her?!” We cracked up. Of course someone would look at us and be like, “Yep! Marriage proposal in the smoking section!”
Three days later, I was doing my typical Instagram-Tumblr-Twitter surfing rotation and came across a tweet from @TheSource saying Rapper DMX Heads Back to Jail After Failing Drug Test. My first reaction went something like, “Duh. But damn. What?!” I forwarded the article to Matt, jokingly saying it was “all his fault.” Matt’s reply was, “He was sad that he had let me down.” All jokes aside, the article further explains X apparently went on tour without the consent of the judge and without his Mobile Drug Counselor, thus why he was ordered to take a drug test and presumably what led to his failure. The Source article cites Simmons’ one-year-old was hospitalized in mid January with a high fever, which led to his relapse.
DMX ended up back in jail because he tested positive for cocaine and oxycodone. His court date to determine his sentence for his 14 counts of tax evasion (totaling 1.7 million) was set for March, wherein Prosecutors were pushing for a five-year sentence even though X pled guilty. It appeared to be another example of throwing the book at a celebrity to deter others from making similar mistakes.
The conclusion of his last show was quite the foreshadow to how his sentencing went to determine the proper time DMX should serve for his crimes. According to the New York Times article Judge Gives DMX a Year in Prison and a Chance to Be Heard, Musically, his defense team played a recording of Slippin’ for the judge to give full perspective of his rough life, from growing up in an abusive home and battling addiction. The song must have helped, considering his sentence was knocked down to one year instead of five. I can appreciate a judge who will listen to a defendant, victim, or anyone for that matter, and take the whole story into consideration when sentencing. Simmons acknowledged responsibility for his tax evasion but stated he wasn’t trying to be “like a criminal in a comic book.” There is quite the difference between violent and non-violent crimes. Not that X is a non-violent person, but all things considered I believe the shorter sentence to help him work on his substance use and financial issues is priority over more time and tax money.
Per usual, I never really know what I’m getting myself into when I take on these adventures. I always simply hope for a fun night with a good story. Because I come from a sociology and social work background, I am always looking at everything through that lens, even if its a concert. I had no idea my best friend’s birthday celebration would turn into such an epic and historic night for us. I had no idea that the performer would be back in jail three days later.
See? It really wasn’t my fault!