“Every time I turn around, cats got they hands out wanting something from me,” hip-hop legend DMX lamented in his 2003 hit “X Gon’ Give It To Ya.”
“I ain’t got it, so you can’t get it,” he rapped, “let’s leave it at that ’cause I ain’t with it.”
DMX was, of course, talking about his hardscrabble journey to the top of the hip-hop game.
But if federal prosecutors in New York are to be believed, he might as well have been discussing his income taxes.
On Thursday, DMX was charged in a 14-count indictment with concealing millions of dollars in income from the Internal Revenue Service and dodging some $1.7 million in federal tax liabilities.
The 46-year-old rapper, whose given name is Earl Simmons, surrendered to authorities and was set to appear in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Friday morning, according to prosecutors.
It’s not clear if DMX has retained an attorney. Messages to his publicist and a lawyer who represented him in another matter weren’t immediately returned.
Known for his guttural voice and confrontational, frequently violent lyrics, DMX made his debut in 1998 with the album “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot,” featuring the now-classic single “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem.” He went on to release six more records and numerous singles. All but two of his albums have been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. He has toured the world playing sold-out concerts and has appeared in more than a dozen films, including the 2014 comedy “Top Five” directed by comedian Chris Rock.
Prosecutors claim that for several of those years DMX evaded taxes by avoiding personal bank accounts, setting up accounts in other people’s names and “maintaining a cash lifestyle” to pay for personal expenses. In one instance, he refused to tape a segment for the television show “Couples Therapy” until he was issued a check for $125,000 that didn’t withhold taxes, according to the indictment.
From 2010 through 2015, prosecutors alleged, DMX earned more than $2.3 million, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties from his songs, but did not file income tax returns. He filed a false affidavit in bankruptcy court reporting his income as “unknown” in 2011 and 2012 and as $10,000 the following year, the indictment says.
The rapper faces counts of tax evasion, failure to file a tax return and corruptly trying to obstruct and impede the administration of IRS laws.
“Celebrity rapper or not, all Americans must pay their taxes,” Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said in a statement.
The indictment, while serious, is something of a drop in the bucket for DMX, who has been arrested more than a dozen times over the past two decades on charges ranging from animal cruelty to theft to drug possession. He has received multiple prison sentences, including a six-month term in 2015 for failure to pay $400,000 in child support and 90 days in 2010 for a reckless driving charge.
In perhaps his most infamous encounter with the law, DMX in 2004 broke into the parking lot of New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport with an accomplice and tried to commandeer an SUV, telling the driver he was a federal agent. The Daily Beast recounted what happened next in a profile last year:
DMX then physically removed the driver from his vehicle — while the man’s 12-year-old daughter was in the car. Upon his arrest, police found a handgun, nightstick, 20 rocks of crack cocaine, Oxycodone, and Diazepam, and the rapper was charged with criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal mischief, driving under the influence, menacing, impersonation, and endangering the welfare of a child. He struck a plea deal where he only ended up serving under six weeks behind bars for violating parole.
The incident in some ways marked the beginning of a gradual fall from stardom over the following decade-plus and foreshadowed some of the darker events that were to come in DMX’s life.
In February 2016, after years of legal troubles and dwindling musical output, DMX was found unresponsive by police in a hotel parking lot in his native Yonkers, N.Y. Medics resuscitated him, leading to speculation that he had overdosed on drugs, but his attorney said it was an asthma attack.
In his profile of the rapper, Daily Beast writer Stereo Williams urged sympathy.
“X has a long, hard history. And one has to wonder who he has in his corner helping him push forward and making sure he’s staying focused on sobriety,” Williams wrote. “But fans and media would do better by him, and all famous addicts, to not treat him like a spectacle or to treat his behavior and his problems like they’re just part of the ‘troubled artist’ mythos.”
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