[Editor's Note: This interview appears in the January/February 2009 issue of XXL Magazine.]

Once a chart-topping, stadium-rocking rap titan, still a beloved figure in the game DMX had an awfully rough ride in 2008.

TMZ.com, the shameless, sardonic destination for nonstop celebrity coverage, had a ball with headlines about Earl “DMX” Simmons this past year. Any of many can sum up the kind of 2008 it was for the Yonkers rap star: “DMX Released From Jail, Sent Straight to Jail.” “DMX Must Mean ‘Arrested’ in Some Language.” “DMX Stops, Drops, Goes to Emergency Room.” “DMX Arrested Again…Seriously.”

Jail has been a frequent tour stop for the 37-year-old MC since childhood, but this year his legal burden was heftier than usual: seven arrests (three within a month), numerous warrants, three felony cases pending in Arizona and four different attorneys representing him throughout the year. What happened to the multiplatinum-selling, Steven Seagal–movie-starring, clearly-nuts-but-still-lovable dog enthusiast who brought Ruff Ryders Entertainment to prominence a few years back? Rumors blame his well-known drug habit for turbulence both legal and musical. (His last album came out more than two years ago.) While X has said that his battle with drugs is ongoing, he refuses to get into specifics about it over the phone (and
he was M.I.A. for a scheduled interview in Chicago), instead offering that he has gone through a rehab program and is not currently using any hard drugs.

As for the career holdup, DMX faults Bodog Records—the Canadian label he signed to in December 2007—for the delay of his two albums, Walk With Me Now and You’ll Fly With Me Later, originally due this past summer (and then October) as a gospel-secular companion set. For his part, X says he’s recorded a bunch of tracks and shot music videos. On the home front, he confirms that he and his wife of nine years, Tashera Simmons, are divorcing. In October, he welcomed a baby girl, Xuriyah, with his new girlfriend, in Miami. The year’s setbacks, he concludes, are simply trials from a higher being. “I’m in God’s hands,” says X. “I’m a jewel of God. That’s why the Devil works so hard on me.”

Whether DMX ends up incarcerated for a long time depends on the outcome of his cases in Arizona—and whether he can stay out of further trouble. Here, in the meantime, we map out a head-spinning time line, and those familiar with his legal issues help untangle the web.

[January 11, 2008]
DMX is ordered to pay $1.5 million in damages to Maryland native Monique Wayne, who sued in October 2006 for defamation, false statements and unreasonable publicity, after X told Sister 2 Sister magazine that she raped him while he was sleeping. The suit, however, will be dismissed on appeal in May, and X won’t have to pay.

[March 2008]
DMX is stopped for speeding in Cave Creek, Arizona, where he reportedly owes more than $3,600 in traffic fines.

[April 2008]
DMX is arrested for a firearms violation and driving with a suspended license, after allegedly failing to pay an entry fee at a park in Arizona’s Maricopa County. According to County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, X “tried to run away [and] destroyed some of the park resources.”

[May 6, 2008]
DMX is arrested by officers from the Arizona Department of Public Safety on charges of racing on a highway, driving on a suspended license, reckless driving, two counts of endangerment and three counts of criminal speed. The arrest comes after photos taken by traffic cameras along a freeway in Scottsdale in January catch X driving a yellow ’66 Chevy Nova II at 114 miles per hour. The speed limit there is 65.

[May 9, 2008]
Around 3 a.m., Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies, on a search warrant, perform a second raid on DMX’s Scottsdale home, where they reportedly find five malnourished dogs and marijuana. X is arrested on four counts of marijuana possession and drug paraphernalia.
A previous raid, which took place in August 2007, uncovered a dozen malnourished pit bulls and drugs, leading to seven misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and four counts of felony drug possession. “I’m very tough on animal cruelty,” says Sheriff Arpaio. “If you look at his history, in ’99, I think he had 13 animal-cruelty charges, pleaded guilty and took fines. So if you look at it, he’s got a pretty long record.”
According to X’s uncle and former manager Ray Copeland, X had appointed a caretaker, when he moved in, to look after the home and the dogs while he was away. “The caretaker left the house abruptly ’cause of some situation he got involved in,” says Copeland, adding that animal abuse is not in his nephew’s character. “X treats dogs better than he treats humans. That guy’s the best dog lover in the world.”

[May 16, 2008]
DMX pleads not guilty to charges stemming from the 2007 raid.

[June 23, 2008]
DMX is arrested in Miami for driving with a suspended license and later released, after posting a $500 bond. On recommendation from his longtime lawyer, Murray Richman, he hires attorney Bradford Cohen (a former contestant on The Apprentice, who has represented Vanilla Ice and Dennis Rodman) to handle his case in Miami. Cohen finds no record of X having a license at all, so the charge is switched to driving without a valid license. X later receives a $200 fine, and the case is closed.

[June 27, 2008]
DMX is arrested in Miami for attempting to purchase cocaine and marijuana. Police reports state that X approached an undercover officer and asked for “30 powder and 15 weed.” X is handcuffed after handing over the cash and faces up to five years if convicted.
X’s longtime friend and former road manager Mark “Po” Dean (brother of Ruff Ryders founders Dee and Waah Dean) was there. He and X were driving in a rented jeep, Po says, on their way to the Hollywood Beach part of Miami. On the way, X stopped to meet up with an associate from Arizona at an apartment complex. “As we went inside, it was just a strange eerie feeling he had,” Po remembers. “And he was like, ‘You know what, these dudes, they look funny. They don’t look like regular dudes that’s been around.’ When he got out the vehicle, I didn’t go with him. He walked around the corner, and then the next thing I know, they came back around the corner, said they was arresting him. He didn’t mention that he was trying to go do anything.” “I didn’t buy no coke,” says X. “Everybody knows what I have a problem with. Why would I buy coke?”

[July 2, 2008]
While awaiting scheduled court dates for the driving and drug charges in Miami, X misses a court date in Arizona. The judge issues a bench warrant and $25,000 bond. “That means, essentially, if he’s picked up [outside of Arizona], he can bond out in the state of Arizona,” explains Cohen. DMX is arrested for the bond violation as soon as he steps off a plane in Arizona and is later released. “He’s always getting off,” says Sherriff Arpaio. “He goes to Florida, he gets arrested… These justices keep letting him out. He seems to be released on bond all the time, and he skips… He’s led a charmed life. It’s about to stop.” - By Clover Hope additional reporting by Matthew Salacuse

For more of the Dog Years article make sure to pick up XXL’s Jan/Feb issue on newsstands nationwide December 5th.