DMX will join a who's who of hip hop, including Nas, Kendrick Lamar, Ice Cube, Kid Cudi, Wiz Khalifa, Common and dozens more, in San Bernardino this weekend for the kickoff of the Rock the Bells tour.
For DMX, it's his first time on the influential tour. Once he found out about the festival's history, he jumped at the chance to join RTB 2012.
"Not only did I come to the conclusion it's an honor to be a part of that, I'm just really grateful for the opportunity," he tells Rolling Stone. "It's credible emcees. It's not whoever's-hot-right-now type of shit – it's motherfuckers who paved the way and earned the respect of genuine fans."
After a six-year absence between albums, DMX, who will release his new set Undisputed on September 11th, is looking to win back those genuine fans. Since 2006's Year of the Dog . . . Again, the multi-platinum rapper has endured several run-ins with the law, including serving jail time on multiple occasions for violating probation.
"X," as he's called when he gets on the phone with Rolling Stone on this day, is still full of bravado but totally relaxed as he walks with his daughter while we chat. The only time he gets upset is when talking about the repeated delays that have pushed back the release date of Undisputed.
"I put The Weigh-In out just because the album [got] pushed back three different times and I got tired, 'cause I'm the only one saying what the date is, so it looked like I'm a fucking liar," he says, explaining the free EP he released. "So I said, 'Fuck it, I'm just going to give them a free joint to hold on to until the album comes out.'”
Don't expect him to make that a habit of that, though. While he says he's sitting on four albums' worth of material – "besides going to jail and prison, on my own time I was in the studio" – he's not going to be rushing new material to make up for lost time.
"I'm not the mixtape guy who's gonna put out a new one every month," he says. "I'm gonna allow my albums to marinate and resonate and whatever type of 'ates' they can do. I'm gonna let my music grow on them."
He's going to start at Rock the Bells, where he promises some "new joints," including first single "I Don't Dance" and "Time to Get Paid," which features a Notorious B.I.G. sample.
The new album also features collaborations with Busta Rhymes and Machine Gun Kelly, among others. There are other big names – Jennifer Hudson and Tyrese have been rumored – but DMX doesn't want to focus on the guests.
"I never look at it as who did I work with. I don't care what that perception is," he says. "I just look at it like I'm doing my album and I'm grateful for collabs at this point. I appreciate the fact that everyone was on it and it's a banger."
After a long break, artists oftenfeel as though they're starting over. DMX doesn't buy that.
"Once you start a race, you might start off in first place, and during the course of this marathon you're gonna end up in third place, fourth place. You might even fall back to 20th place," he says. "[But] just because you're passing more people doesn't mean you're starting again. It's the same race. I'm just getting back to the front of the line."