DMX Placed on House Arrest After Failing Four Drug Tests

The latest development in DMX's tax evasion case finds the rapper finally catching a break. After pleading not guilty back in July, X was let out on bond but faced strict conditions, including travel restrictions. However, he violated that last part with a trip to St. Louis—a trip that might have landed him in jail.

However, on Friday morning the judge took it easy on DMX, keeping him out of jail despite his travel violation—and despite the fact that the Ruff Ryders icon failed four separate drug tests for marijuana and cocaine, according to TMZ.

Instead, X was placed on house arrest and ordered to wear an ankle bracelet. TMZ reports that the conditions are so strict that he can't even go outside to mow the lawn.

DMX is accused of hiding millions of bucks in income from the government in order to avoid taxes. In all, the U.S. attorney's office says the alleged “multi-year scheme” had X skipping out on a $1.7 million tax bill.

“For years, Earl Simmons, the recording artist and performer known as DMX, made millions from his chart-topping songs, concert performances and television shows. But while raking in millions from his songs, including his 2003 hit 'X Gon' Give it to Ya,' DMX didn’t give any of it to the IRS,” wrote Joon Kim, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who was probably working on that joke for weeks. “Far from it, DMX allegedly went out of his way to evade taxes, including by avoiding personal bank accounts, setting up accounts in other’s names and paying personal expenses largely in cash.”

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What Makes a Classic Rap Album?

For as long as hip-hop has existed, it's spawned arguments. For decades now, fans of rap have been staking out ground, hills to die on, each concerned with one question: Who is the best? And the debate for the GOAT has a long-running spinoff, one of the primary criteria for being the greatest of all time—has that rapper made a classic?

What a classic actually is, outside of just being a very good album, is up for debate. Which is partly why the argument is so fun to have—everyone is working from a different rubric. Some people are concerned with the quality of the rapping, others the popular response, others still need it to have shifted the culture significantly. On an episode of last week's Everyday Struggle, Joe Budden, DJ Akademiks, and Nadeska Alexis brought up the ever-present debate: What makes a classic?

Complex staffers weighed in below, with their definitions of what makes for a classic and three picks for hip-hop classics made in the last decade. 


  • Ross Scarano

    There’s a lot of baggage around the word classic in the world of hip-hop, something that doesn’t feel analogous to other mediums and genres. (I lurk on film and literary twitter, and there isn’t so much consternation and incredulity around entering the canon. For instance, Magic Mike XXL—just two years old—already earned its spot and there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with that. Not from my vantage, anyway.)

    Music, by virtue of how it’s consumed, is typically more accessible than a movie or a novel, and because of that we often want the best stuff to reach the widest audience possible; or we insist that, if it is the best, it will reach that audience. There’s evidence for this—see Lemonade and Damn. These battles about quality and audience aren’t monitored so closely in other mediums. If a movie is perfectly realized but doesn’t make noise at the box office, it won’t be held against it by critics and fans. But this can become a demerit in the conversation around the rap canon.

    I didn’t make up these rules, it’s my inheritance and so I won’t rail against it. A classic, then, should be of high quality; must impact the genre in a way where you can read the ripple effects, like rings on a cut tree; and it should dominate. True, some albums take time to find their rightful place, like Reasonable Doubt. And others, though they're dominant in their moment and impactful across the years, don't age so well, like Graduation. But time roots it all out.

    I’m of the opinion that we don’t need to sit and wonder about the status of the three following albums:

    Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
    Drake, Take Care
    Jay Z and Kanye West, Watch the Throne


  • Brendan Klinkenberg

    Left to my own devices, the term “classic” isn’t part of my listening experience. When I listen to a great album no part of me thinks about in those terms. I don’t think you do either. Rather, I’m thinking about what I like, or don’t like, or love—the word “classic” only comes into play when imagining the coming arguments with friends, whether in person or online, about how good the album is.

    “Classic” is a word that’s used exclusively to talk to other fans; it’s a term for creating consensus, not assigning value. Whether or not something is a classic isn’t really about whether it’s good, and it certainly doesn’t have much to do with a personal favorite. Instead, it’s a way for us to talk about the albums that everyone loves, the ones that genuinely connected people. It’s a decided-upon battlefield that can’t be won by strategy or trickery, only outnumbering the other side.

    Yeezus is a better album than My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Damn is better than Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. Neither are classics (yet). Young Thug may well be the best rapper alive, but he hasn’t made a classic (yet). While I find Yeezus, Damn, and Thugger unimpeachable, their classic status is moot, simply because not enough people agree with me. A classic album is a classic when (almost) everyone decides, together, that it is. Proclaiming a classic on your own is like calling yourself the king of the world—all it will get you is weird looks on the subway.

    If an album means that much to you, don’t worry about declaring it a classic. Just live with the knowledge that it’s your favorite. That means more.

    Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
    Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
    Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly


  • Nora-Grayce Orosz

    When it comes down to it, every interpretation of music is subjective. Even the act of delineating a body of work as a “classic” can have different parameters for each person. Maybe a classic has to do big numbers and chart for a million consecutive weeks. Maybe a classic has to push the boundaries of artistry and floor listeners and take ~edgy~ experimental risks. Maybe a classic just has to have fire production and lyrical mastery. These are all valid factors to consider, and are often what leads to the passionate debates that are at the core of hip-hop culture.

    Personally, I think the two most important factors to ponder when debating a classic are: First,how the album makes you feel, and second, its lasting influence on the landscape of music. If you find yourself coming back to an album year after year, well after the initial novelty has faded, that’s a sure indicator of a classic. If you’re sitting on the train on the way to your 9-5 bumping an album and it transports you to a different setting, era or mood, then to you, it’s a classic. Personal preference is an absolutely valid element in defining a classic.

    Alternatively, if an album comes along and makes waves, and subsequent projects in the genre start mimicking that wave, it’s likely a classic. This breed of classics are the albums new artists cite as their inspiration for the debuts they've been preparing for their entire lives. That kind of classic are the magnum opuses of the genre, they are the pioneers of a unique sound.

    Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City
    ASAP Rocky, LONG.LIVE.ASAP
    Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book


  • Alex Gale

    I'm pretty sure The Source and its once bible-like “mic” rating review system are to blame for embedding the word “classic” so firmly into hip-hop's vocabulary and psyche. Albums were assessed on a scale of zero to five mics—five out of five was labeled a “classic,” and for a while The Source pretty much batted 1.000 when doling that rating out. Back then, hip-hop was a small enough village, so dominated by New York and LA and a handful of labels and acts and tastemakers, that it was pretty easy to figure out what a classic was. Did you all the sudden hear it from every car on Fulton Street or Crenshaw? Classic. There weren't a million different subgenres, scenes, and Soundcloud rabbit-holes to keep track of—when you first heard The Chronic, or Illmatic, you knew rap had never sounded like that before. You knew you were witnessing the culture leap forward in real time right before you. And those golden-era innovations stood the test time—they sounded like classics in the moment, and they still sound that way now.

    Now, it's harder to tell. Rap is splintered, into a million different sounds and social-media feeds. Some of the most impactful albums of recent memory were the most polarizing—Kanye's 808s and Heartbreaks is arguably his most divisive record, but it changed the sound of rap more than any other. Does that make it a certified classic? I say no. I like to think that albums can be both foundational and five-out-of-five-mics flawless.

    I think that there are only two undisputed rap classic albums, ones that are both near perfect and changed the game, from last 10 years:

    Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.d City
    Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

    Everything else? Up for debate.


  • Anslem Rocque

    In my book, what makes an album classic is twofold. On one hand, the music has to be able to stand the test of time—to a certain extent, be eternal. Not just a few songs on the project, but the entire body of work. You have to be able to turn the album on today and be moved by the music the same way you were when you first heard it with minimal skipping, if any at all. For the record, skits don't count in this definition. So while I rarely re-listen to Kanye's interludes on his first three releases, those albums still warrant classic ratings in my book.

    On the secondhand, an album can be considered classic based on its overall impact on the culture. Some albums change styles, language and grow the culture to another level. Das Efx's Dead Serious comes to mind, which ushered in the whole iggity synonym to the hip-hop lexicon, but rap moves in trends and sometimes certain album don't age as well as (siggity sorry). There's also a nostalgia factor, as music often plays as the soundtrack to key moments in our lives. The album that you used to play during road trips with a friend who is no longer in your life may hold more classic weight for you than it would for someone else. At the end of the day a classic album can be a personal experience.

    Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
    Lil Wayne, The Carter III
    Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City


  • Russ Bengtson

    There is a famous quote about pornography that was first uttered by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, dating back to a case in 1964. Justice Stewart was not able to succinctly define obscenity, but said “I know it when I see it.” Change “see” to “hear,” and it’s a fine starting point when talking about classic hip-hop albums.

    I’m not sure whether I could give a short, precise definition of what qualifies as a classic album. Is it an album that has no skippable tracks? If so, that eliminates OutKast’s Aquemini (I haven’t willingly listened to “Mamacita” in years), which is absurd. Is it an album that defines an era? Well, sure, that should be part of it. Is it an album that defines an artist? Yeah, that should be part of it too. But there are so many things to consider, each of which gets weighed differently depending on who you’re talking to, to the point where there can be no easily defined set of standards.

    Then there’s the time factor. It seems—to me, anyway—that the term “instant classic” is an oxymoron. “Classic” is something that by its very definition requires time. Think of cars. A new design can’t be considered a classic. We can predict, but that’s about all. But what’s enough? A year? Two years? Five? Is it like the Hall of Fame, with a mandatory waiting period? Damn. I don’t know. What is a classic rap album? Honestly I’m not sure. But I’ll tell you this much. I know it when I hear it.

    Kanye West, Yeezus
    Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.d City
    Young Thug, Jeffery


  • Frazier Tharpe

    Masterful execution of theme and vision. A replay value that holds up 1, 2, 5 years later and still evokes awe-inspiring emotions with most, if not all, of the same potency it had on the first listen. And impact. We can bandy on about this being personal opinion all day long, but if your choice didn't resonate throughout both the rap game and the rap culture, then we don't believe you and you know the rest. (It's why I'll refrain from being a hyperbolic and dickhead and listing ASAP Rocky's A.L.L.A., an A+ project it is nonetheless).

    These are rote answers, but the standards for what it takes to be a classic shouldn't leave many options to choose from if we're implementing them correctly—like how we all agree on Jay Z's three objective classics (and I'd argue has 3 more but I digress). So, if we're talking the past decade, I don't see how you couldn't salute Watch the Throne, the gargantuan event album that overcame twin-sized ego and forum fanfic to more than meet expectations —no rapper, not even Jay and Kanye themselves, has articulated the daily glories, anxieties and loneliness of being a Forbes Cash King as beautifully and masterfully since. The gauntlet was thrown down so forcefully it inspired their de facto successor Drake to distill all his weirdo insecurities and sonic influences into his most ambitious project to date, on the waves of which the rap game rode into the new decade, with imitators still surfing.

    And if we're only choosing three here—a fourth pick would've gone to Good Kid, fifth to Live.Love.ASAP or Yeezus—I don't know how anyone claiming sanity doesn't consider My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as the reigning classic of the last 10 years. Narrative defines classics too. Illmatic got a hard-won 5 mics, Blueprint validated bold claims of kingship after the most savage Summer Jam performance ever seen. And Kanye West returned after an exile (only partly self-imposed) and an album that confused and alienated some of his fanbase with a backhanded apology scored to the most beautiful sounds he's ever curated and the best bars he's ever laid to wax. Yeezy has never been in his bag as thoroughly as he was in 2010, and he might never get there again. Pay respect.

    Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
    Jay Z and Kanye West, Watch the Throne
    Drake, Take Care


  • Angel Diaz

    What makes a classic to me? If the record either influenced the genre in one way or another, or if said record goes today as if it were released yesterday.

    Some albums need time to ferment, others are instant. Thriller didn’t need time for people to get it like Reasonable Doubt did. Thriller banged the day it came out the same way it still bangs today. I can go with the usual suspects like My Beautiful Twisted Fantasy, Good Kid M.A.A.D. city, or To Pimp a Butterfly, but I considered those classics in my book after a single listen. Aquemini, on the other hand, went over my head. I was in high school running the streets and all me and my friends wanted to hear was Cash Money, Ruff Ryders, Queensbridge shit, or Rocafella music. We were disgusted with the Source’s five mic rating. “They giving out five mics to this weird shit?” We asked each other over blunts and Henny. Years later, it’s one of my favorite Outkast records.

    For me, a classic rap album serves as water to a thirsty game. I base classic rap on whether or not I get chills when I hear it, or a feeling of spirituality. I can hit play and listen all the way through for the most part. The usual suspects I mentioned above do that to me. But I’m gonna go with three records that I feel don’t get the respect they deserve:

    Roc Marciano, Marcberg
    Retch and Thelonious Martin, Polo Sporting Goods
    Bankroll Fresh, Life of A Hot Boy


  • Edwin Ortiz

    I don’t think there will ever be a satisfying explanation for or perfect method in deciding what’s a classic album. There are, though, a handful of core attributes to help define one: quality, impact, replay value, along with other characteristics to balance the decision-making.

    That’s not a cop-out, but a realization that the argument and evidence for (or against) a classic album has shifted over the years. The '90s had the Source’s once-coveted five mics; XXL had its own definitive take for part of the aughts. Now, it’s a combination of critical and fan acclaim. And the process has been accelerated thanks to the internet. I don’t need five years to know Kendrick Lamar’s Damn is a classic album; I knew that two weeks after its release.

    Below are three albums I consider to be classic from the last 10 years.

    Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
    Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
    Kendrick Lamar, Damn

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