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— Shaheem Reid, with additional reporting by Mark Bella and Curtis Waller

You can't take your eyes off DMX even though all he's doing is lying there — not barking at 25,000 fans in an arena, not going off on a tangent about how he hates his record label or some other MC, not even catching the Holy Ghost and praying. He's quiet, he's still, he's ... dead.

As drug dealer King David in the big-screen adaptation of the Donald Goines novel "Never Die Alone," DMX starts off the film — which he also produced — as a corpse. His story is told through flashbacks, which X acts out and narrates. The author of the "Ruff Ryders Anthem" is wretched, conceited, callous and his most mesmerizing since he played Tommy "Buns" Bundy in 1998's "Belly."

 
 

It's hard to imagine anyone other than DMX as King David, but Busta Rhymes was also considered to take a turn at playing street royalty.

 

DMX was very hands-on during filming. He operated a film camera for the first time, and he hand-picked the signature Stuts car that King David drives in the movie. X originally wanted a Cadillac but fell in love with the Stuts after coming across the rare vehicle at a used car lot on Sunset Boulevard. The whip has since been displayed at car shows.

 

You've heard of catnaps, right? Well DMX engaged in a little dognapping during "Never Die Alone." While filming scenes inside a casket, DMX actually fell asleep. Now that's method acting.

 

On his albums, X has duets with such singers as Patti LaBelle and Stephanie Mills. On the set of "Never Die Alone," he met a new person to sing with — director Ernest Dickerson. The two sang the old standard "I'm in the Mood for Love" one day between takes.

"I practiced," X said. "I put more work into this character than any other character I played. I developed a walk. I had to wear a suit. I don't wear suits! I've got two suits: the one I got married in, the one I went to my man's funeral in. Those are the only two suits I have. I wear boots, Timberlands, every day, all day. I got 300 pairs of Timbs. I had to first learn to walk in a suit. You can't walk the same way you walk with a pair of Timbs on, in a suit. You gonna look stupid."

X looked far from dumb and dumber during the 19-day shoot last year in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. In fact, he surprised his cast and director.

"When I worked with Tupac, Pac was a trained actor," said director Ernest Dickerson, who also helmed Tupac's breakout film, "Juice." "X is not a trained actor. He's coming from a rawer place. ... X had to train himself.

"He was a lot of fun on set," Dickerson continued. "He was late — frequently — but he did show up. He was committed to playing a character. He'd show up for blocking rehearsal not knowing a line. Then he'd go back to the trailer and have everything down pat in 10 to 15 minutes."

DMX wasn't late when it came time to discuss his latest film role and the future of his music career with MTV News ...

MTV: This is a really graphic film, really dramatic and intense. What was it like getting into the character of King David?

DMX: Well, I'd already read the book years ago, and I think one of the things we do when reading books is picture ourselves as one of the characters, you know? Whichever one seems more appealing to the individual. It wasn't hard at all. Once I read the script, you know, it brought it all back and it's like, 'OK, I can do this. I can be this heartless, ruthless bastard.' ... I mean, it's kind of parallel to my life. I used to be on some real bullsh--. Like, you know, robberies every day, all day.

MTV: What part of you is King David?"

DMX: I don't think any part of me is King David, but I think there's a part of me that knows how to act like King David — you know, that's familiar with King David.

MTV: There are a few intimate scenes in the film. Was that difficult?

 "Never Die Alone" trailer
DMX: No. In my first movie I did a sex scene. If you've ever been in jail before, you know, you're forced to strip. You're standing there, a room full of officers, you know, other inmates. So it's like, f--- it. Just look straight ahead, get naked and just go through the search, you know? It would've been the hardest part if I hadn't done it before, you know, just being butt-ass naked in a room full of people. But it wasn't hard. That's not to say that I enjoyed it more than I enjoyed any other scene, per se, you know what I'm saying? I think I enjoyed the driving scenes the most.

MTV: Yeah, so how'd you like rolling in King David's rare Stuts Blackhawk?

DMX: This is my car, so I was laid-back, you know? [Gestures driving] I picked the car. Bought it just for the movie.

MTV: Where'd you find that thing?

DMX: Actually, the crew found it. I went to this Cadillac dealer that sells antique Cadillacs on Sunset [Boulevard]. I went there and I saw this car. I was like, 'That's the car for King David.' And I told the crew about it, and what they went out and did was they found another one for sale about $3,000 cheaper and in better condition. ... Still have it, sitting in the driveway.

MTV: Tell us a little about the soundtrack for the movie.

 "Never Die Alone" photos
DMX: Ah ... I just get a really bad taste in my mouth when I even talk about the music industry. [Label people] backed out of the deal at the last minute. Different labels, it's like they get into their little feuds and the only one who suffers is me. "Oh, you didn't give me this artist last time. Well, I'm not gonna give you this artist this time." You know, that little bitch sh-- that record labels do, and I get caught up in the middle of it. ... I'm not signed to anyone. I'm gonna put it out myself. God prepared me for it. My last two albums and soundtracks, I went off and recorded on my own anyway. I go in with my crew, we have fun and record. So I'm used to doing it on my own.

MTV: You've said several times that you're retiring from hip hop ...

DMX: Yeah, actually it's not really new. It's about as new as my music, you know what I'm saying? As far as me being a professional rap artist, you know, with my first album came my first movie, "Belly," so I kind of did both of them hand-in-hand so far up until now. But yeah, I'm done with the music. I don't think there's any reason why I should have to pay for my music and still not own it, you know? It's my music. I came up with these thoughts, I came up with the music, but the record label owns it, and I have to ask for permission to use something that I suffered to make. So I keep it to myself.


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