Thursday, September 29, 2022

DMX Fans Take Deep Dive Into His Personal Life with New HBO Doc

*Christopher Frierson’s new documentary “Don’t Try To Understand” will take fans of late rapper DMX inside his personal life as part of HBO’s Music Box docuseries. 

Frierson’s cameras followed DMX everywhere between January 2019 and March 2020 — to shows, record label meetings, and though the streets, as reported by Complex

The outlet writes, “The team behind Don’t Try To Understand captured the full scope of X as an artist, as well as Earl Simmons as a human being.”

Check out excerpts from Frierson’s Complex interview about the doc below.

READ MORE: DMX: Rapper’s Official Cause of Death Revealed

What made you want to tell DMX’s story?
I’ve always been really interested in characters and people [whose] narratives have been defined more by the media and outside forces than their own. I remember the day I got Flesh of My Flesh when I was 16. Ever since then, I’ve had a connection with Earl, and DMX, and his music.

Over the years, during his down periods, I think the salaciousness of some of the things that he’s experienced [have] been exploited and become his persona. That sort of thing where you live long enough to see yourself become the villain type situation. He’s been maligned to a certain point, which I think overshadowed the message of what his music was. I worked at Mass Appeal production company in development, and I really wanted to tell his story and had an opportunity there. That’s how it started.

But long story short, how we got here is: At Mass, we used to have rappers coming through all the time, so I wrote a deck, pitched it, and everybody at the company was like, “This is fine.” It’s just one in another of the millions of decks that you got to do. He came through. I wasn’t there that day, but it was the day he got locked up for the tax thing in like early 2018. Over the course of the year, while he was in jail, I became friends with his manager Pat, and we were trying to make this thing happen, trying to contact the jail [and] the feds were not having it. When we found out he was going to be released in early January 2019, I convinced my boss at the time to give us a little bit of money. And I grabbed two guys from our office and we drove down to West Virginia. So that scene when he comes out of the jail, he’s like, “Hey, hey, hey,” that’s the first time I met him.

Oh, wow.
I talked to him very briefly through the prison video phone thing once, but he didn’t really know that this was happening. Because when he comes out, in the film, you hear him go, “Oh, you guys weren’t fucking around,” because he sees the cameras. So, I hopped in a Suburban and two days later, we were in New York. During that time period, we got to know each other a little bit and sort of set off on the journey.

Some of the most powerful scenes for me were when he was in Yonkers or just outside with people, speaking about the gospel. How many moments like that were there? What was it like for you and the crew in those moments?
You can’t really quantify it because at a certain point it’s just Earl, and that’s what made him such an amazing person. To jump back a little bit, I think this answers the question, too. It’s in those moments of silence and thought that say so much throughout. Or when he is in School Street at the projects, there isn’t a need for me as a filmmaker to interject, but you know you’re getting more information and you’re learning more about a person.

We spent a year with him and every time something like that would happen, it’s like another layer of the onion is peeled back and you’re learning more about this person who’s now your friend. But he’s so open. He allows those layers to be pulled back without any prompting, which is what I was hoping the film does. It sort of unfolds in a way where you’re learning, as I did, how he processes the world or thinks about the world.

What are some of the things that surprised you about DMX? How was it different being around him, compared to how the public perceived him?
I was not surprised, but it was really beautiful to see his interaction with the “everyday people.” I didn’t think he was going to be above anybody else, but the level to which he relates to fans, and fans relate to him, and he relates to regular everyday Joes and ladies, it was just cool, but not surprising so much.

You know that thing where you have a feeling about a celebrity or you’re a big fan of somebody, and then you meet them and they’re an asshole and it ruins everything for the rest of your life? That’s what it was like working at Mass Appeal. I was like, “Oh man, another one?” But it was none of that [with DMX]. It was just his openness about everything and the level of his spirituality. I never thought that was in any way some sort of performance, but it’s deep and you see it in the decisions that he makes, wrong or right. How he’s wrestling with these demons, so to speak, all the time.

When X saw the documentary, were you present with him? How did that go?
Yeah. Myself and Clark Slater, the producer and co-director, and Sean Gordon-Loebl, the three guys who went down to West Virginia in the first place [went to see him]. He was in a different rehab facility in February 2020, and we went and watched it with him and his counselors in a little room. It was on a little TV, as you can imagine, in an okay rehab spot.

We were all in knots, obviously, because we were like, “What’s he going to think?” It was a beautiful moment, because after he saw it, he just sat and he didn’t say anything for a minute. He talked to his counselor in hush tones. And then he was like, “Alright. I like this. You did it.” He’s like, “You got it. Alright.” He recognized there’s parts in there that some people could see that are not the most appealing, but he was like, “Nah, this is what happened.”

Read the full conversation here.

“Don’t Try to Understand” is now streaming on HBO Max.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.




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