How Iyanla Vanzant Unintentionally Failed DMX

Published On April 16th, 2013 

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Iyanla Vanzant’s season premiere episode of “Fix My Life” on Oprah Winfrey’s Network started off with a hell of a whirlwind with beloved Dark Man Unknown himself, DMX. Besides the sensational clip that was advertised over one month prior to the airing, most of it was hard to watch and painful to digest for several reasons.

The main reason, for me, was to the way Iyanla could have more delicately handled the situation in the context of its deep-rooted reality.

Known as an aggressive rapper, DMX’s image of being a womanizer and a threatening tyrant has followed him throughout his career. Having made history as a multi-platinum rapper and box office actor, his troubles proved far beyond just the lyrics. His infamousBehind The Music episode touched on reasons why he’s been arrested over 30 times, how he’s dealt with the on-again-off-again drug abuse, his 24-year length relationship (complete with infidelities) with wife Tasheera— all of which leave you feeling like a truck on a burning bridge by its finale: useless, but hopeful.

While Iyanla’s aggressive and demanding approach to coaching is often effective, she at first came off rightfully more pleasant and soft-spoken than usual. It’s known that one cannot fight fire with fire; Even DMX said:

Alive and goin through it, but I made my bed
So now it’s in these flames that I lay my head

In other words, for a man that feels he has nothing to lose, stepping on his toes will not lead you to Jesus.

Here Are My Main 4 Reasons I Believe Iyanla Failed In Her Task

1… DMX is no fool. He’s aware of his demons. And he’s debatably the most spiritual “gangsta” rapper alive.

There is not a time I can recall DMX being in denial of the effects of his past on his present. That alone takes courage and speaks to the truths of his strong will and personality, something he has yet to commit with the same fervency to his sobriety. In songs like “Slippin,” he admits to losing himself, but being unaware of where to go next; almost begrudgingly giving up his life to his believed-to-be inevitable fate.

Group homes and institutions, prepared my ass for jail
They put me in a situation forcing me to be a man
When I was just learning to stand without a helping hand
Damn, was it my fault, something I did
To make a father leave his first kid? At seven doing my first bid
Back on the scene at fourteen with a scheme
To get more cream than I’d ever seen in a dream
And by all means I will be living high off the hog
And I never gave a fuck about much but my dog
That’s my only muthafucka I had offered my last
Just another little nigga headed nowhere fast

And then there’s his infamous “Prayer” tracks— one in which is accompanied on each and every album— in which he opens up about his battles with God and life:

Plenty of times you sent help my way, but I hid
And I remember once you held me close, but I slid
There was something that I just had to see
That you wanted me to see so I can be what you wanted me to be
And I think I’ve seen it, cause I don’t feel the same
Matter of fact I know I’ve seen it, I can feel the change

Iyanla briefly touched on his relationship with God in asking “Was God there with you when you took that first line of coke?” But she didn’t evoke the correct emotions. How about, Do you think God wanted to see you in that state? Do you ever ask God to help you through this? Do you feel He is working through you or do you believe you have been lost without Him?

A few of DMX’s songs were heavily reiterated by non-conforming rape apologists during the Rick Ross debate as an example of other rappers who were “overlooked” for rapping about rape. The difference here, however, is that in the publicized line, DMX does not condone rape but speaks of it as a point of retaliation. Throughout his albums, he makes space to speak on his alternate personalities, similar to Tupac, who was likewise blessed with the amazing talent of dichotomy and submersion. DMX is clear about his relationship with God and cannot be convinced otherwise, no matter how lengthy his wrongs. His words can be horrific, hurtful, and demeaning and certainly, given the music climate of today, would be too harsh to be accepted by most listeners. But he also remains to present himself as a growing human being with ailments and struggles, battling three fates in life— the music industry (which feeds his addiction), readily available women (which feeds his misogynistic viewpoints) and the church (which feeds his soul for survival).

Had she approached him through his religion, rather than beginning with his past, she may have struck a new chord with him, untainted.

2… DMX is not the most articulate man on the block. In addition to his being high, he genuinely has an issue in expressing himself beyond the music

The thing about brilliant artists is that they can sometimes be really good at one thing, and really bad at another. X’s thing is his written word. While it can be problematic in content, it’s raw, and it’s obviously his therapy. His lack is in his oral expression. Given a conversation about his most innate fears, concerns, and emotions, the drugs cloud his ability to fully explain his thoughts and he needs a certain amount of time to gather before speaking. Not too far into their initial reaction, Iyanla asked DMX if he was high. Though he said no, the point of asking to see if he were comfortable with admitting this fact was very tactful, but it failed in its overall purpose because she missed the chance to continue bonding with him on a level of trust.

DMX is a man who lacks trust. While he’s experienced disloyalty relative to Peter’s from the Bible, it can easily get blown out of proportion to being more similar to Judas’, given his inability to let go of the past. In the end, disloyalty is all the same and difficult to overcome.

The level of disrespect X exhibited to her near the end definitely warranted her dramatic response. But earlier on, she could have made the playing field a little less dangerous by clarifying her intentions, which were different from his. The interaction reached its first halt at the reveal of a wall of photos she put together that portrayed him in the same light the media does — as a convict. He then lost all trust, and the interview continued its downward spiral from there. You can’t break new ground in a guarded man..

3… The Overlooked Issue*

“If I dropped dead right now, I would have fulfilled the purpose that God had me do.” — DMX

When someone can says they would be at peace if they were to die today, it means that they are not anticipating the future of their life. DMX is only 42 years old. He’s lived such a tumultuous life that he has almost certainly experienced far more pain than joy for over 35 years. On top of that, he admitted that had it not been for his children, he would have killed himself on several occasions as well. This is the reason why he asked Iyanla to fix his relationship with his children.

I believe DMX was seeking to find a new place in his life for his many former girlfriends, and to the ten children they birthed. I disagree with Iyanla’s approach of bombarding him with questions about his drug use, because it would have been more beneficially handled if heard from one of his children. Granted, his eldest son Xavier requested sobriety from him, but he didn’t explain his reasoning. He didn’t ask his father to allow him to work on their issues as father-and-son or X’s addiction together.

At the same time, I understand Xavier because he reminds me a lot of myself. Dealing with a parent with an addiction is not an easy road, but it begins first by accepting the reality of the situation. Addicts are generally more sensitive to emotions and more easily broken. While my father was sober by the time he and I made up, I am certain that his interaction with his children and his dedication to religion is what motivated him to take the necessary steps to change. Sometimes, the missing pieces aren’t as easily seen. And while it’s difficult, Xavier as a man, may want to reconsider not allowing his father into his life at all. There is genuine love there. A broken man does not step into change by time, but by a helping hand.

This brings me to my last point…
4… Television Is Not The Way

Celebrities need privacy. All people do. But especially for someone who has been on the news, in the papers, all over the blogs, there is a level of privacy that is needed to achieve these strenuous goals.

I commend Xavier for his courage, and am glad that he sought to lay down his issues rather than continuing the cycle of drug abuse. It was not only painful to watch this episode because I (and many others in the hip-hop community) have been rooting for DMX for years, but because you can literally see a grown man living through depression, anger, and confusion, attempting to seek answers, unsure of who to believe and where to go.

Branding himself through these rehab shows is not helping him. People are eating off of his pain. But, there’s another side of the coin. I believe the show was impactful for many African-American men because of the severity of the situation. We see DMX, who experienced abandonment from both of his parents, and Xavier who experienced betrayal from his father. It was emotional to watch because many people — of all races — know someone like DMX, someone who is either on the verge of death or recovery.

This could have been his recovery. And it still could spark the light towards a new day in his life. But cameras bring national eyes. Scrutiny, judgmental viewers, and the possibility of being misunderstood, misrepresented, and misinterpreted breed a fearful and distrusting being.

I’d much rather see DMX a healthy, happy, sober man post-private sessions, than to watch him go through it on television for my own entertainment.

Iyanla Vanzant certainly gave it her best attempt, but maybe next time —should they reunite— they’ll do so without cutting a check for OWN royalties.

But that’s just my two cents.

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