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Way before Kanye crashed his car and recorded “Through the Wire” with his jaw wired shut, DMX had already auditioned for Def Jam under the same conditions.

But it wasn’t a car accident that resulted in DMX’s wired jaw, but a fight that ensued after DMX robbed a neighbourhood kid. “X was robbing a lot of kids back in the day,” Darrin “Dee” Dean, co-founder of Ruff Ryders said in an interview. “After this one kid got robbed, his father came to the studio looking for X, and wanted to get a fair one with him. It went down. It was a fair one-on-one. X got his jaw broken along with a couple ribs.”

This was around the same time when DMX was trying to get on in the rap game. The Source magazine had included the Yonkers rapper in their Unsigned Hype column back in 1991, and X had made an appearance on Mic Geronimo’s “Time to Build” alongside Jay-Z and Ja Rule in 1995, but his rap career wasn’t exactly taking off.

It wasn’t until Irv Gotti arranged a meeting with the head of Def Jam at the time, Lyor Cohen, that DMX finally got his moment to shine. “He was in the hospital and Irv called a meeting with Lyor, so he came in the studio,” Dee recalled.

DMX rocked up to the studio session where Cohen was waiting, jaw wired shut and all. “I remember I had a black hoodie on,” X recalled in an interview. “I had a 40 ounce that I cradled under my arm,” he said. “When I walked in, they parted like the Red Sea.”

According to Gotti, Cohen tried to keep a poker face while DMX rapped, trying not to show off how impressed he really was. But it didn’t really matter in the end, X was the real deal and there was no denying it. He was signed to Def Jam right after the audition.

Darrin “Dee” Dean: He started spitting with his jaw wired, and Lyor was like, “Oh shit, this guy’s the real deal.” That’s how we got our deal with Def Jam. Lyor signed him on the spot.

The Oral History of DMX’s ‘It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot’ | GQ
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