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Security unplugs mega-platinum rap artist DMX at local benefit; participants debate conflict's cause

What began as a DMX benefit concert on Friday night, Oct. 16, at the Phil Long Expo Center turned into a bizarre scene in which security wrestled to keep the nationally known hip-hop artist offstage while police looked on and fans chanted, "Let him go."

DMX finally managed to make his way to a microphone, only to find the sound had been cut off.

"We can't start nothing tonight," he shouted over the noise of the crowd, pointing at police called to the scene. "Look over there. They're waiting to lock us up. Don't give it to them."

The altercation with security guards — witnesses say police stayed out of it — was captured on video and posted online (myspace.com/dirtylimelight) by James Baldrick, who runs Hustle Hard Records.

Baldrick, who had two acts on the six-act bill, says he was backstage with promoter John Gutierres when the situation developed. He says the promoter only had $1,200 in gross sales — tickets ranged from $35 to $55 — and still needed to pay DMX the remaining half of his $15,000 guarantee.

"So they contacted DMX's road manager and told him not to come there until 11 o'clock — because they were trying to raise the money to pay DMX. And then the same guy that told him not to come there until 11 told security, 'Oh, don't let him in, he's late,'" Baldrick says.

In an e-mail sent to the Independent on Wednesday morning, promoter Gutierres said that he could not comment other than to confirm that ticket sales were low and an investor was on hand to pay DMX.

The Phil Long Expo Center did not respond to the Independent's request for comment.

American Charities co-founder Keith Courlas, whose organization would have benefited if the show had made money, says organizers were concerned about violence around previous hip-hop shows: "We made it clear to everyone involved that we wanted to end the entire show by 10:30." He also says an investor was on hand to pay DMX if ticket sales fell short.

Yet even with six acts scheduled to perform (and a sound crew with an out-of-state commitment the next morning), the show began nearly two hours late.

"We weren't able to start on time because we were already hearing from DMX's management that he would be coming late," says Courlas, who admits he wasn't present for those conversations. "You know, 'I'm on my way' only goes so far after three or four times of saying that."

But DMX's manager, Nakia Walker, echoes Baldrick's contention: "During the sound check, John Gutierres came to the road manager and told her, 'You know what, the crowd is not what we'd like it to be, let's build up the crowd more. So we don't want X to come at 9:30, have him come at 11.' So X shows up and the crowd is crazy and security's saying, 'You can't perform — touch that stage and we're gonna arrest you.' He wanted to calm the crowd down, and that's what he did."

Walker, who believes the artist's history of arrests is being used to make him the scapegoat, says that "X is a changed man. He's a professional. And he's not looking to discredit himself, you know what I mean?"

Black P, one of the five acts who did play, says he was impressed by DMX's self-restraint: "For him not to punch one of those security dudes after all the manhandling they did, I give him a standing ovation. Because I know DMX is a G, but he definitely did the grown-man thing this time around."

As for being late, the Colorado Springs rapper thinks it shouldn't have been an issue: "At a hip-hop show, they're always late."

bill@csindy.com

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