DMX’s legacy is steeped in the kind of honesty that just “is,” and Christopher Frierson’s new documentary Don’t Try To Understand embodies that. The film, which debuted last night as part of HBO’s Music Box docuseries, gives a glimpse at the late music icon as he came home in early 2019 and sought to get his music career and life back on track.
Cameras followed DMX everywhere between January 2019 and March 2020 — to shows, record label meetings, and though the streets. Frierson got a firsthand glimpse of what the director calls X’s “amazing” connection with the people who love him, from tearful ciphers in Yonkers projects to conversations about the gospel with fans.
Frierson tells Complex that he’s a longtime fan of the dog and wanted to tell a story about him that gets past the salacious exploitation the late rapper dealt with in his career. 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.
Anyone familiar with X’s music and career knows he had his demons, and the documentary shows those moments as well. Frierson told X that they planned to capture everything, “warts and all,” and he says the rapper was fine with it before filming (and after seeing the finished product in early 2020). Fierson says these scenes aren’t meant to evoke a particular emotion, but to simply show viewers what it really was with X, and have them draw their own conclusions.
“The moments that are the ‘uglier moments,’ they become less ugly and more just the reality of the situation in his life,” Frierson says about the filming process. Eventually, X became genuine friends with the team, as evidenced by him calling them family during the documentary’s tear-jerking final scene.
Frierson is grateful, not just for the documentary, but for X inspiring him to take on his own demons. We spoke with him about being around the rap icon, an original ideation of the doc (which thankfully didn’t happen), and more. The conversation, lightly edited for clarity, is below.