Interview – Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run-DMC


Founding member of pioneering Hip Hop band Run-DMC, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels has traveled an extraordinary journey through life. Growing up in New York City, his affection for music could not be denied, and by the age of fourteen years old, he was already a self-taught DJ. With a steady diet of Rock-n-Roll and Comic Books, McDaniels’ creative imagination launched his dreams beyond the stars. Finding hope and release through music, he would go on to be one of three components that made up the magic of RUN-DMC. Selling over 30 million singles and albums internationally, helping define Pop Culture in the ’80s, along with being the group to break down the culture barriers between Rock and Rap, Run-DMC are living legends. While the accolades and success are redeeming to McDaniels, what matters above all has always been the positive message and creativity. Recently we sat down with the man they call D, DMC, Easy D, Darryl Mac, or just simply Darryl for a closer look at the history of Run-DMC, his love for Rock-n-Roll, plans for the future, his Comic Book series, and much more. – Run-DMC are pioneers of Hip Hop, and to many accounts, one of the biggest Hip Hop groups ever. Through the 35 years that the band has been together, you have sold millions of records, you have toured the world a hundred times over, and you have accomplished so much. First, tell us, how redeeming is the success you have attained?

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels – I don’t really think about it. It was like one day I was sitting at the diner in LA and a guy just came in and was just staring at me, right? I was like, “How you doing?” He said, “Hello.” He was just looking at me, ya know, and I’m eating. Just me and two other friends, and he was like, “You have no idea what you’ve done, huh?” I was like, “Huh?” So he said, “I just want to shake your hand cause you have no idea,” and he walked away. I don’t think about it as we set this goal and accomplished it.

We didn’t set out to say, “We’re going to sell records and become Rock stars. We gonna do “Rock Box,” the “King of Rock,” and then hook up with Aerosmith and create this Rock-Rap genre.” We just wanted to be Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, you know what I’m saying? We were just emulating those guys. Before recorded Rap music, what Run-DMC did, that feeling, our delivery, Jay being a live DJ, all of that, we got from them before it even was considered show business. Our main goal, and I guess we accomplished it, was we wanted to be two of the best MCs and a DJ that you would ever see live when you come and see us. I think that sincere desire to do that transferred to the record, transferred to the video, and transferred to the shows. – Absolutely, That is the most important thing to accomplish; to stay sincere to what you want to create.

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels – Right, exactly. You know, people always ask me, “What was so special?” We just did what we did when we were 12-15 years old; put the beat on, rhyme, and have fun. Talk about positive things, talk about the universal possibilities of communication, inspiration, and motivation doing this Hip Hop, Rap, DJ, breakdance thing. That was the goal, just as the goals of the guys before us.

Profile – Right, exactly. Now you had mentioned about mixing in the Rock -n- Roll and it just happened that way. It is almost like “Rock Box,” “King of Rock,” and obviously “Walk This Way,” all these big hits that you had, really were pioneers creating a mix between Rap and Rock. Was the Rock edge something that kind of always attracted you? Were you always interested in kind of dabbling in Rock?

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels – Yeah, and for me, as a little kid, when everybody, in the ’60s and ’70s, was into the Jackson Five, when everybody was into Sly and Family Stone, James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic, and all of that. The high heels, bell bottoms, afro picks, afros, and dashikis, I cared nothing about none of that. In the ’60s and ’70s, in NYC, there was a radio station, 77WABC, they used to play everything. They used to play Elton John, The Doobie Brothers, Harry Chapin, Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and all those stations, there was just something about the sound of the guitars. There was just something about the sound of Crosby, Stills, Young & Nash. There was something about the sound of The Beatles, The Stones, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Jim Croce, and even Harry Chapin. Growing up, and I never knew what the record was about till I got older, you know, Harry Chapin, sad ass “Cats in the Cradle,” I never knew it would have a profound effect on my life later.

There was just something that was alive with the Rock and the Folk Rock because, you know, Marvin Gaye was just so the lover, sexy man, but he did a record called “What’s Going On” about the conditions. For me, I was a school kid, so you know, Fogerty and Dillon, and so it was the Vietnam War they addressed the issues. Neil Young sung about university, it was something that was more day to day about Rock and Folk Rock. You know what I’m saying? Even from “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head” and all of those songs from the ’60s and ’70s, there was just something about the sound of the guitar with the beat. – That is really cool that much really connected with you the way it did.

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels – So let’s fast forward, Hip Hop comes over the bridge. You know, we needed stuff to rap over so we used a lot of Disco records such as “Rappers Delight”  and “Good Times.” Disco records had a lot of baseline for you to rap over. We always used in Hip Hop a lot of James Brown cause James Brown always gave you a funky drum beat where the drums would break down and the MC could run his mouth. But in the same crates are the DJs, in the early days before recorded Hip Hop were break beats that were Rock records. “Walk this Way,” me and Run never heard the singing part to “Walk this Way,” all we knew was get Toys in The Attic out and play number four, you know what I’m saying? For me, I think there was something and on top of that, I was into Comic Books so there was just something stronger and more powerful, more Hulk like with Rock drums and guitars. You know, it was like lasers and the drums was like the Hulk and Thor slamming his hammer down.

There was just something thicker, heavier, and stronger with Rock music than with Disco, R&B, Jazz, and other records like that. That being said, cause people think “Walk this Way,” which is a record that Stephen Tyler did in the video, he knocked the wall down. People say, “D, that really happened in life, that wasn’t just a video thing.” Although, “Walk this Way” wasn’t the first Rock Rap record. The first Rock Rap record was “Rock Box.” It was also the first Rap video on MTV. Then we did a record called “King of Rock,” then we did “Walk this Way,” but when we did “Rock Box,” all I was trying to do was make a song like Billy Squier’s “The Big Beat.”

Larry Smith pulled out the DMX drum machine and said D you do it. He put the timer on with the click thing. He said you hit the bass button, you hit the kick, and you hit the snare. The big beat went bump bum bah bump bump bah, he said stop, and the beat kept going and then all he had to do was put the bass line on it. Then he put the bells on it. Originally, the guitars was supposed to come in and out, but Larry Smith left the guitars through the whole record. That’s how “Rock Box” was born. “Rock Box” was just me trying to make Bill Squier’s “The Big Beat,” a record that, as a kid, I was influenced by because the Rock that was on the radio at the time.

Profile – It is quite an interesting story that you had to tell there about how everything started. You have kept that Rock edge through the years, and in 2006 you released your debut solo record. Do you have plans to put out a new solo record sometime in the future?

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels – Yes, it’s almost done as a matter of fact. The first single should be ready in about 2 months and it’s produced by John Moyer from the Rock band Disturbed. It features DMC and Miles Kennedy together. We did a song called “Flames,” talking about all the shootings that’s going on in the nation. It’s crazy, cause we are talking about white cops shooting black kids, but we are also saying, “Yeah, y’all make all this fuss when the white cops shoot the black kids, but when the black kids shoot the black kids y’all don’t march.” I call this record one of the most powerful records, one of the most important records of this decade. What I’m trying to do is what we did with “Walk this Way,” you know, people say we created this genre that gave birth to Linkin Park, Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Sum 41. Kid Rock says, “Run-DMC and Aerosmith had a baby and I popped out.” You know what I’m saying. Run-DMC never participated into this so-called genre because, for some reason, we was always kept as the Hip Hop icon, even though we made Rock records.

What I’m doing with this record is I’m doing “Tricky,” “Walk this Way,” and “Mary, Mary” on steroids. Meaning, “Walk this Way” was me with Aerosmith and we created this great genre, this great creative entity. With this new album, I’m working with some of the best musicians and singers, everything’s gonna be done live. Like I said, the first single is gonna be me, John Moyer, and Miles Kennedy. I also worked with Mick Mars from Motley Crue, Travis Barker, Sebastian Bach, Rome from Sublime, and Justin Furstenfeld from Blue October. In about two weeks, I’m going into the studio with Joan Jett. I’m going to be working with Chad Kroeger from Nickelback, Billy from Biohazard. What I’m trying to do is really live my King of Rock, Rock-n-Roll dream, where even though I’m rapping, I’m making Rock records. You know what I’m saying? Everywhere Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock, Blink-182, Foo Fighters, Rage Against the Machine go, I’m going with this album. I’m not going Hip Hop, even though Hip Hop is the element that I’m doing. It’s something that I always wanted to do, now I can freely do it. Also, I’m working with Rob Duke, who is the third lead singer of Exodus. – That is really quite a lineup of Rock and Metal musicians you are working with there. Wow, it sounds sounds like an exciting project right there.

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels – It’s the most exciting thing that I’ve ever done as a musician, it is great. But you know why? It’s really exciting because I’m writing songs with these dudes. Like I said, we are doing songs about the police shooting, we are doing songs about substance abuse, we are doing songs about the government, we are doing songs about politics, we are doing songs about suicide. The record that’s gonna come out in 2016 is gonna deal with every facet of everybody’s life on hold. It’s heavy and very emotional. It’s from everybody I’m dealing with, coming from personal experiences, feelings, and emotions. It’s more like songwriting, even though I’m rapping and Sebastian is singing, it’s like we are a group. It is a collaboration of artists, but each song with the diverse lineup of musicians and singers, is like the songs as if we were a real Rock group. I think that’s something that’s gonna be really special with this.

RomenMpire – Yes, it will be exciting to hear for sure, and as you mentioned, you are talking about topical things here. Important topics that people should be talking about. Going back to modern mainstream Hip Hop, which the record labels are selling now a days. They are not selling the real Hip Hop anymore. Real Hip Hop attacks the real topics, and you want to get back to that, right?

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels – Exactly, that’s why I decided to do it with presentation. It’s gonna be a little more powerful, it’s gonna be a little more ballsy, it’s gonna be a little more edgy, but it’s gonna be done in a way where people will experience the song as a true reality of what they go through when they wake up till the time they go to sleep. It’s funny that you said that, there’s a lot of people in Hip Hop now, who are these DJs on the radio, they can’t come to Tennessee and discover a great record about the police shooting, or about teenage pregnancy, or about the effed up education system.

A DJ here in NY can’t go to Tennessee like he did back in the day and come home Saturday and then say Monday morning I got this record of this artist I discovered in Tennessee, play it and it blows everybody away. There’s a lot of young people as I travel around and speak at high schools, that say, “You know DMC, you know what is crazy? Hip Hop used to talk about, you know, the wars.” We had two Gulf wars, there was no famous, powerful, incredible musical, dope lyrical record about the wars. Now you look at this, you got the Black Lives Matter movement saying what Hip Hop wasn’t afraid to do back in the day. – That is absolutely right. That is what real Hip Hop is about. Calling out the important topics and exploring it within the lyrics.

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels – It’s almost like, I describe it like this, the Hip Hop now celebrates negativity like it’s cool. The Hip Hop, I would say 15 years prior to this, would dis that negativity and destroy it, because we know it’s wrong.  But now, a rapper can brag about your selling drugs, shooting, disrespecting women, and just because he’s making money and he got an endorsement with a sneaker or a liquor company. The problem isn’t the music. I said this when I spoke recently, America will celebrate that individual, just because he got money. Now you tell me that the problem is way deeper than a rapper not addressing it. There is a guy 16 years old with lyrics about communities, the shootings, the education systems who can give us politics,  history, and a little bit of comedy, but he won’t get his record played on the radio. It’s not just because of corporate radio is playing negative records because that’s what people are into. My thing is this, everybody ain’t in the gang, everybody don’t go to strip clubs and everybody don’t smoke weed. What about playing that Rap record with the kid going, “I don’t smoke because it might kill me.”

There is probably 50 million people that don’t smoke, but they want to cater and pull all the resources and finances out of the community that smokes, drinks, has sex, and shoot and kill each other. Yea, that’s a part of what we represent, but the real Hip Hop would talk about those issues. The thing that made the Hip Hop you’re talking about so powerful is the drug dealer gangbanger would tell his story, but at the end of the record he would go, “but you sure ain’t got to do that.” Rakim, the god MC, you got MCs saying he could spit, he sold the most records, but Rakim was the god MC. He said, “I used to roll up, this is a hold up, but now I learn to earn.” Those words were so powerful to the streets, cause all the little shorties and all the little kids that were doing stick ups, Rakim said, “You ain’t gotta do this.” They would look to Rakim what do I do? The very next rhyme Rakim would tell you what you could do to not do that no more.

DMC at East End Music & Arts Festival 9-19-15 Amagansett, NY – Exactly, the lyrics had a message, and an important message.

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels – But now, all the music is smoke, drink, shoot, disrespect our women. So, the little shorties is looking at the so-called leaders of their generation, and we’re celebrating ignorance, illiteracy, disrespect, and asinine antics like it’s cool. The stupider you are, the more negative you are, the more disrespectful you are, people think you’re cool, and they gonna give you money for it. Imagine how a kid feels cause his favorite rapper is negative, illiterate, disrespectful dude, right? And that rapper is his age. Then he turns on the TV and all these reality shows, you know, Hollywood Housewives and Hollywood this; they see grown women, mothers and fathers, I’m talking about adults acting worse than the rappers.What do you think these kids at?

It was always like, when our Hip Hop was started in the early ’70s, early ’80s, we were young people who challenged ourselves to be better. I gotta tell people who is, you know, like 40 to 70 now, because they think they can’t connect to the Hip Hop now, because it’s an old thing. They think I’m getting too old, I stop them and I say no, it’s not that you are old, you were Hip Hop when you was 12, 13 years old. The difference is when we were 12, the typical MC Rapper was 12 to 21 years old. It was young people expecting more from young people. Now young people don’t even get that more from their elders and the older adult communities, you know what I’m saying? – You are 100% right. Very valid and just points that need to be heard.

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels – So that’s a problem right there, that’s the bigger thing.  The more stupid you are, it’s almost you’d be stupid, you’d be ignorant and you just be a fool, you could even get a record deal or you could get a reality show. Everything that celebrating Hip Hop now, everything that is celebrated on VH1, MTV, yes I’ll call them out, is why we created Hip Hop in the first place, so our children wouldn’t have to be that. It’s one thing to see that, but then to validate it’s cool to be that, just to get a check, you tell me something ain’t wrong with that.

One thing I could respect about the Rock guys forever is if there’s war, if there’s civil rights, if there is a political issue, Tom Morello and them boys gonna say something about it, you know what I’m saying. Neil Young will sing about it, which is a beautiful thing. I want to carry that legacy. If I combine it with what Hip Hop is and what Rock is. It was one thing for us to sample all of that Rock-n-Roll music and all the James Brown and all that, but we did something that they don’t do today. What we did is learned about the music we were stealing and we realized, “Oh shoot, James Brown isn’t just a hard working man in show biz, he did something to make a statement about the riots in Watts,” you know what I’m saying?

dmctoptwo-570x330 – Yes, of course. Because artists believed in touching on these issues.

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels – We looked at what our idols were doing, stuff outside of being Rockstars and celebrities, and those are the things that touched us. That is lost now, because we are in this nation that we live in; as long as you are getting money, you can celebrate it. I was talking with kids when I go to do lectures at schools and stuff like that. It kind of bugged me out, a lot of the younger kids that go to listen to Old School said, “You know, every saying that is missing in our generation, was in your generation.” I would say, “Yea, but nobody told us to put it there, we took it upon ourselves to create that and put it there.” I always tell the kids, “It’s not that there is a generation gap between me and you, it’s an information gap between me and you.

There’s a lot of famous rappers out right now, ain’t none of them talking about the issues. So I’m gonna get with some Rock guys and I’m going to address the issues, bring it right to your face, right to your doorstep. The good thing about doing it with Rock musicians is if you say something wrong, we gonna hit you in the head with the guitar like El Kabong. – (laughs) It is definitely exciting that you are bringing that back and looking to attack that issues. It is sincerely inspiring to hear. You are a very busy guy, you have your music, you have your charities of course, and you also have your Comics. What inspired the Comic publishing house that you have now?

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels – That’s a really great question, that all came about about 2 years ago. I went up to Atlantic Records for a music meeting, me and my manager Eric who was trying to help his brother shop this young Rapper. I go up to the meeting and we are meeting with Rigo Morales, who was head dude up there at Atlantic Records. He was the A&R head, he was the music dude behind the rise and success of Shady Records, Eminem’s company. So he’s over at Atlantic, so I call for the meeting, and he said, “Come on right up.” If the manager would have called, it probably would have been 2-3 weeks before we got a meeting. If my manager’s brother would have called, he probably would have never got the meeting.

So I called and told him, “I want to come up there and present something to you.” He said, “Come right up.” True story, he basically said, when I got up there, he goes, “Yo, I’m usually really professional, I never fan out, I always keep it professional, but you are like my superhero man.” He said Run-DMC had an effect on him, on Eminem, and everything. He told me, “I want to make it look like I’ m doing an interview with you, but I just want to ask you, all that stuff that you did was so amazing, what was it like when you were a kid?” I was like, “I went to Catholic school and all I did was read Comics. When I said the word Comic Books, he just started glowing. We sat there for 2 hours and we just talked about Comic Books, ya know. Marvel Comic Books was our favorite; Spider-Man, The Hulk, The Avengers. Everything you see Hollywood doing now on the big screen, man we been doing that since we was 5 years old, that don’t impress us cause we really had the Comic Books.

He said, “Did you ever think about doing a Comic Book?” I was like, “No I never thought about doing a Comic Book.” First of all, since the day that I became DMC from 1984, 85, 86, 87, everywhere I would go, people would run up to me, “Yo DMC, I got this Hip Hop Comic Book idea.” Some of it was really, really good. I scratched my head, why does it never work? That’s one reason, I don’t want to do a Comic because I’m a rapper, I’m a musician, I want to stay in my lane. Just because I have a hit record, I’m not trying to do anything else. He said, “DMC, I could respect that,” but then he was like, “Don’t do a Comic Book as a celebrity, trying to sell a clothing or liquor whatever, just do a Comic Book as a little boy DMC who was into Comic Books before he was even into Hip Hop.”

Then the light came on, I was like, “Wow, I never thought about it like that.” I don’t want to disrespect Hip Hop culture and I don’t want to disrespect Comic Book culture. I said, “The only way that I could do a Comic Book is if I do it with integrity and we do it as a tribute celebrate of the very Comic Books that touched our lives and still touch our lives.” He said, “Here’s the deal D, what happens is when you took Hip Hop along with your two buddies Run and Jay and y’all did a record about sneakers and y’all did “My Adidas.” He said, “That opened up an awareness of sneaker culture, you’re the reason why Jay-Z can get deals to this day, and the bottom line D, it was good right?” I said yea. So he said, “What happened when you took Hip Hop, put it with Rock -n- Roll and you and your boys did “Rock Box,” you did “King of Rock,” then you took it another step and you did a song with Aerosmith and knocked down the walls, not just in the video, but you knocked down the walls of separation here on Earth, and it was good right.” He also said, “The only thing that could happen, if Daryl McDaniels, who happens to be DMC, does a Comic Book from a perspective of being a kid that loved them, the only thing that happens is it’s gonna be good. I was like, “Ok, cool.” He convinced me to do it.

He brought his friend Edgardo Miranda Rodriguez on board and we teamed up.  We said, “We are not gonna just create this cover book and take it somewhere like Marvel or DC, because we are Hip Hop, we do things big, we gonna become like Marvel in DC.”  Three years ago, we went to Comic Con and he looked at me and said, “A year from now, we gonna be back here debuting Issue 1.” Two years ago, we debuted Issue 1 at the Comic Con, it was received very well and then the task was to do an Issue 2 and debut it as this year’s Comic Con. Thankfully, we have Issue 2 out now and it’s being received very well. I think the reason is because, Rigo said, “D, Think about it like this, it’s easy for you, everything that you did with your music you do with this Comic book. We’ll just have people draw it out and write it out for you.” I was like, “Wow, I never thought about it like that.” That’s how the Comic Book came to life.

darly comics 2 – That is really cool and pretty exciting. That is great to see it is doing well, I mean it is a whole new avenue for you.

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels – I was just doing an interview earlier, they said, “What was the obstacle?” There was no obstacles being allowed to come into the Pop Comic Book culture arena because I’m DMC. When the artist and the fans see me, first thing they think is “Tricky,” “Walk this Way,” You gonna sing “My Adidas” right? So that got me in there. The obstacle was really having people pick the book up cause I got accepted in because I’m DMC. Most people who had preconceived criticisms and misconceptions about it mostly were thinking, “He’s gonna put this Comic Book out and it’s a DMC Comic Book, in less than 2 years it will be gone and forgotten.

Fifty years from now, people are thinking, “Yo, remember DMC put a Comic Book out,” and people will be looking to get it. What blows people away is, they are picking up my Comic Book and realizing, “Oh Shoot, this is a real Comic Book.” They are not getting this novelty, throw away, one-time thing. They are picking it up, they are seeing the writers I’m using, the artists I’m using, they are seeing the artwork, they are seeing the storyline. They are seeing that this is some official Comic Book stuff. S0 the obstacles are getting blown away because we are trying to really give a high quality presentation of a Comic Book. So far, just the same way people love my rhyming, it’s the same way they are loving the pages of the Comic Book. That’s a blessing. – It is great that you are sticking with it. This is something Comic fans should be really excited about. As you said, it is really high quality work. It will be exciting to see where it all goes. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. covers all areas of music, but also covers Horror/Sci-fi movies as well. If you are a fan of Horror and Sci-fi movies, what are some of your favorite?

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels – That’s a really great question. My favorite Science Fiction movie is the original The Terminator (1984), the first one totally blew me away. My favorite Horror movie probably is the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), that thing was so damn scary cause it was filmed gritty. They didn’t have to use overly gory, bloody special effects. That movie was the scariest thing I ever saw. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the original The Terminator, those are my two favorite Sci-Fi/Horror movies ever. Those were so perfect, they came at the right time. Even movies now, with CGI, can’t touch the feeling of you experiencing “I’ll be back;” so perfect and amazing. Those two movies are one and two in the list of the top 10. – Those are two great films right there, and like you said, you cannot fake an atmosphere, even with all the Hollywood magic nowadays. An atmosphere has to happen naturally.

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels – Right, one of the greatest, when you are looking at Hollywood movies, nobody, still, in the last couple of years has been Gladiator (2000) with Russell Crowe. It was like those epic MGM movies, that I wasn’t even born now. Those are my three favorite movies ever. From there, I judge and bring everything on board.

Bryanston Pictures

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