DMC: Shadows of a Legend
In this revealing interview, D opens up about emotional issues dealing with alcoholism, adoption, suicidal thoughts, family and the death of a loved one. He also speaks up about how to solve problems and triumph in the face of adversity. One third of raps first super group sat down with DX to explain how a B-Boy becomes a B-Man. Read on...
With your legendary past, what do you feel is your greatest accomplishment in the world of Hip-Hop?
Wow...thats a good question. Well, before Jay died, it wasnt the first to go gold, the first to go platinum, first on MTV or first on Rolling Stone, but longevity. Weve seen it all. Weve seen gangster-rap. Weve seen Hammer come. Weve seen Vanilla Ice, Tupac and Biggie come. We were here through it all. We stayed relevant. We always did what was being done before rap records were being made. For us (our greatest accomplishment is) longevity for sure. But for me now, Im fortunate enough to still be here...
I wanted to speak on Jay. It was a tragic loss for everyone, but being such a close friend, can you shed light on the impact Jam Master Jay had on you while he was alive and after his passing?
First of all, the reason why Run DMC looked the way we looked and acted the way wed act was because of Jay. He was the vibe, the aura of Run DMC. He gave us street-credibility and made Hip-Hop acceptable universally legit, if you understand what Im sayin. If you think about it, musically, he was the guy that said Lets do Walk this Way over. We were like Naw, we gon sample the beat and we gon say the rhymes... (Starts doing rhymes.) Jay was always the visionary. He was not afraid to do what we had to do creatively and represent. He wasnt afraid to be an individual. But at the same time-he wasnt afraid to be outstanding.
Run DMC for me was all I had. It was like Hip-Hop adopted me, right? I grew up with a fabulous life as a kid. I was a straight A student. I was always on the Honor Roll. Then I started on this thing called Hip-Hop in my basement. When I started, I never thought I was going to be making record. But Joe, whose brother was Russell Simmons, he knew I could make rhymes and he put me down. Jay was the neighborhood DJ so we put him down. Us three, who grew up together since Kindergarten in the same neighborhood, we become the number 1 Hip-Hop force on the Earth. And for years thats all I knew besides school and my family. That was my life and Run and his brothers had Phat Farm, Def Jam and they was doing that. But for me, all I had was my rhymes and my love was Hip-Hop and my group so when Jay got murdered, for Me, my whole life was taken out from the bottom of me. So I had to figure out "What the hell do I do? Where do I go? Do I keep rhyming? Am I getting too old to be Hip-Hop? How does the B-Boy grow up into a B-Man? And if I do rap, do I try to outrhyme these young kids?" So, for me, my whole world was torn apart.
Whats your relationship with Run like now?
I see him on TV more than I do in person, but its just that after Jay (passed away) we had two different paths to walk now at this point in our lives.
You stayed away for a good while...What kept you away?
Well, personal things like alcoholism, I found out that I was adopted, Jay being murdered, my father died. I (have) been through a lot in the last ten years. It wasnt all good like people were thinking. Yes, Im the King. Yes, Im a pioneer. Yes, I got fame and fortune. Yes, yes, yes all the things you want to say about me. But at the end of the day, like I say on the Sarah Mclachlan record, the most important thing I am to you guys is that Im just like you. And I'm going to keep it real because Hip-Hop is about keeping it real. I was going through some things. But see everything that I went through makes me who I am, where I come from and all of that. Bottom line: before I was able to evolve as an artist, I had to evolve as a person. So, from 96 up until now, it was all about What is this DMC thing meaning now? Where do I go with it and when I get there, what the hell am I going to do with it?
You talk about keeping it real, which is important. Youve been quite open about alcoholism, but what is it like today? Does it still try to peak in and disturb your day or are you just calm and enjoying life more than before?
From 91-2000, which is actually when I found out I was adopted, I did not have a drink. I started drinking probably in 1976 or something. I started drinking when I was probably 12. But in 1991, I had pancreatitis, I think people know the story. I had a bad case of pancreatitis because I used to literally drink a case of 40s myself a day, in addition to going to the clubs and drinking Bacardi and Coke way back when. So, I went to the doctor and he said You have two choices. You can drink and die or not drink and live. So from 1991-2000 no drinking. I didnt have to go to rehab and didnt need no help. I would just look at a drink and know, If I drink that, Ill die! So, it was easy! But then I found out I was adopted, and at the same time, I found out what kind of music I wanted to make, what kind of person I am. So I was reborn again. But in my mind, it was party time. So I was telling everybody that said D, you buggin out. You cant drink! (I said) I feel good. I look good. Im exercising. Im making the music I want to do. Im making a solo album. The world is coming together. Blahzay-Blah. Its party time! But (what) I didnt know (is that) I started drinking because I didnt know how to deal with the adoption thing. But I didnt know that at the time. So, from 2001-2004 I was drinking 24/7. But then in 2004, people were telling me to go to rehab, that I need help. I did the whole denial thing: I dont need no fucking help! But then one day in 2004, I realized not only am I killing myself, I cant get no higher. Theres something else I should be doing. Once I got in rehab, it wasnt just go and get detox. The rehab I went to was like college. They taught you about your brain, body functions, genetics, nerve endings, what alcohol does....So I got an education. Out of all of that, you have 50 things up on the blackboard. Youre going to teachers and psychologists. I had to narrow it down to which alcoholic am I? Thats Me. I do that! So, once I realized and once I looked in the mirror and confronted myself and said Okay, I have to do something else besides drinking. But it was a journey. It wasnt easy. Thats why I talk about it because at the end of the day, even if youre not alcoholic, you probably have an uncle or a brother...you could relate to that. See, my album is about issues. Everybody is claiming Its so good, its Hip-Hop! No! Some things in Hip-Hop is good, but in life, theres a lot of issues people arent addressing. Hip-Hop is a culture. It's a way of life. There are not enough people talking about life. So, what I did...I could sit here and talk to the world about what I dont like about Hip-Hop and I guarantee you everybody will agree with me. But theyre scared to agree with me, so they call it hating. No! The reason youre calling me a hater is because Im telling the truth and you cant take it! Instead of doing that, I said What is Hip-Hop not talking about? The war in Iraq...Personal situation...So, I looked in the mirror and I said This happened to me. That happened to me. Whatever I experience waking up in the day, Im going to make records about it. At the end of the day, if you listen to my album whether youre six or sixty years old or whether youre black, white or Puerto Rican...Theres something in there that you could say Oh, wow-I think like that! Or I didnt know DMC was like that! I can agree with that! Or you can say I totally disagree with everything hes saying. But at the end of the day, at least I know youre not sleep-walking. Youre alive and youre awake.
There was a point in your life where you had to deal with suicidal thoughts. What would be your advice for the youth today, dealing with similar issues?
This is my advice: You feel like theres nobody you can talk to who can feel what youre feeling. Before you can commit suicide, you have to search till you find that person who can feel what youre feeling. The only reason why you're feeling how youre feeling is because youre talking to the wrong person. Thats why I put it on a record for millions to hear. So, if they need to talk to me, come find me. People say Im a pioneer, a legend, a godfather, I may be all those things you say...the King whatever...but at the end of the day, like I said in the Sarah Mclauchlan record: Theres a lot of people just like me! Im just like you homie. I'm just like you sister. Im just like you brother. White/Black-Im just like you. Ill sit there and talk to you about it because Im ashamed of what it is. A lot of people thinking of this, they hold it in, which is the wrong thing to do. By you letting somebody know you feel like that, it could help somebody else. So, my advice is: (You can say) My mother dont understand me. My girlfriend dont understand me. My teachers dont understand me. You have to go look in the park. Go online, pick up the telephone book. Go to Suicide Anonymous or whatever it is. Talk to people who are just like you.
Why did you choose to share your adoption journey with cameras? Were you out to help others who were struggling with the same predicament?
Well, first t was like this. I found out I was adopted five years ago. I didnt move on it. I didnt act on it. I just hit the bottle. So, after I stopped drinking, I said for me, this isnt about saying my life isnt my life. My parents are parents. But I needed to find out how I came into this world. So, dealing with emotions of Why did my mother give me up? Why did my parents take me? Why am I DMC? I went through all of that. But then I was thinking that I really need help because I really cant comprehend this on an emotional and mental level. So this lady I know, who is also adopted, let me know they have adoption discussion groups. So I started attending the meetings and basically we just go there, people from all walks of life: Professional people, normal people, 9-5 people, athletes, entertainers, actors, garbage men and everything, right. Wed just sit there and talk about being adopted. But at the meetings, I started learning about all the adoption issues: the laws, the sealed records, birth certificates, the hospitals, the private eyes. So I learned about this and realized that there is no instructional guide to being adopted. So, being me and who I am in this position...What happened was VH1 called me up and said Would I like to do the Surreal World? I said, No, thank you for the invite. But I dont believe in reality TV on that level because, if I do anything, whether its music, or its a video or a television show, its going to have meaning and purpose. Then I said I got an idea! From what I learned at my adoption meetings, maybe I can document me search for my parents so they'll have a blueprint for their search. If I document my search not only will it help me, but it will help other people. See, I was going to do it anyway, this just let me help other people.
How did your journey affect your adoptive family and your wife?
Well everybody, believe it or not, was really supportive because everybody knew my life is my life but I needed to know, because everybody lese knew where they came from. There were little things where I felt What am I doin? My Mother is going to think I dont love her. I felt it so I know she felt that. But I let her know, Mom, youre my Mother. You and Dad are my parents. I love yall. Theres nobody more important than yall. This is just the lady that gave me birth. This lady gave me life but you allowed me to live it. In the beginning it was a little shaky. Even my brother was like, Listen, man-Youre the adopted one. You gotta do what you gotta do. Im not adopted. I dont want to know what's going on over there. I love you, though but I dont want to go over there because its all unfamiliar to me. But you know, if I was your brother, youd feel like I love you Darryl, but why you doing this to me? What? Moms not good enough for you? So, those thoughts were there.
Being a pioneer, how do you see Hip-Hops evolution? Do you feel it headed in the right direction or do you think its going the wrong way?
No...Hip-Hop is really...Wait! I dont want to criticize it. Only thing Hip-Hop has to do is continue to be Hip-Hop, right? But right now, its forgotten what Hip-Hop really represents: the way of life, right? The artform: the graffiti, the art, the dance, the music. Right now everybody's trying to be red. Theyre wasting their time because everybodys trying to see who could be the best at being red as opposed to who could be the best at being blue, pink, yellow, brown, or purple. Everybodys trying to be the best at one thing! Thats not what Hip-Hop is about. You dont have to look a certain way, talk a certain way...Hip-Hop originally was, Yo, whats your flavor? See, its all different flavors but were all the same. You have De la Soul, Run DMC, Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane, Special Ed, The Fat Boys, Beastie Boys, Will Smith, Tribe Called Quest, Kool G. Rap, NWA, Dr. Dre... Everybody was different, but were all representing the same thing. Right now, were all the same representing the same thing. Thats a false representation of what Hip-Hop is about. Hip-Hop dont need to do nothin except being Hip-Hop. This is the question I give to everybody. I always get the younger rappers coming up to me saying, Yo, DMC, where do you think Hip-Hop is going? I tell them this: Its not where its going, young man. Its where youre going to take it. You should see the look of confusion on their face. They're thinking, What do you mean D? Listen, you dont have to be 50 Cent, Jay-Z or Kanye or any of the guys you see in the video to represent. You have to represent you. You dont get that. They think, I gotta rap like these guys. I gotta get tattoos like these guys. I gotta carry guns like these guys. I gotta buy whips like these guys. The list goes on and on. Man, you dont have to do nothin except keep it real!
Youve made it a point to create socially conscious records on the new albums. How important is it for emcees to make political/social commentary in their music?
Lets put it like this. Its not the politicians. Its not the police. Its not the preachers. Its not the priests. Its not the parents. Its the rapper dudes! The emcees and DJs dictate what we drive, what we wear, how we walk and how we talk, and how we act. Even though were not role models, we have a responsibility to represent the people we claim to represent. We are the voices for them. Right now you have rappers doing everything and going everywhere having a lot. I sit here with my eleven year old son, and I say I dont know what youre saying cuz you aint saying nothin! I know what youre driving. I know whats in your refrigerator. You showed me your jacuzzi on MTV Cribs. I know what youre doing, who youre dating, but I dont know what youre saying cause you aint sayin nothing! Its time rappers start saying something! That's only criticism because I used to think it was only the younger generation but theres people 25 years old-60, that are mor elost than the kids are. The kids, they alright, cause the kids got more sense than we know. Theres grown ass men, 25 years old-60 that got it all wrong! We need, as the representatives of Hip-Hop, be it the athlete, the entertainer or the actor, to really start representing. You aint gotta be a role-model and be all goodie-goodie, but you have a responsibility to represent the real and aint nobody doing that. MTV Cribs and Pimp My Ride-its all good, but it shows results and it doesnt show the process.
How do you respond to fans who criticize your comeback and dismiss it as Hes too old to rhyme or to be relevant? They may not even know the past but...
Right...What the hell is this old rapper guy? I heard of him, but what is he doing? I can only tell them this, Rap is what I do, not what I am. They might not know this, but this is the answer: its for them to find out. Once they do, then maybe theyll get it. Does Bruce Springstein stop doing Rock & Roll because hes 50. Does Bob Dylan stop doing what he does because hes 50? And people say The Rolling Stones need to stop, but heres something nobody knows about them, critics and writers that think yall know it all...Whatever you see Mick Jagger and them doing now, they was doing the same thing at 11 years old, before they even had a record deal. Thats what its about. Are you true to the game or are you true to the game. So, this is what I do. This is my life. This is my music. As I grow, I just change up what Im talking about but I'ma keep doing it because my heart pumps Hip-Hop!
What would be your sales pitch for the new album and who are some of the artists featured on it? What was it like working with such a diverse group of musicians?
For me, it was like this - I wanted to do an album that was going to focus on the music. So, I had to work with musicians who are artists first, celebrities second. If you look at albums now, its all about who produced it, what rappers you got on there, and what name. Even though, I got big names...but I say Sara Mclaughclan and you think Wow, great voice, great songwriter, great artist. I say Kid Rock? Okay, yes-he gets all the Playboy bunnies, he gets all the models, he lives the Rock & Roll lifestyle, but before anything, hes a musician first. Doug E Fresh, (they ask) Why didnt you get such & such whos hot now? Because thats just it: hes hot NOW. Doug E Fresh is forever! Its a difference...thats why I did it independently. Thats what the label says: Why dont you look at that producer? Hes hot now. Thats my answer: Hes hot now. Doug E Fresh will always be Doug E Fresh until the day hes 90. Those guys you hear now, you wont want to hear their records in two years but youll always love to hear Ladi Dadi and the The Show and the list goes on and on. I had to work with artists who were musicians to be on this record because I want the music to speak first. I want people to do this: I like the Find My Way record. Kid Rock is on it, howd you get Kid Rock. I want them to say, Yo, I like the record. How the hell did you work with Sarah Mclauchlin anyway? For me, the whole selling point of the album is this: good music by good people for a good purpose.
You said it...Your pairing with Sarah McLaughlin was somewhat odd for a lot of people, but in the end it turns out you two have more in common than many thought. How has your relationship with her grown and how did it develop since you met.
Right. When I first met her, it was Mrs. Mclaughlin your music changed my life. She said Thats what music is supposed to do. She shook my hand and I didnt see her for three years. I found out I was adopted, and I said Im going to make a record because Sarah Mclaughclin said thats what music is supposed to do. So I will make a record thats going to give some hope to those people. But I will call her up, because she gave me hope, so she could help me give hope to other people. I call her up, I tell her Im adopted, this and that. We make the record and after the record was done, she looks over at me and says Darryl I need to tell you something. I said What? I know about Lilith Fair, I know about her previous work and the type of person she is now. I never knew she was adopted too. That's powerful. So, thats what its like for me...(I want people to say) Ayo, DMC. Im adopted too. Ayo D, I just got out of rehab. or Yo D, I like you for speaking about the world. Because none of these rappers that claim they know it all are even saying anything about it. You think about it, for me, the relationship with Sarah Mclaughclin became like we were friends already. Thats the power of music
Also, you came through and talked about Whos hot now? But let me ask you, Who do you think is hot now, but that will have longevity as well?
Wow...Well, let me ask you: You have a whole lot of hot cats in the last five years. Are people still talking about them? If they do, are they talking about their music or what theyre doing and who they're dating. So you think, De La Soul, you could go I just seen them last week in the House of Blues. Wu-Tang Clan? They back on the road right now. I was in DC the other night and guess who comes on stage? All of them motherfuckers was on stage ding that shit that they do thats real. Every guy whos been dominant in the last five years, are we still talking about them? Nope! But you see Chuck D, you see him, you remember. You see Nas or even further back. If you see Special Ed, Big Daddy Kane...You seen what he did on Hip-Hop Honors! Whats crazy is all the young kids in the hood was like, Whos that? (Laughs) Thats what I mean...Whos hot now? Even the producers, they just fall back into obscurity...
I just want people to say...I want people to look at me and see thats just a reminder of the reason why the world loves Hip-Hop. Not just in my generation, but period! I was trying to figure it out: I could go and get such and such producers and get ghostwriters and I could try to be rougher than 50, sell more records than Jay-Z and out rhyme these motherfuckers. I just did what Run DMC always did- make good fun records. Thats all I have to do is represent the real of Me.