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Run DMC's Darryl McDaniels Says Mentorship Can Change The Youth And The World

McDaniels laid out his plan to provide youth, particularly kids growing up in the foster care system, with the tools to not only live productive lives, but to thrive.

Run DMC’s Darryl McDaniels may be a living legend within the hip-hop community, but his focus is not on his many accolades and milestones — it is on the youth.

In a lengthy conversation with VIBE, McDaniels laid out his plan to provide youth, particularly kids growing up in the foster care system, with the tools to not only live productive lives, but to thrive.

Having grown up in the foster care system himself, McDaniels understands the challenges kids face. As a way to reach out, he has nurtured the Felix program, which offers mentorship programs and activities, among other initiatives, to children. “All mentorship is, is providing information, being an example, and being living, breathing, touching, hope. We have to look these children in their eye and say, ‘Who are you? What do you want? What are your dreams?’ And we got to help them get there,” he said of the program’s mission.

His work doesn’t stop there. McDaniels is also involved in American Graduate Day, the national televised broadcast by PBS which is set forth to increase awareness about the importance of mentorship and education within the youth. On the broadcast, McDaniels will share his experiences alongside other celebrities, including John Legend and Misty Copeland.

While there are a number of influencers joining the initiative, McDaniels hopes the broadcast will trigger more of a response from the hip-hop community. “If we [hip-hop] can dictate what people are going to wear, what people are going to drive, what people gonna smoke, how people are going to act and talk, then we gotta shape up and tell people how to live and change the way that we’re living.”

The American Graduate Day broadcast premieres on PBS Oct. 14 at 2 p.m. ET. Here is what McDaniels had to say about the Felix program, the TV special and helping the youth.

VIBE: Tell us about your involvement in the American Graduate Day initiative.
Daryl McDaniels:
For the last 10 years, I’ve worked with the Felix organization that works with foster kids in the city. What we do has a lot to do with mentorship. A lot of people are afraid of the expectations and responsibilities of becoming an adoptive parent. It’s a lot of work, dedication and commitment. The same with becoming a foster parent. Working with these foster kids in the Felix organization, we have a camp program. I also work with a lot of agencies in New York City and other cities. I found that just being a mentor to a lot of these kids has a big impact on their lives. What I mean by that is, OK, you may not be able to be a foster parent, but just talking to a kid throughout the week, just making yourself available, or meeting with a kid once or twice a week… Even if you just call a kid a couple of times a week, it turns their lives around. Giving them encouragement and just showing that you care. I visit a lot of group homes and foster care agencies, and a lot of times we keep in contact with the kids. And the kids tell their counselors, "Mr. DMC must really care about me because he calls to see what’s up with me." With that being said, we’ve been doing the Felix organization for the last 10 years, and we’ve had remarkable outcomes with all the children that we’ve come in contact with. So I guess I’m a prime example of what happens when you give attention, opportunity and direction to a young person in these unfortunate situations.

You mentioned foster parents — does the mentorship program extend to them as well?
Yeah, a lot of the foster parents that are within the foster care system. There’s a hundred million great stories about great foster parents, but there’s also a hundred million terror stories. People can learn from the examples of mentorship through the foster care system. I’ve met people that have sent 20 kids to college. And all of those kids, because of the prime example that they were given through mentorship, they go back into their communities and keep the process going. A lot of people that work with the foster parents, they just work with the system to get the money. That’s a whole other issue that we’re dealing with. But what we’re doing is trying to make people understand that all of the children on the face of the Earth are our children. Our relationship with our children has nothing to do with blood relationships. A lot of the time, we walk by these children that live on the streets, and we don’t know that they do petty crimes just so they can go to jail so during the winter months… We walk by them every day and go, "These are not our children." OK, maybe you didn’t give birth to them, but let’s give them an opportunity. These kids don’t just do well, they excel. A little bit of attention changes their lives. These kids want discipline and to show that someone really cares about them. And a lot of times, they lash out violently. If they don’t lash out, they hurt themselves or they choose to find an alternative, which is suicide. All mentorship is, is providing information, being an example, and being living, breathing, touching, hope. We have to look these children in their eye and say, "Who are you? What do you want? What are your dreams?" And we got to help them get there.

You grew up in the foster care system. How does that experience impact a child's life?
I was the last foster kid in my house. All of the other kids who I thought were my cousins, all of a sudden started leaving and I never saw them again. It came to that point where I’m the last kid sitting in the room at 5 years old, playing with the toys. My mother and father realized that ain’t nobody coming back to get me, so they decided to keep me. With that being said, they gave me discipline, education and recreation. If we could provide this for every child in any unfortunate circumstance, we can see less kids going to jail, going to the mental institution, and less kids going to the grave.

Why do you think mentorship is so important in regard to education and pushing for youth to stay in school instead of resorting to crime?
A lot of kids don’t see the value in education. When I go to middle schools, I keep it real with the kids. I tell the kids, "You are 100 percent right. You will probably never use that algebra problem again. But it’s not the actual problem, it's the process and the function and the utilization of your ability to solve the problem." I was a good student in school. God bless my mother and father, every school that I went to, even though I wasn’t their blood child, they worked their butts off to pay for me to get this education. And I tell the kids that all the education that I got, wasn’t necessarily just to go to [school] because the adults tell you to. I say, I want y'all to go to school and practice. I tell them, "Repeat after me: 'School is practice to prepare me for whatever it is that I will be doing.'" Because I was a good student — the use of language, being able to define words, create characters — when it was time to get on the mic with Run, I didn’t just become a rapper, I became the king. We have to put who they are and what they want to do first, instead of forcing education and making it seem like their dream is not important. Then we have to prove that it works.

Why is it important that hip-hop get involved?
Kool Moe Dee, I was so attracted [to his music] because he was the best rapper in the world. Every time he opened his mouth, he talked about how important school was. Here’s a guy who had less than me. They had nothing living in the Bronx. Kool Moe Dee said something really powerful that I always say when I visit kids. He said: "Once a nobody from the neighborhood/Took a hop to the top because I knew that I would/Excel over the rest because I make progress/I don’t consider it luck, because I’m not blessed/I got my life all together, love the way that I live/Go to school, really cool, and I think positive/Cause it's the right to have fun, lots of pleasures and joys/But it’s the brain that separates the men from the boys." When he said that, I had to fold the needle back.

So when it was time for me to shine, because Kool Moe Dee showed me how powerful education was, I got on the mic and wasn’t ashamed to say: "I’m DMC in the place to be/I go to St. John's University/Since kindergarten I acquired the knowledge, and after 12th grade, I went straight to college." I bragged about it with the same attitude and enthusiasm that rappers brag about shooting guns, having sex, taking drugs and stuff like that. Then, about 10 or 11 years later, I get a phone call on the radio, and the dude goes, "DMC, my name is Peanut. I’m from Houston, Texas, and I just want to let you know, I thought I had it all. Then here comes DMC, one of the coolest dudes on the face of the Earth, talking about school is cool. Just for making me open my eyes, I realized I didn’t have it all." So just because I rapped about going to St. John's University, he got his GED. Then he got a high school diploma and then [went] to local community college.

Luckily, people like you and Kool Moe Dee are here to influence people. But do you feel as though it’s even more important for the younger generation of hip-hop to get involved in this initiative?
Yes, the kids are looking at [them]. They think [they’re] cool. If we [hip-hop] can dictate what people are going to wear, what people are going to drive, what people gonna smoke, how people are going to act and talk, then we gotta shape up and tell people how to live and change the way that we’re living. Here’s the problem: Right now there is a reluctance to do it, because in America, negativity is perceived as a false sense of power. You can be an a**hole, a fool, literate, disrespectful, a f**king lying, conniving fool. But people giving you attention and paying you money, this nation will celebrate you. It’s not just an entertainment problem. Look at the president! In the business of this nation, as long as you getting attention and money, you are perceived as being successful. So that’s why people are reluctant. They are afraid to step to the mic. But the people who weren’t afraid to step to the mic and allowed Obama to get to his position in the first place, were young brothers and sisters, such as a Melle Mell, Chuck D, KRS-One and Rakim. We need the artists to step up and be the mentors to all of those eyes and ears in the audience.

You can make your fun record. It's not about censorship or freedom of speech. It's about homicide and genocide. The kids are looking at us. So if you're rhyming about shooting a gun is cool, what the hell are you going to think? So on your rap record, Mr. Gangsta Rapper Man, you make a record about the use of a gun, but the next record should be about not using the gun. You can make a record about the strip club, but do you make it about the girl that went on to school with the highest GPA and become the doctor or the lawyer?

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Let Jacquees Tell It, He’s The Jodeci Of This R&B Game

Rodriquez Jacquees Broadnax doesn’t want to be the bad guy of R&B. He says this with a sinister, yet warm smile. With year-end debates taking over social circles, Jacquees wants all the flowers for his glowing debut, 4275. “I ain't never had a year like this, I got one of those careers and lives that keep going like this,” he says, as he raises his iced out wrist to draw his progression. “It keeps going up, my sh*t just keeps going up.”

At 24 years old, the singer knows a thing or two about the ever-changing genre. Nearly half of his life has been dedicated to music, specifically to quiet storm-like sounds that now take on new meaning in our adult love lives. He’s hibernated under the radar for some time with his 2014 debut EP 19 and released gentle falsettos and big name features with Chris Brown, Ty Dolla $ign and Trey Songz along the way.

But between his accolades, he’s been condemned for his favorable “Quemix” of Ella Mai’s “Trip” and now, his self-proclaimed status of “The King of R&B” for his generation.

"I just wanna let everybody know that I'm the king of R&B right now," Jacquees said in an Instagram post on Sunday (Dec. 9). "For this generation, I understand who done came and who done did that and that and that, but now it's my time. Jacquees, the king of R&B.”

R&B artists like J. Holiday and Pleasure P shared their two cents on the matter while the game’s most elite like Tank, Tyrese and Eric Bellinger dropping stacks of knowledge on the gift of consistency, respect, and talent. But Jacquees has these things and then some with legends like Jon B., Donell Jones and Jermaine Dupri in his corner. Despite quick reactions from his peers, Jacquees is confident in nature and proud of his space in the game.

“I think I'm the leader though, as far as males go, I think I'm the number one,” he tells VIBE, just days before his “King of R&B” comments went viral. “You're talking about R&B young dudes who understand who goin’ [at] it, [but] who are they going to put in the front? I believe everyone will say Jacquees.”

Jacquees’ music is just a branch of what R&B has evolved into. Over the years, artists like SZA, H.E.R., Daniel Caesar, The Internet, Miguel and many more have flipped the genre on its head by churning out music that not only speaks to the soul, but to their vocal abilities. Successful R&B records aren’t confined to rap guest verses and traditional instruments now take center stage. But Jacquees sits in an interesting space seeing as his style caters to a grey area of folks who just heard their first Monica album yesterday and now appreciate a good nayhoo like the rest of us.

With hopes to release his sophomore album in February 2019, Jacquees chats with VIBE about his confidence, making 7275 and why he’s the perfect leader for R&B today.


What have you learned about yourself as a human and an artist in 2018?

Jaquees: This was my biggest year. I made the most money I’ve ever made. I dropped my album and was able to take care of my family. I ain’t never had a year like this and I thank God for that. I got one of those careers and lives that keep going like this, (slowly raises a hand to the ceiling) It keeps going up, my sh*t just keeps going up.

I think I learned about my whole self in 2018. Being that it was my biggest year, I went through a lot of stuff personally, but I think the biggest thing for me was listening to other people but also trusting myself. I have a strong mind so more of listening to myself helped.

Do you think you're the good guy or the bad guy in R&B?

Who do you think I am?

I think you’re a sweetie.

I don’t wanna be the bad guy, I’m a good guy. I’m easy to deal with. I’m a sweetie, but ain’t sh*t sweet though. (Laughs)

You have a lot of ‘90s and 2000s influence in your music. Do you ever feel you might sound dated, or do you think you’re bringing new sounds into the genre?

I just think I'm bringing a whole new sound. When I was younger, someone told me if you switch up what you’re doing, someone else is going to do it and you’re going to be pissed off. Just stick with it. When I was 14, everyone was telling me I needed to make club records but I didn’t want to do it. I remember CEOs saying, “Just let Jacquees do that [what he wants,]” because it’s a clock.

I figured out how to get my records at the club without changing who I was. I remember making “B.E.D.” and finding my flow on my project 19, you know? That’s when I got my swag.

What does love look like to you right now?

I think about a family. I think about me, a girl, a kid or something, like a whole family. One day I’m going to have it. I’ll still be in the game but I’ll say, “Yeah, that’s my wife over there with our son and daughter.” I'm getting older, too. I’ve been in the game for 10 years for real, but I’ll be 25 next year and soon they’ll be a little Jacquees.

There are a lot of layers in today’s R&B, especially in the mainstream resurgence it’s had. In that, there aren’t as many young black vocalists being pushed to the forefront. I want to know your thoughts on where you exist in the genre today.

I think there's a big wave coming back right now because even if R&B didn't die down they weren’t promoting it that heavy. Artists were making songs, they just weren’t being acknowledged on a mainstream level. I think the game is really putting R&B back on top. You know, you’ve got artists like me, Tory [Lanez], Ella Mai, H.E.R., so many people, you know what I’m saying? Of course, you had Chris [Brown], Trey [Songz], all of them but that’s when we were in school. It’s a new time, ain’t no big male R&B singers.

I think I'm the leader though, as far as males go, I think I'm the number one. You're talking about R&B young dudes who understand who goin’ [at] it, [but] who are they going to put in the front? I believe everyone will say Jacquees. They’re not rugged like me. You’ve got Jodeci and Boyz II Men. I’m Jodeci, they’re all Boyz II Men. I’m street, they’re not street like me. You can hear it in their voice. There’s a difference.

It’s no disrespect to nobody because they’re all my friends, but I still wanna be number one. If we’re playing the game and I lose, I’ll be mad as hell but I’m still a good person. I just want to win.

As you should. Everyone wants to make the best music they can–

But I ain’t no hater either. The game is like a sport. The game is like high school. I remember being at this year’s BET Awards and seeing certain singers and thinking, ‘Oh, they’re seniors.’ I knew I was a freshman, but I saw Meek and all of them thought, “He’s a senior.’ You know how it is when you walk through school in the first year. Then the second you’re like, “I’m the ni**a now.”

When I did the Soul Train Awards in November, I felt like a sophomore that everybody knew. They knew me from my freshman year, but this time I’m playing varsity.

You’ve said before you want to do this for a long time–

Yeah, I want to make music forever and it’s my choice. I want to make enough money for me to turn down shows because now, I have to take everything I get. I always tell artists, you got this much time to make this much money. Because after that, sh*t’s closed. I've seen it happen.

For me, I know I got longevity in this game because I'm an R&B singer and a lot of R&B singers have longevity if you take care of yourself, you know what I'm saying? Even rappers, you know what I'm saying? You keep that flow going, don't do no lame sh*t, you know you’re stick around.

How do you take care of yourself?

You gotta take care of your health. That's number one. Your mind and your health is your biggest thing. Keeping good people around you...stay in good spirits with me. I like to keep good people around me. I like people around me [who] make me laugh. Smile, I don't really like people around me that I got to be like, “What's going on?” I just like people who are themselves.

Stream 4275 below.

READ MORE: Tyrese, Usher And Others Reacts To Jacquees' Claim That He's The King Of R&B

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Music Sermon: The Groundbreaking Sprite and St. Ides Hip-Hop Campaigns

Today, rap music is used to sell everything from electronics to tax filing services to nut butter grinding machines at Whole Foods. We understand that hip-hop culture is essentially the root of everything cool and hip in culture, period, and it’s been commodified and appropriated within an inch of its life. But in the early ‘90s, the genre was far from Madison Avenue-friendly. Aside from the groundbreaking deal between Adidas and RUN DMC, brands didn’t yet see full value and impact of hip-hop…except in the food and beverage industry.

Beverage companies centering campaigns for the urban demo around black music was nothing new; Coca-Cola had ads featuring artists such as New Edition and Anita Baker singing their hearts out for the cola in the ‘80s, and Schlitz Malt Liquor had a legendary – and hilarious - run of spots featuring The Commodores, The Four Tops, Teddy Pendergrass and more through the ‘70s and early ‘80s. However, in the early ‘90s two brands put their entire business on hip-hop’s back, by not only building their brands but spring-boarding the recognition of the music and artists as a marketing and advertising tool: Sprite soda and St. Ides malt liquor.

In the ‘80s, Sprite was languishing behind competitor 7Up when parent company Coca-Cola decided to focus on the youth market, and the quickly growing hip-hop culture was part of the strategy. African-American ad agency Burrell Communications tagged hip-hop acts for a series of spots that began a long-standing marriage between the brand and the culture, starting with Kurtis Blow in 1986. It was one of the first national TV ads to feature a rapper.


In 1990, the brand kicked off the “I Like the Sprite in You” campaign, using rap acts that matched the soft drink’s bubbly energy, starting with Heavy D & the Boyz before partnering with Kid ’n Play the following year. The ads featured the artists clad in lemon-lime fare, rhymin’ about lymon.

HEAVY D - 1990 KID’N PLAY – 1991

With Kris Kross, they turned it up a notch and had us crunk inside the Sprite can. Edgy. Also, this was catchy as hell.


Then in 1994, a young brand manager from Clark Atlanta University named Darryl Cobbin had an idea for a new direction: Gen X was about authenticity and independence of thought, not following the hype. Sprite ditched the pop-friendly crossover acts and identified more “authentic” rap artists – lyricists with street and cultural cred – to rep the brand. “Lymon” was also out of the window, as they moved away from marketing taste and towards marketing attitude. (Cobbin later spearheaded the iconic, yet grammatically questionable, Boost Mobile “Where You At?” campaign.)

Gone were the bright yellow and green sets, because while the new slogan said, “Image is nothing,” it was all about image. Bright and shiny was traded for dark and gritty. Now we were in the studio; a fly on the wall for freestyle sessions. In the first spot of the series with Grand Puba and Large Professor, Puba closes with “First thing’s first, obey your thirst.” It’s legend even within Coca-Cola that Puba ad-libbed the phrase that then became the brand’s tagline that remains to this day.


The “Obey Your Thirst” spots also took us the street corner, the club, and inside the ring when Sprite resurrected the legendary KRS One vs. MC Shan battle.

KRS ONE & MC SHAN - 1996 NAS & AZ – 1997 THE LOST BOYS – 1997

By the late ‘90s Sprite had spent roughly $70M on the “Obey Your Thirst” campaign, tripled sales, and commanded a majority market share of the citrus category (which also included 7Up, Sierra Mist, and Mountain Dew).

Sprite had also succeeded in becoming an official and established part of the culture. They were family. The brand further expanded into urban youth culture through a partnership with the NBA, while continuing to evolve the creative of the rap campaigns.


Near the end of the decade, Sprite explored the overlap between hip-hop culture, comics and martial arts with a series of posse spots based on Voltron (representing all hip-hop regions) and the 5 Deadly Venoms (with all female emcees).


Over the years, Sprite has continued to be one of the most consistent brands in hip-hop. We’ve grown accustomed to spotting the logo everywhere from music festivals and shows to the background of BET’s hip-hop cyphers. They revitalized the “Obey Your Thirst” campaign with Drake in 2010 and paid homage to the greatest lyricists in rap with the “Obey Your Verse” campaign featuring iconic rappers and cans with classic lyrics in 2015.

SPRITE "Obey Your Verse - Cooler" (starring Rakim) from SHOUT IT OUT LOUD MUSIC on Vimeo.

St. Ides’ run with hip-hop doesn’t have the same happy ending as Sprite’s. The brand’s usage of rap petered out in the mid-90s after wide backlash and a series of lawsuits.

For St. Ides, hip-hop was the brand campaign. It’s how they built their business. The brand was introduced in 1987 and their rap campaigns launched in 1988. The malt liquor 40 oz., with significantly higher alcohol content than beer at around a $2 price point, was already a staple in lower-income neighborhoods and hip-hop culture. The “Crooked I” capitalized on that.

Parent company McKenzie River secured Ice Cube as their anchor spokesperson and tapped West Coast producer DJ Pooh to spearhead advertising creative. Pooh lined up a veritable who’s who of additional West Coast rappers over the years, including Geto Boys, Cypress Hill, Warren G, Snoop and Tupac; plus the thorough-est from the East, including Eric B and Rakim, Wu-Tang Clan, Biggie and EPMD.

EPMD & ICE CUBE - 1991 GETO BOYS & ICE CUBE – 1992 ERIC B & RAKIM - 1992

Unlike Sprite’s campaigns which were first jingles and still felt like commercials, even when elevated to trading hot bars for Obey Your Thirst. St. Ides spots, however, looked and felt like straight up music videos with album-worthy production and flow.

ICE CUBE – 1993 MC EIHT – 1994 NOTORIOUS B.I.G. – 1995

Complex even named Wu-Tang’s St. Ides spot “Shaolin Brew” as one of the collective’s 100 best songs! (But at least it’s ranked near the bottom; #97.)


In fact, in 1994, the brand did turn the hottest of the joints into an album, with the St. Ides promotional mixtape dropping at your neighborhood liquor store. It featured full-length songs about getting twisted off the malt liquor from Ice Cube, Wu-Tang Clan, Scarface, MC Eiht, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Nate Dogg.

The Snoop and Nate track is low key a jam, still. Homegirl in the background starting at the 10-second mark is a whole mood.

This blatant marketing of malt liquor directly to black and brown youth wasn’t going to go unchecked indefinitely. It was all irresponsible, even while being genius for the demo. In 1991, the Wall Street Journal listed the St. Ides ad campaign among one of the worst of the year, which probably didn’t matter at the time since WSJ readers weren’t St. Ides’ base.

In 1991, Public Enemy released Apocalypse ’91: The Empire Strikes Back. The album featured “100 Bottle Bags,” a direct criticism against malt liquor companies marketing specifically to urban communities “…but they don’t sell that sh*t in the white neighborhoods.” Shortly after the release, St. Ides found itself in Chuck D’s crosshairs, and he fired the first in a series of big shots against the brand, marking the beginning of the end of their love affair with hip-hop. An 80-second radio spot featuring Cube used a sample of Chuck’s voice without his permission. The ad had already aired over 500 times on rap radio shows when Chuck sued St. Ides parent company McKenzie River for five million dollars (they settled out of court).

Then, St. Ides and McKenzie River fell under legal scrutiny from the New York State Attorney General in 1992 for using verbiage like Cube’s lyric “Get your girl in the mood quicker, make your jimmy thicker…St. Ides.” to suggest the malt liquor increased sexual prowess. Can you imagine the think pieces if that spot ran today?

They were later in hot water with the New York AG’s office again, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco (the ATF) for advertising perceived to the be targeted towards minors, with complaints that it glamorized gang affiliation and promoted sex. After having production completely shut down for a short while and getting hit with heavy fines, St. Ides tried to clean up its act, adding “drink responsibly” messaging into the spots.

By ’96 the run was over. Hip-hop was growing up, getting money and moving towards more sophisticated alcoholic beverage choices. Alizé and Hennessy, anyone?

The relationship between hip-hop and alcohol never ended, of course, but has continued to evolve to match the evolution of the lifestyle. We don’t go to the corner store no more, homie (save a brief return in the early aughts of Four Loko). We’re toasting to the good life with premium brands, some of which are now owned by the artists.

We can look back now with the wizened, woke eyes of maturity and possibly scrutinize our artists selling out at the expense of the community, but for the young and burgeoning hip-hop culture, both the St. Ides campaigns and the Sprite campaigns opened the door for the power and commodification of hip-hop and consumer brands. For better or for worse.

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J.Cole, Teyana Taylor And Other Snubs Of The 2019 Grammy Nominations

It's that time of year again when inner circles and strangers on the Internet debate who's up for a gramophone.

On Friday (Dec. 7), the nominees for 2019's Grammy Awards (Feb. 10) were announced to a span of hot takes, early but informed predictions, and a wall of confusion as to why certain artists were overlooked. While some entertainers excitedly received the good news (Cardi B discovered her nods while leaving a courthouse), others were left scratching their heads.

Here's a look at why those who were snubbed by the Recording Academy deserved to be nominated.

READ MORE: Drake, Kendrick Lamar, And Cardi B Lead 2019 Grammys Nominations


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