After clocking in more than three decades in the game, rap group Run-DMC remains some of the most influential to rock a mic. To this day, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels still believes hip-hop has the power to change the world. Here, VIBE phoned the “Doing Art Together” honoree to discuss Run-DMC campaigning education in rap, his thoughts on President Barack Obama, and Macklemore’s controversial Grammy win.—Megan Saad
VIBE: 2014 marks 30 years since Run-DMC was the first rap group to release a video on MTV for “Rock Box” and have an album certified gold. Are you and Rev Run doing anything to mark the occasion?
DMC: That’s crazy. No not really, my thing is just to keep on rapping. It’s funny, you just said thirty years, it’s a shame that even hip-hop in itself doesn;t celebrate the cultural, global, generational impact of our music. Twenty years ago came this perception into our beautiful hip-hop culture that if you were over 35 years old, you shouldn’t be rapping. Telling it like it is is a part of hip-hop. But the same way some of these dudes get on records and brag about how many drugs they sell and how many people they killed, DMC got on a record and said “I’m DMC in the place to be, I go to St John’s University, since Kindergarten I acquired the knowledge, after twelfth grade I went straight to college.” I wasn’t afraid to rap about school being cool because I heard Kool Moe Dee do it. That was empowering. That’s the legacy when people look at Run-DMC. What we represent is what I said on “Adidas,” we took the beat from the street and put it on TV, that changed the world.
Speaking of ageism in hip-hop, don’t you think that the new generation of rap is starting to honor and pay homage to the older generation now more than they used to? Like J Cole’s track ‘Let Nas Down’ and Jay Z being as respected as he is now.
DMC: Yes, well now the younger generation is realizing it’s cool to do that. People were so caught up over the last fifteen years in hip-hop that positivity and honesty wasn’t gangsta. Everything [was] drink, smoke, guns, parties and sex. That was the main things associated with hip-hop. Chuck D said, “Man, you know what the most powerful thing is about this hip-hop? The power of communication and the power that the young and old can stand together.” If you ever go read a Run-DMC interview, especially me, the whole interview is going to be about the Cold Crush Four, The Treacherous Three and the Funky 4 + 1, with Sha Rock, the first dope female MC, that’s better than 99% of the dudes out now. We took what the elders said to us and put it with the lives we were currently living and on a record. Somewhere in the mix, a kid at 9 years old is going to be inspired. Hip-hop radio today sucks. Our young women turn on BET and think you’ve got to be a hoochie mama chasing rappers and athletes. No. Put on some clothes, pick up a book, go to college then walk into BET and say I’m buying and running this network. They don’t see that. They’ll listen to the athletes and rappers they want to be like. That’s the power of creativity.
With President Obama’s recent State Of The Union Address, what does it mean to you to have the first black president of the United States?
DMC: Kool Moe Dee on a rap, it was 1982, the Treacherous Three sampled the Pointer Sisters “Yes we can, can” and that was so powerful. Remember Obama’s campaign was called “Yes, we can.” I remember I was in Japan one time and everyone was happy that Obama got elected and I was too. It was historical. I was glad I was alive to see the first black president elected. I blurted out something along the lines of “Yeah Obama’s cool but he don’t impress me” and you could hear a pin drop. I noticed everybody was looking at me. Let me clarify: it’s amazing what he did and it’s impressive but it’s not impressive to me at this time because 20 years ago before he got elected, Kool Moe Dee was rapping everything that Obama said in his speech.
You’ve got to understand something: Grandmaster Melle Mel, Chuck D, Kool Moe Dee, these guys were prophetic, with stuff they spoke like “Our names will be found in the hall of fame.” Didn’t Grandmaster Flash, Run-DMC get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Kool Moe Dee said “Once a nobody from the neighborhood, I took a hop to the top because I knew that I would/ They sail 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 life that I live, go to school really cool and I think positive.” But then he said “it’s all right to have fun, lots of pleasures and joy, but it’s the brain that separates the men from the boys.” I had to pull the needle back, Kool Moe Dee just said it’s all right to have fun, it’s all right to go to the clubs dude. Guys like Lupe Fiasco, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar take it upon themselves to rap about other things than just going to the clubs, and having girls and cars and stuff like that. That’s the power of hip-hop.
What are your thoughts on Macklemore winning Best Rap Album at the Grammy Awards over Kendrick Lamar? Do you think race played a part in it?
DMC: Two awards for Best Rap should have gone out because technically speaking, if you’re rapping like Kendrick and your lane is like Snoop, Game, Kane and KRS-One and Jay Z, that’s a hip-hop Grammy. If you’re rapping over techno-pop music, you should get the techno-pop rap award. A lot of people think that Run-DMC was the first to win a Grammy but we were the first to be nominated. At the time, they didn’t even have a rap category. So they really didn’t know what to do with us. 1986 was “Walk This Way”, “Raising Hell,” “My Adidas” and “Peter Piper.” Even Michael Jackson told us we should have fucking took that award.
We were going to make a record with Michael Jackson. What was so cool about that was he was like “Yeah, I loved the ‘Walk This Way’ record that you did with Steven and Joe but I don’t want to make a rap record that’s like ‘Walk This Way’.” Michael Jackson and Run-DMC were going to make a record that was like “Peter Piper.” He wanted to drop beats, scratch and rhyme. It would have been crazy if that ever happened. Kendrick should have got one. He totally shut down New York just for that rhyme. He put in the verse “I’m King of New York.” Nobody in New York could top that. He should have got Hip-Hop God of the Year Award. It’s not a racist thing. It’s confusing of the [sub]cultures. My best friend’s son is a black, little boy from the hood and they love Macklemore. His music is speaking to them. Run-DMC was a black group and white people loved us.
If your song is totally touching people’s lives you should get all the accolades in the world. Of course, Macklemore should have won but Kendrick should have got one too. You need to bring those two audiences together, like when Run-DMC toured with the Beastie Boys. The whole world was going, ‘There’s no way these black boys from NYC are going to go up in these coliseums with these white punk rock kids and good things are going to happen.’ We toured the world without an incident.
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