Transcript of interview with Darryl Mcdaniels – DMC 22/5/98
by Miguel D’Souza

MIGUEL: How’s it going, my name’s Miguel D’Souza, I’m calling you
from Sydney...

DMC: What’s going on...

M: Aah, not much, not much. I hope you don’t mind me calling you
Daryl, I’ve got a brother called that so I feel perfectly comfortable
calling you that...

D: Cool.

M: Okay. Thank you very much for your time. I thought I’d get into it
straight away, ‘cause we’ve got fifteen minutes. What’s the current
situation regarding Run Dmc and an album, or the material that you’re
writing currently.

D: We’re going to be on the road, booked up like crazy up until
October. So hopefully in October we can get off the road and go into
the studio. We’ve been on the road doing 20 to 25 dates a month since
we released Down With the King back in 1993. It’s been non-stop
touring since and even though we haven’t done a studio album since we
did the Down With the King album, we’re one of the few bands, not
only in hip-hop, but in music period, that can work forever and still
be this point, we’re like ‘oh we don’t even got to
make records to keep our career going, we’ll just keep doing this
until we’re 82 years old...

M: What sort of dates, shows, and venues are you doing...

D: Most of the dates, up until this Jason Nevins thing came up, we’ve
been doing alot of colleges, universities, all the big radio
festivals (sic), radio shows, we play all the hip-hop clubs and all
the rock and roll clubs. This is what is going on in the ‘States. As
we were getting ready to come out to Europe just to come anyway ...
see our main thing is the live show, in any shape, form or fashion,
that’s the fun for us, all the other stuff is work, but we kept
getting calls because we knew about Jason Nevins’ record coming out,
although we didn’t have nothin’ to do with it, the record company
played it ‘ hey, listen to this, we’re releasing this house mix of
It’s Like That. Alright cool, ‘cause we were out on the road. But
now, the booking agency is getting all these calls because they’re
saying you’ve got a number one record in Europe, and it’s number one
over there and it’s number one in Australia and the record’s big in
the UK. So when we were coming to Europe we did a whole month in
Germany, this record has given us some momentum to come out here and
introduce a whole new generation of fans to hip-hop. not just Run
DMC, but to hip-hop.

M: I saw the other day that It’s Tricky has been done, is that right?

D: Yeah, the record company’s releasing a Jason Nevins’ mix of It’s

M: Aside from the boost it’s giving to awareness of hip-hop and
awareness of you, what’s your personal opinion of it?

D: I think it’s a good record.

M: Yeah?

D: Yeah...I mean we don’t listen to house and we don’t do house at
all, that’s one music that we’re not really involved with but, when
we heard it we thought it was a good record, I mean just as good as a
Madonna house mix, or Mariah Carey or Janet Jackson. I mean I’ve
heard house remixes of r’n’b records, I just haven’t heard one of a
rap record. Ours was the first.

M: It’s been an amazing voyage for all of you since the beginning...

D: Definitely, sixteen years in hip-hop is just ridiculous.

M: It’s unheard of, even in the sense that you’ve had a sixteen year
career, I don’t anyone else can claim that..

D: Right, we’ve seen every rap group break up and most rap groups
come out one year and go out the next year and some rap groups are
very lucky to last even three years. But we’ve been able to do it
because we don’t focus on the industry or the business standpoint, we
do what was done in rap before rap records was made, that means we DJ
live, we scratch with the records, we rap and we freestyle and that
what has allowed us so long without an album. If we depended on
albums, our career would have been over because, especially the way
the industry is, people like you one year, (laughs), they go out and
buy your albums and by the next year they’re tired of you. People
don’t get tired of what we do, that’s why we’ll last forever.

M: So in a live sense, you’re able to keep on practicing those
artforms. Can I ask you, on the live performance, you’re doing 20-25
dates a month, are you still required to wheel out the old tunes as

D: That’s the biggest part of it, over in the ‘States nobody even
knows about this record or cares about it, (referring to Jason
Nevins’ remixes) we live off all of everything we made from ’83,
which was the original It’s Like That... from ’83 to ’93 is what we
live off and that’s the expectation that people have for the new
record. This new record is just a novelty, I would think, it’s more
important for the younger, new fans who probably weren’t even born
when we put out It’s Like That. They think we’re a new group and this
is a new group and they watch the video and think that’s the type of
music we all make. But now, since they’re releasing the greatest hits
when the new fans go out and buy the greatest hits for the Jason
Nevins remix, they get My Adidas, Walk This Way, Peter Piper, It’s
Like That, Sucker MCs...and they’re probably saying ‘Wow! What’s
This! They’ve realised this is what Run DMC does...

M: There’s alot of firsts in your career, you were the first to fuse
rock and rap, you were also the first crew to get a serious shoe

D: By adidas.

M: Nowadays clothing sponsorship and hip-hop are virtually
synonymous, even underground crews, who haven’t even got a major
record deal, haven’t even sold a record, are already sponsored or
they might have a shoe contract or something like that. You started
all of that, how did it work in your day, has it changed much?

D: No it’s still the same, because the companies realise that...but
see it’s’s funny, because the fans are wearing the clothes
anyway, so it’s not like it’s making a big impact. People in my
neighbourhood, in the Bronx, in Boston and places like that were
wearing adidas anyway. But I think giving the artist a contract and
giving them free stuff is basically you know another medium of
promotion. See we really didn’t understand that because we made My
Adidas way before we even got the deal with them. So it wasn’t like
it was something big to us, it was ‘aah cool, we got the deal...

M: I saw an interview with you at the time and the impression I got
was that this was something you thought was cool-looking to begin

D: Definitely. That was what we always wore. I grew up wearing
Adidas. It wasn’t like we said ‘ we’re going to make a fashion
statement and we’re going to wear Adidas and dress the way we dress
because that was what distinguished us from all the early rap groups
because we didn’t have no costumes, we came dressed as is, and that’s
what made the fans relate to us more than any other rap bands because
when they looked up on stage and seen us it was like looking in a
mirror. But for people who weren’t involved in the hip-hop scene it
was something new to them, it didn’t make them run out and buy Adidas
and the gold chains just because they thought it was something hip to
do. And the sneaker companies knew that and that’s why to this day
they’ll give, the underground crews more of the clothing that they’re
buying anyway just to keep them draped in it.

M: This is a broad question, I’m throwing this one to you because
you’ve been around for sixteen years and could be for another sixteen
years..what do you think of what has happened to the way a hip-hop
crew can develop these days...

D: It’s exploitation basically. What I mean by exploitation not that
whatever happens in hip-hop isn’t positive for the evolution of hip-
hop, but it’s just now the record companies don’t spend any time for
artist development. It’s like they search for what’s hot, once this
thing is hot they put it out there all over the map but if next year
you’re not popular, they drop you. They don’t understand that rap is
a creative medium, just like any other part of entertainment, or even
other parts of music. But that’s the only different thing that I can
see that’s going on in hip-hop today, I mean most hip-hop bands have
got a life-span of either one to three years... and that’s it. That’s
why in Run DMC we don’t focus on the record-making, we focus on how
many shows are we going to do this month, and hopefully we can go
around the world...the only reason we lasted so long is because we’re
doing what was done before hip-hop records was made. Forget about the
video, forget about the producer, forget about the album, let’s see
the DJ DJ live. My DJ’s better than your DJ, my DJ deals for real,
your DJ uses a DAT and pre-recorded tape. Run DMC, they rap live, we
don’t rap over no tape, we have a whole bunch of hit records that
would be just freestyles on a tape if we didn’t have a chance to make
records. That’s what distinguishes us from everybody else. Everybody
else is rhyming for the money, produced by this big-shot producer,
dressed, it’s like a package that is built. Run DMC is what is what
was always there.

M: Is it hard not to be cynical?

D: What do you mean? Criticize other people?

M: What you’ve given me is a pretty good analysis of what’s going on
now, but it’s not as cynical as I might expect... staying true to an
ideal keeps you focussed as an artist and keeps it interesting too,
it’s still an artform that you practice, rather than being purely a
business you’re involved in...

D: For us the art comes first, therefore we’re happy to get paid for
something that we like doing. There’s a bunch of groups that will
always be here when others are not. LL Cool J he’ll always be here
because he does what he does, KRS-One, he’ll always be here, Public
Enemy, Rakim just came back. But alot of these new groups that’s out
now, you know, I wonder do they have the vision or the heart that we
have. ‘Cause basically it’s a money-driven industry too. Rappers are
getting alot of money. When we started, we paid alot of dues, we
opened alot of doors, but right now, you get alot of money when you
sign a deal, the big record companies are really interested in you,
like when we started, the big labels wouldn’t even look at us because
they thought rap wasn’t selling nothin’.

What broke it for you?

D: It ain’t broke nothin’ for us, because we’re still on the same
label we’ve been on since 1983. But what broke it for other rappers
was people seeing that when we sold that first album and it went
gold, was the record companies realised ‘oh, rappers can obtain
platinum status...rap used to be just a bunch of singles...Sugarhill
Gang, Grandmaster Flash, The Message, nobody thought they would buy a
rap album, like they would buy a pop star, rock or r’n’b album. We
broke that, we broke the mould, we broke the mould by getting rap on

M: This was another first. You were a group that was strong enough to
string together a series of successful albums...

D: Exactly, and that set it up for those in the industry that came
after us...

M: The one thing that you heavily influenced in alot of rap to come
and alot of rock to come, and I tend to believe that you really
breathed life into rock music, as well as giving rap a real kick
along, but you did more for rock when you did stuff with Aerosmith’s
record. Does that come about through mucking about with records and

D: We used to rap over rock records before we got a chance to make
our own records because had to find records with beats. And rock
records, James Brown records, they always had a break in them where
the drums would just play, and maybe a bassline would play with the
drum, or maybe a rock guitar would play with the drum, ‘cause we
couldn’t rap over the vocals. So rock, not just for Run DMC, but for
every rapper before us, was a big part of our repertoire. You had to
have rock records inside your record case to give a good performance,
because not only did they have the break that you needed, but it was
hard and rap in the beginning was a hard music. Before rap started
fusing the way it is today, where you got alot of r’n’b-type rap.

M: And what about the environment that created alot of the early rap
groups. Yourself, you’re from Hollis?

D: Hollis, Queens, New Yooooork.

M: And what about some of the other neighbourhoods, the South Bronx
has always been really pivotal in terms of creating early rap. How
have those environments changed, and do you think those environments
continue to bring the best out of the new groups that come out?

D: Definitely, that’s why rap isn’t coming out just from the South
Bronx or Hollis Queens anymore. That’s why you’ve got rap coming out
of Los Angeles and rap coming out of Texas and rap coming out of New
Orleans and Florida and places like that. You’ve got rap in Japan and
rap in the UK, you got native rappers of their native lands, that’s
because the same thing that’s happening in the Bronx is happening all
over the world, it’s just that the Bronx is the first place to bring
it out, people thought this was so shocking, but all the attitudes
and all the problems with society and community are all over the
world and as rap grows, so does the attitude and this type of
mentality which brings out whichever type of rapper you want. NWA and
all the so-called gangsta rappers were no worse than Grandmaster
Flash when they came out with The Message, ‘cause people were shocked
by The Message, you know ‘broken glass, everywhere, people pissin’ on
the station (sic), turn stick-up kid, look what you done did, got
sent up...’ you know The Message was shocking to some people, to be
talking about jail and prostitution and stuff like that. When NWA
came, they were just reflected what was going on in their society and
as rap gets bigger, more and more people come out of the woodworks,
and you realise that crime and violence are all over the world. When
rap first started, rap was supposed to be a release and an
alternative to all the bad stuff that was going on in the ‘hood,
that’s why rappers started rapping, you’d rap because you didn’t want
to be in a gang no more, you know what I’m saying, you’d rap and
you’d join a breakdance team because instead of fighting, you’d have
breakdance battles...

M: I know you talk about rap reflecting its background, what about
rap making suggestions, rap rather than reflecting, rap suggesting
possibilities for a different future or environment. Do you think rap
does that?

D: Same way Bob Dylan did it, same way John Lennon did it, same way
all the great writers and poets and people like that do it to their
music or whatever. I think rap is like, rap is the music of hip-hop
and hip-hop is the culture and a way of life and hip-hop is gigantic
right now, so same way Public Enemy came with their message and same
way KRS-One gives his message, same way Run DMC give their message,
the message is definitely in the music. And music is the best medium
to carry it with

M: It’s really refreshing that sixteen years doesn’t make you
cynical, it makes you positive about things, it’s also a realistic
way looking at things...

D: Right. We’re going to be around, the same way the Rolling Stones
are still jamming in their late fifties, you’ll see Run DMC, rapping,
scratching and jamming in their late fifties.

M: I hope so.

D: Definitely.

M: Thanks for your time, good luck with the tour of Australia, I know
everyone from misty-eyed old b-boys to your new fans are looking
forward to it

D: We on the way.