dmcIn an era where iden­tity and appro­pri­ation are hot top­ics with­in hip hop and the music industry as a whole, I Am Hip Hop recently had the oppor­tun­ity to dis­cuss image and authen­ti­city with one of the pion­eers of hip hop, Darryl McDaniels. The artist, cre­at­ively known as DMC, broke through some of the strongest bar­ri­ers, with Run DMC being one of the first ever rap groups seen by gen­er­al audi­ences around the world in the mid 1980s. To this day, they are one of the most recog­nised brands in enter­tain­ment across the board with their logo planted all over slo­gans, their music still heard on rock and rap sta­tions and their cloth­ing style rep­lic­ated on streetwear across cit­ies world­wide.

Des­pite being the first rap group to appear on MTV and the first to sign to a product endorse­ment, DMC humbly plays down Run DMC’s innov­a­tion and claims that they were just able to bring what was hap­pen­ing in their com­munity to the big­ger stage.

‘When I speak at col­leges, I always start by stat­ing that Run DMC didn’t do any­thing’ DMC shared.

‘Every­body in response is like, “But you’re first to go gold, first to go plat­in­um, first on MTV.” I say yeah yeah but if you listen to for example, My Adi­das, what made Run DMC so good, is that we took the beat from the street and put it on TV.’

This fresh yet nat­ur­al style became massively revolu­tion­ary in the music scene. Before, rap­pers would dress in more flam­boy­ant, eye-catch­ing out­fits that were inspired by the funk and soul vet­er­ans that pre­ceded. Early groups such as The Furi­ous Five and Whodini resembled Par­lia­ment and Prince in a bid to stand out while Run DMC’s organ­ic approach allowed them to truly be noticed, which also allowed their suc­cessors to fol­low suit.

‘The world didn’t know about it and nobody cared about us but we took it on’, DMC explained.

‘We didn’t cre­ate it, we didn’t say this is what you had to do, we had just put that image on TV then people dressed with no laces, Adi­das, and leath­er, our style became very influ­en­tial.

‘Chuck D said that when we did that, we cre­ated a good prob­lem because Run DMC came along and they allowed oth­ers such as De La Soul, Pub­lic Enemy and LL be them­selves.’

The rap group’s per­sever­ance broke fur­ther ground, giv­ing them the spot of being the only hip hop act to per­form at the now legendary, Live Aid event in 1985. This per­form­ance allowed mil­lions across the globe to see their first ever rap per­form­ance on TV while DMC stared fear­lessly into a crowed of 100,000 people at the John F. Kennedy Sta­di­um in Phil­adelphia. Even though they were about to rep­res­ent a whole com­munity in front of the masses for the first time, DMC was unfazed as his con­fid­ent energy was felt across the globe while the group per­formed King of Rock.

This lar­ger than life per­son­al­ity was some­thing that ran through the veins of DMC, who explained that his love for super­her­oes sub­con­sciously influ­enced his rap con­tent and imagery.

‘My move­ment to hip hop came from com­ic books ‘cause I was into com­ic books first. I went to a Cath­ol­ic school my whole life, straight A stu­dent with glasses.  I got teased and all of that so you know once I got to school it was cool, I loved to learn but to make it make and forth from school was ter­rible but when I got home after I did my school­books, com­ic books was that world that empowered me, com­ic books was that world that edu­cated me, it made me strong it made me feel like some­thing.

‘Then when hip hop came over the Bridge to Queens, I became attrac­ted to that, ori­gin­ally it was just anoth­er make believe world, I had my com­ic books and I always describe it like this, little kids used to play with the G.I Joes and the Bar­bie dolls, that’s what com­ics and hip hop was to me.’

DMC’s rela­tion­ship with com­ic books had nev­er ended, with the art forms still com­bin­ing togeth­er cre­at­ively and with the artist launch­ing his own series of com­ics recently, titled Darryl Makes Com­ics

‘People really star­ted to notice Run DMC in 1985 with King of Rock. There we shouted “Crash through walls, come through floors, bust through ceil­ings, knock down doors.” That’s the Amaz­ing Spi­der­m­an, the Incred­ible Hulk, Superhero’s always had a title of who they were, I was the Dev­ast­at­ing Mic Con­trol­ler, DMC You know what I’m say­ing even in the last 10 years after (Jam Mas­ter) Jay died, Run is on TV  with Runs House,  this and that, everyone’s going” “Where’s D?” I only come out when it’s time to do some­thing.

‘All of those sim­il­ar­it­ies were there but com­ic books were always first for me. Run rapped “I’m DJ Run, I can scratch”. I didn’t say “I’m DMC I can rap”, I said “I’m DMC I can draw!” I was still draw­ing. This isn’t DMC the Rap­per, doing a com­ic book it’s Darryl McDaniels the little boy that loved com­ic books doing a com­ic book and people are receiv­ing it.’

DMC high­lighted the import­ance of art when it comes to more more per­son­al situ­ations and how it can help indi­vidu­als in tough situ­ations.

‘I had to go to ther­apy when I found out I was adop­ted, the ther­ap­ist said your whole life you was using things like ‘I’m the King of, I’m the Dev­ast­at­ing Mic Con­trol­ler’ on the mic you was always defin­ing your­self so sub­con­sciously there was always a miss­ing piece, some­thing didn’t feel right, it was almost like Spi­der­m­an, it was almost like Bat­man.’

As we drew our con­ver­sa­tion to a close, DMC sum­mar­ised that Run DMC’s more nat­ur­al approach allows them and their coun­ter­parts to per­form music that is time­less as opposed to many new­er artists today.

‘A lot of these rap dudes can­’t do their songs when they are 60-years old and look good doing it. I mean I’m 53 and Chuck D is 56 but he still can rock the stage as he is still the same 18-year old kid from Roosevelt. I’m also not try­ing to rhyme like Eminem I’m not try­ing to rhyme like Jay Z, I’m not try­ing to start a liquor com­pany, I’m not try­ing to sell jeans. I keep it hard­core etern­ally.’

 Check out Darryl Makes Com­ics here.

Keep up to DMC on Ins­tagram and Twit­ter.

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About Sumit Singh

Sumit Singh
Sumit is a historian from Croydon, South London. He specialises in music, art, culture and mango lassi.