FLINT (WJRT) –
(11/19/14) – “You know, I’ve done a lot of first in my career, especially with Run-D.M.C. We were first to go gold, first to go platinum, but I like things like bein’ the only Rock and Roll Hall of Famer to play The Machine Shop! That’s somethin’ you can be really, really proud of,” said Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels.
McDaniels isn’t stopping at just one performance at the Flint venue. After a stop with heavy metal band Jackyl at The Shop in 2010, D.M.C. returns Saturday with Michigan rockers Pop Evil. The pioneering hip hop icon says he first met the band a couple years ago at a festival. A friend saw them performing and was so impressed that he found D.M.C. and brought him over to check them out.
“First of all just lookin at ’em, it was like, ‘Yo this is the dopest thing I ever saw!’ And once I got over there and started listenin’ to the records, the records were amazing. I mean, besides bein’ incredible on stage, their show is ridiculous, Pop Evil is amazing, amazing musicians and performers and singers,” he said.
McDaniels met the band after their set and talked about working together on a project. But as impressed as D.M.C. was with their live performance, when Pop Evil sent him the remixed version of their #1 single “Trenches,” he was blown away.
“I was like, ‘Oh shoot, I can rip this to pieces!’ ‘Cause it wasn’t like it was a rock song. It was like a beat jam. And I loved the way they were singin’, the bass line, the drums, the guitars. It was just crazy.”
Working on the track made Darryl even hungrier to do more with the band.
“Once we did it, it was like, ‘Yo, let’s go on the road and do it.’ So I performed with them last year at Rock On The Range. And then they was like, ‘Yo, when we get home, when we get back to Michigan, you gotta come through.’ And when they said The Machine Shop, I was like, ‘No doubt!’ So here we are.”
The 50 year old says even before he played The Shop in 2010, he had heard stories of the place from other artists.
“The Machine Shop is probably one of the top five venues that you talk about for musicians. It’s incredible, the whole vibe. As soon as you walk in that place you become possessed with rock and metal,” he said.
The fact that the legendary rap artist is so enthralled with a hard rock and heavy metal club may be confusing from the outside, but Run-D.M.C. were the first hip hop act to mix rap and rock on their recordings in the early ’80s.
“Our whole rock/rap thing, it wasn’t done to say, ‘Hey, let’s put rock and rap together and create a genre and go down in history and become famous and all that.’ Rock to us was just another beat jam. You know, in the early days of hip hop, before rap records was made, the DJ used to have to find break beats for the MC to run his mouth on. And in the early days it was a lot of disco, ’cause disco had a lot of records with bass line breaks. It was jazz, cause there was always a break on a jazz record. A lot of James Brown, cause he always had a funky drummer break. There was a lot of funk records. But in the same crates of these DJs, way back before ’78, was a lot of rock breaks. So there was always rock affiliated with hip hop, even before hip hop was recorded. The thing that made it stand out when Run-D.M.C. did it was, when hip hop started makin’ records, all me, Run (MC Joseph Simmons) and (the late DJ Jam Master) Jay did was say, ‘Hey, nobody’s usin’ any rock beats,'” he said.
But D.M.C. is quick to point out that they were doing more than just using these rock breaks as background music.
“One of the things that separated us from a lot of the hip hoppers of the day was, if we sampled something, if we made a song over what was somebody else’s, or even if we dabbled in a specific area of music, we did our homework. We learned about who the artist was and where they came from. It took Rick Rubin to say, ‘You know what this record is?’ Me and Run are like, ‘This is #4 on Toys In The Attic.’ Me and Run never knew it was called “Walk This Way.” Why? ‘Cause Jay never let the record play to the lyrics. But Jay, as a DJ, DJs and musicians make the best producers because they know the music. If a DJ’s playin’ jazz records, they know the name of the jazz artist that this record is. If they’re usin’ funk, if they’re usin’ R&B, whatever it is, the DJs ain’t stupid, they ain’t just makin’ beats, they’re doin’ homework. So we was educated on who The Beatles was, who The Stones was, and what John Lennon did after he left The Beatles, and how Neil Young and John Fogerty and Bruce Springsteen and all the artists of the ’60s and ’70s sung about war and civil rights. So we knew this music had a purpose. And because of that, we were sincere about the usage of stealing their music,” he said.
And in the process of “stealing their music,” the group of kids from New York City began the process of merging two art forms into one, opening the door for future bands like The Beastie Boys, Rage Against The Machine, Korn, Kid Rock and countless others. But McDaniels says until recently, he never fully realized what they accomplished with the music they were making.
“It’s crazy, this year was 30 years, in 1984 was when we first came out. So it was 30 years ago to the day that we did “Rock Box,” “King of Rock,” and we did “Walk This Way.” “Walk This Way” just put it everywhere, you know. When Steven Tyler took that mic stand and knocked the wall down in the “Walk This Way” video (Run-D.M.C.’s cover version of the Aerosmith classic, which featured Tyler and Joe Perry on the recording and in the video), people said, ‘D, that really happened in life, that really happened in culture. Do you know what ya’ll did?’ But I mean, now I’m hearin’ it more cause I’m startin’ to pay attention. But we was just rockin’, man. We was just rappin’. We liked the way guitars sound. We love the feeling,” he said.
So when young hip hop fans started checking out rock acts, and rock fans started getting into rap, D.M.C says he wasn’t surprised at all.
“I think when “Walk This Way” came and when “Rock Box” first got on MTV, all the punk rock kids and everybody that was listening to Metallica said when they heard “Rock Box,” they understood that they could listen to hip hop, and vice versa. All the hip hop kids started listening to Metallica, and checkin’ out to see who Lou Reed was and what The Ramones, who were from Queens, was. What brought us together. But we had no idea, because we were just creatively all in tune to the same vibe,” he says. “It wasn’t a conscious thing, it was, the same way kids were playin’ their guitars and bass, the same way the white rock kids were putting together bands is the same way the black hip hoppers were putting together DJ and MC groups. It’s the same thing, but different expressions and presentations, but it’s the same feelin’. And that’s why it works.”
Now, 30 years into his career, McDaniels has achieved more than he could have ever dreamed. Run-D.M.C. albums were the first of the genre to go Gold, Platinum and Multi-Platinum. They were the first rap video to air on MTV, and in 2009 became the second hip hop act to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But D.M.C. says when they started out, they had no ambitions of being famous, they just loved the craft of making music.
“It wasn’t about show business. It wasn’t about bein’ a celebrity. The music, the innovation, the creativity, the sound, the fact that we could talk about politics, history, current events, social events in a way that everybody understands. I’m startin’ to realize what impact Run-D.M.C. had. You know, I tell people, other MCs who are famous, other rappers who are famous are just famous rappers. Me, Run, Jay, P.E. (Public Enemy), LL Cool J, The Beasie Boys, Eric B. and Rakim, EPMD, Grand Master Flash & The Furious Five, Funky Four Plus One, Treacherous Three, we created a universe that changed the world,” he said.
D.M.C. is proud to know now that he’s older, that the change he helped create was a positive one.
“I was a Catholic school kid. I didn’t go to public school, I wasn’t in a gang, I don’t sell drugs, I never went to jail or none of that. So from day one I came out the box sayin’, ‘I’m D.M.C. in the place to be, I go to St. Johns University. Since kindergarten I acquired the knowledge, after 12th grade I went straight to college.’ And I said it with the same ego that rappers brag about bein’ drug dealers. Like, you know, it’s crazy, a rapper makes a record, ‘Praise me because I’m selling drugs and making money off tearing down my own people and my own neighborhood,'” McDaniels says. “Nobody wants to shoot and sell drugs and tear down their neighborhood. Hip hop was created so we could use what we have artistically to not only better ourselves, but better our neighborhood. Now, that bein’ said, the reason why I love bein’ around these rock dudes, because they been doin’ it. Like I said, Neil Young, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, they sung about the shooting at Kent State University. That’s like a rap record, ‘Tin soldiers and Nixon’s comin’.’ You heard that record with the guitar sound (sings the riff) and that drum beat, that’s hip hop! John Fogerty, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen. We address the issues that are relevant to our audience, and that’s all I’m doin’.”
Carrying on the legacy of being a topical artist is something Darryl takes very seriously.
“There’s a responsibility that comes with a storyteller, the magazine guy, the musician, the rapper, the artist, the painter or whatever. You can do things to be commercially successful, but your skill and your artistry is there to do something, transform and change the lives of people,” he says. “Now, I make my whole existence on the power of positivity. The things I’m doin’ with my comic book. The things I’m doin’ with the kids books that I’m about to do. The things that I’m doin’ with, even though I’m makin’ metal music, it’s very political, it’s very spiritual, but it’s also very powerful and inspirational. That’s what we supposed to do. (In past interviews) I took it as far as to say music succeeds where politics and religion fails. But it goes further than that. The arts succeed where politics and religion fail. Because it’s the artist, the poets and the writers and the musicians and the actors and actresses that can bring people in the room and get across a thought or an idea or a concept that is beneficial to all those that partake of the picture, that listen to the song or that go to look at the sculpture,” he said.