After Run-DMC, hip-hop icon DMC still King of Rock
The Hollis, Queens-bred rap legend, one-third of Run-DMC is helping raise cancer awareness with a charity boxing class on Tuesday at Rumble.
More than three decades have passed since a teenage trio of hip-hop artists from Hollis, Queens, helped break MTV’s color barrier.
It’s hard to envision today that the video network could hardly find airtime for top funk artists like The Gap Band and Rick James ’80s. Then along came Run-DMC, in hip-hop’s infancy, with the 1984 hit track “Rock Box.” The guitar riff-heavy rap changed music’s landscape when it became the first rap video ever to appear on MTV.
“Truth be told, [the guitar] did give us an advantage,” DMC admits. “First Michael [Jackson] came on [MTV], then us. But “Rock Box” was never a rock thing, it was always a hip-hop thing.”
Three platinum albums followed the group’s debut, sending the Adidas-wearing trio’s popularity into the stratosphere with hits including another rock-influenced rap, “King of Rock.”
“We had the balls to call ourselves the kings of rock, not kings of rap,” DMC says. “When I wrote that rhyme, I wasn’t thinking of battling Kool Moe Dee or Melle Mel. I wanted Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix and Elvis to bow when I walked in the room [laughs]. That was my intention, as a 16-year-old.”
But what sent the rappers into the music mainstream was their 1986 “Walk This Way” collaborative remake with Aerosmith. However, as DMC explains, the idea almost sent the rappers out the door.
Back in rap’s early days, DMC says, it was normal for DJs to cover their album labels with tape or even rip off the labels to prevent a rival DJ from coming over, looking down at the label and then going to the record store and getting that record. DMC says they only knew the song as “Toys in the Attic No. 4” (the fourth song on the album).
If the rappers had their way, DMC puts it, the song would’ve had a completely different spin — until legendary producer Rick Rubin explained the idea to redo the song with the band in 1986.
“Jay, rest in peace, was like, wow, that’s a great idea,” DMC says. “Me and Run, we’re like, hell f—in’ no. We were rhyming. We had never heard the lyrics until right after that conversation [with Rubin]. Reluctantly, me and Run gave in.”
Run-DMC dissolved following the shooting death of Jam Master Jay in a Jamaica recording studio in 2002. While Reverend Run remained in the public eye due to his reality series, and the group’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, DMC fell off the lyrical radar a little bit.
“I remember I was at a gas station on Long Island, and this young white kid comes up to me. ‘Oh s—, you used to be DMC,’ he says. I was like, I’m still DMC. Is Bruce Springsteen no longer Springsteen if he doesn’t have an album out?”
Today, DMC (real name Darryl McDaniels) is back in the studio, collaborating with musical veterans Sammy Hagar, Joan Jett, Dave Navarro and Sebastian Bach on a new studio album. Social issues such as gun violence drive the lyrics for the 54-year-old in a recently released song, “Flames,” featuring Disturbed bassist John Moyer and singer Myles Kennedy.
Following the death of his father Byford nearly 15 years ago, DMC says he became heavily involved with cancer organizations. On Tuesday, DMC will be hosting a charity boxing class at Manhattan’s Rumble Boxing to benefit the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR), though he won’t be lacing up the gloves. “No. I’ll be a voice of inspiration from the sidelines,” he says.
The event will also launch DMC’s newest PSA for the organization, “Below the Surface,” which stars his son Dson, also a hip-hop artist. For some, it may be hard to see a correlation between gun violence and cancer, but DMC has found a similarity.
“The emotions are the same, because both can be preventable,” DMC says. Motherf—ers don’t have to get shot. People are dying from gunshots, cancer, suicide. These can be prevented if you’re providing the right information. That’s what is important about using acting, music, storytelling — to get the message across. No one is picking up a medical book about cancer. But if they’re seeing something, you can relate and know how close it is to you.”