Darryl McDaniels, or DMC as most of the world knows him, helped transform the musical landscape as one-third of the trailblazing, multi-platinum rap group Run-DMC
. They sold more than 30 million album and singles worldwide and the rest is now a matter of musical history. Since forming the legendary band with Joseph (Rev. Run
) Simmons and the late Jason (Jam Master Jay
) Mizell, DMC has remained in the public eye. He is recognized as a pioneer in stoking the popularity of rap and hip-hop into the best-selling and most influential musical genre that it is today.
DMC will release the first singles, "Machine Gun" and "Watchtower," from his much anticipated, forthcoming solo album, Checks, Thugs and Rock 'n Roll (RomenMpire Records/Rags 2 Riches Records) due for release in early 2006. Acclaimed filmmaker and music video director Ondi Timoner who recently won the grand jury documentary prize at Sundance Film Festival for her feature-length documentary, "Dig!" directed the video for "Machine Gun." The video also features Gary Dourdan
, an accomplished musician best known for his starring role on "CSI
." He makes his vocal debut on "Machine Gun."
Four years in the making, Checks, Thugs and Rock 'n Roll features a virtual who's who of artists from various musical genres. They include Sarah McLachlan
, Run, Doug E. Fresh
, Gary Dourdan ("CSI"), Romeo Antonio, Kid Rock
), DJ Lethal, Ms. Jade
, Sonny Black and Napoleon (Outlawz
). The music of Checks, Thugs and Rock 'n Roll is sure to introduce DMC the solo artist, to a younger audience that challenges those in his own generation to re-embrace hip-hop. Musically rich, the title of the album eviscerates the lifestyle-driven mentality that has come to dominate the rap world at the expense of authenticity. In addition, the album celebrates some of DMC's own musical influences including Bob Dylan
, Harry Chapin
and Jimi Hendrix
"There's old-school fans who've grown up and said, 'I don't listen to rap any more,'" said DMC. "But if they've tuned out due to the direction that rap has gone, emphasizing the bad-ass lifestyle over the music, well then that's something that the community has to address. I hope that this album can put the spotlight back on the music, which is where it belongs." And DMC is no stranger to that formula.
DMC, along with Run-DMC bandmates Run and Jam Master Jay, grew up in Hollis, Queens, New York, a relatively stable, comfortable black community not unlike many others across America. He attended Catholic schools in the city and enrolled at St. John's University in Queens in 1982. He nurtured his dream of being a performer and not long after the friends parlayed a connection (Run's brother, Russell Simmons), as well as a ton of talent, into their first album, 1984's, Run-DMC.
Their impact was immediate. Run-DMC became the first true hip-hop superstars and the group succeeded well beyond anyone's wildest dreams - their own included. They embodied the endlessly creative subculture of a young black New York. They were the first rappers to earn a gold album, the first to earn a platinum album and go multi-platinum, the first to have their videos played on MTV, the first to appear on "Saturday Night Live
" and "American Bandstand," and the first to grace the cover of Rolling Stone and Spin.
Then, in October 2002 when bandmate Jam Master Jay was suddenly killed, McDaniels and Simmons retired Run-DMC. Having lost his friend and the band that was his livelihood, McDaniels decided to rededicate his talents.
It was also during this time that DMC was told by his parents that he was adopted. After dealing with the initial shock, he contemplated the choices his natural parents must have faced and what their decisions ultimately meant for him. With a new sense of destiny and understanding of the events that had taken place in his life, DMC put pen to paper and started to write "Just Like Me," a personal interpretation of Harry Chapin
's "Cat's In the Cradle."
"Just Like Me" also features a "motherly" vocal by Sarah McLachlan, whose Grammy-winning album Surfacing
had a profound and timely effect on DMC. "During a time when I was in a bad place in my life, I discovered Sarah's album and listened to it every day," he says. When he met McLachlan at the Grammys and told her that it had deeply affected him, she replied, "That's what music is supposed to do." When DMC approached McLachlan about performing on the song, not only did she agree to provide the vocal for "Just Like Me," she offered her home studio in Vancouver to record the project. She also appears in the song's video.
In a remake of Dylan's classic, "Watchtower" DMC substitutes modern vice for the original's jailyard setting, even fingering those who profit from his own fame: "You getting that money, ya that's all good / You ain't doing a damn thing for the hood." "Machine Gun," deals with the current conflict in Iraq, painting a realistic picture of war and its consequences. "I wanted to create a song that the troops can identify with now, while they're there," says DMC, who was initially concerned about making a political statement that could be misinterpreted. "This song isn't pro-war or anti-war, it just looks honestly at what war is and who it affects."
More pointed vitriol flows with "What's Wrong with This World?" which, like the album's title, fully captures his frustration at today's media culture, its effects on children and what some grown adults will do to claim, or extend, their 15 minutes of fame. The up-tempo club song "Freaky Chick" lampoons media attention freaks like Paris Hilton
and their detrimental influence on young girls. DMC deals one for the women with "Lovey Dovey" (The Ladies All Love Me), which skillfully walks the line between old-school funk-infused groove and post-Zappa
parody. "It's a song for women, not about them," he explains, hoping to supplant the bitches vs. ho's image that pervades hip-hop with a more realistic picture of women as normal, responsible and well rounded. And the walking-tempo "Cold" fails to inspire depression for a cold-hearted world especially given that it's done in the high-chirping style of Alvin and the Chipmunks
The album's most heartfelt track, "Missing My Friend," is a paean to Run-DMC turntable wizard Jam Master Jay. With its confident beat and synth shading, the song avoids an exploitation of the public persona in favor of those private moments experienced by a friend. "I remember when he taught me to swim. He's the reason why I'm rockin' the brim," raps DMC, whose lyrics for the tribute song were largely improvised from the heart.
It would be hard to overstate Run-DMC's influence on the evolving hip-hopification of pop culture and DMC's contribution to that legacy is profound. Album's including Raising Hell
, Tougher Than Leather
, Down with the King
and King of Rock
, are some of the musical genres best, but DMC intends to add to his already critically hailed legacy with the release of Checks, Thugs and Rock 'n Roll.
For DMC, recording studios and concert halls would not be his only platforms for expression. Television appearances on "Soul Train
" and the pilot episode of "Yo! MTV Raps" led to those on such sitcoms as "227," "The Ben Stiller Show" and recently "The Jamie Kennedy Experiment
." Along with countless award shows, specials and documentaries, he appeared on the big screen in such period films as Krush Groove, L.A. D.J. and the Run-DMC project Tougher Than Leather. Verifying his talent rather than his celebrity alone, his songs were also featured in such films as Boyz 'n the Hood
and Die Hard
Checks Thugs and Rock 'n Roll show how DMC the "B-Boy" is capable of growing up into the "B-Man." He's accepted who he is and his legacy, but DMC is not satisfied. For the first time in his life DMC has made a recording that is all DMC. He knows his place in time, he's embraced his heritage and he's made a recording that is sincere, true and real.