Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels Is an Inspiration for a New Generation

Image: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

From Hollis, Queens to the world, the epic sounds and impact of Run-DMC is a feeling that has translated from the 1980s through today. Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, part of the legendary trio, has continued to define his place as a generational staple through his advocacy work with various organizations and through his desire to connect with people of all backgrounds. Whether it’s curating music, divulging in his love of comics, speaking out about suicide prevention or the power of dreams, McDaniels is determined make the world better than how he left it.

DMC’s passion for inspiring younger generations is seen in his work with the co-founding of The Felix Organization, which supports youth within the foster care system and his support of another nonprofit called Determined To Educate.

Furthering his love of helping young people to be their best, the notorious emcee recently released Darryl’s Dream, a children’s book. Through the picture book, kids and grown-ups alike are reminded that there are no limits to what they can achieve, no matter how big or small.

Darryl’s Dream (Random House Children’s Book) by Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, $11, amazon.com. Image: courtesy of Random House Children’s Books.

DMC caught up with EBONY to discuss his lasting impact and his mission to help others below:

EBONY: You’ve been a role model for many throughout your career. You’ve made an effort to be an example for others to follow pursuit. Why was this important for you do do in life?

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels: It’s been a blessing for young kids to re-discover me like their parents or grandparents initially did when Run-DMC first came out. This is through music or kid-friendly initiatives I’ve worked on like the show,What’s The Word on Noggin or my new book Darryl’s Dream. I’ve always tried to inspire, motivate and educate throughout my whole career. I was an example of taking advantage of every educational, artistic and creative opportunity. It’s the basis of Hip- hop. But just like a lot of kids, sometimes I thought that dreams don’t really come true. So for young kids coming up, I make it my mission to let them know that their situation doesn’t define them and they can make things happen for themselves. They’re no different from the kids that live in so-called “better” areas. It’s important for me to help young people realize that the only person that can define you is yourself.

You bravely talk about your life’s journey and obstacles that you’ve overcome. Do you believe there is a power in sharing our struggles in order to help others?

I believe that if you remove guilt and shame, you remove the pain. Stigma exists because everybody’s so caught up on focusing on not showing weakness. With my book Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide, my goal was to let people know that it’s okay to be scared, afraid, confused and have doubts. Not acknowledging these feelings creates a problem in our community where unhealthy behaviors are celebrated. That happened to me. At the time when “Run’s House” was on, people kept wondering when I was going to show up but little did they know that I was at one of the lowest points in my life. I was struggling with suicidal thoughts and alcoholism. I was still grieving Jam Master Jay. I didn’t know that it was cool to go to therapy which later helped me process what I was experiencing. It was not until I broke down my negative behaviors that I realized how many others are going through challenges they are afraid to admit due to stigma.

My greatest hope is that by telling my story, others will be encouraged to tell the truth about their lives. When you open up to one person, it might help them articulate what they are feeling themselves or have empathy for someone close to them.

As one of the major pioneers of hip hop and rap music, how have you enjoyed seeing the transformation and evolution of the genre?

Look, I’m not a pioneer. I’m just a guy that took hip hop and ran with it. Run-DMC made it our responsibility to represent all folks. When we first came out, we never said, “You’re wrong for selling drugs,” or “You’re wrong for being in a gang.” We just wanted to connect with young brothers and folks we saw coming up. Run-DMC had streets dudes in 1983 learning that it was dope to go to college and get an education, which then inspired them to do so as well and change their circumstances. A lot of people think you have to be the rapper in order to truly be “Hip-hop.” That’s not all the culture is. One must know that the hip hop rapper doesn’t exist without all the career opportunities around them. Those are the little things that matter.

However, it’s been crazy to see the evolution. Technology has been a great assistance in the advancement and growth of Hip hop culture. But even with all of that energy and possibility, we are still not doing our complete job in the culture. What I mean by that is when other O.G.’s get together and speak about Hip-hop, we’re not mad about it’s transformation and progression. We get frustrated that these newer artists are not maximizing it. When hip-hop was created, it was about having the opportunity to change the conditions that the politics and policies are not going to change through using our voices. What the O.G.’s are saying is that the most powerful Hip hop records would say, “Yes, I’m a drug dealer but I don’t do that anymore. And guess what? You don’t have to either.” Hip hop has taken over the world with the notion that we all have an opportunity to change. That’s what it’s about.

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