DMC from Run-DMC: ‘I snorted and guzzled through almost every day’

The pioneering rapper has released a raw autobiography that charts his journey from stardom to rehab and hes still hungry

Music is a cutthroat, disrespectful, low-life, motherfucking, crab-ass, lyin, deceivin, stab-you-in-the-back type of business, and thats just the good part of it! Darryl DMC McDaniels laughs (perhaps channeling Hunter S Thompsons famous line about the record business). Were discussing the Devastating Mic Controllers autobiography Ten Ways Not to Kill Yourself, which he has also forcefully voiced as an audiobook.

It is a raw, revealing memoir which bleeds like a stab wound. Im an addict, writes DMC, the man who rhymed so enduringly about the crack epidemic on Mary, Mary. For most of my early life, I smoked and snorted and guzzled my way through almost every day.

Lowering his booming voice a little, he adds: If your soul is not right with what youre doing, you will fall apart, like I did.

When Eminem inducted Run-DMC into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, the second hip-hop group to make it after Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, he called them something tough. Something dangerous. Something beautiful and something unique. They were the first movie stars of rap they are the Beatles.

Thats crazy, DMC tells me, friendly and loquacious, sitting in his New Jersey home. Busta Rhymes said, Run-DMC didnt change music, they changed everything.

Tougher
Tougher than leather: Run DMC in 1986. Photograph: Dave Hogan/Getty Images

DMC, Joe Run Simmons and their DJ Jason Jam Master Jay Mizell were hip-hops first superstars. Between 1983 and 1988 the albums Run-DMC, King of Rock, Raising Hell and Tougher Than Leather unleashed classic tracks such as Hard Times, Its Tricky, Proud to Be Black, Mary, Mary, and Walk This Way. (Later highlights include Ghostbusters and Bounce.) Run-DMC were so exciting live, Jurassic 5s Chali 2na told me.

Despite all Run-DMCs success, after Tougher Than Leather DMC collapsed into alcoholism, depression and OCD, as he increasingly lost his voice to spasmodic dysphonia, in which the larynx spasms during speech. For years, he recalls, he suffered suicidal thoughts. He had rising creative and personal conflicts with producer Russell Simmons, Jay and, especially, Run (anal as hell). His childhood friendship with Run degenerated into a dysfunctional business relationship. DMC felt hustled by Runs pastor E Bernard Jordan. By 1997, he avoided Run like a virus. In Japan later that year, hawking remixes (one of which, Jason Nevinss take on Its Like That, was nevertheless an international smash, selling 5m copies), DMC felt used, pimped and dirty Milk this cow till theres powdered music coming out the udders.

When Ice-T asked Run how it was being top of the rap game, Run famously recalled an epiphany on excess consuming the best of everything: presidential suites, women and drugs: The hos knocking at the door. Rolling Stones behind the ho Im fuckin out of control. DMC demurs: I was never on it like him Run and Jay smoked more weed than a Rastafarian god could grow.

Around 2002 things came to a head when Jay was murdered in his Hollis recording studio, DMC discovered he was adopted, and his father died. Despite a serious bout of alcohol-induced pancreatitis years earlier, DMC surrendered to industrial-scale drinking, downing case of 40s every day. He had a fridge in his SUV. Even when walking anywhere, a guy in his crew carried around beer in a portable chiller.

DMC
DMC in New York, 2005. Therapy is the most gangsta thing you can do. Photograph: Jim Cooper/AP

DMC realised he had to get real about rehab. He also found counselling helpful. Therapy is the most gangsta thing you can do, he says. His ultimate salvation, though, was his wife Zury and his son Dson.

Raised Catholic but enjoying a wild time on the road rather than worrying about my eternal soul, DMC now believes a higher, personal power lives within all of us. I dont care what you wanna call god: Yahweh, Buddha, Almighty, Allah, whatever you wanna call her. I think Gods a woman cause my wife and mother are so cool.

DMC is a Hillary Clinton supporter. Ive seen her, working in the community for foster kids. I fell in love with her cause she really cares about young people. Clinton also reminds him of his mum. Your mother can read bullshit, knows how to bring shit to order.

He believes Run DMCs last three albums were really awful and The School of Old, featuring Kid Rock, on 2001s Crown Royal certainly was in striking contrast to the previous quartet, dedicated to uplifting America. This year DMC put out a single Flames (Unnecessary Bullets), a call to stop all the violence. Did he draw on Fred Hampton Jrs message that we dont fight racism with racism. We fight racism with solidarity? Oh for sure. Thats absolutely what Flames is about.

DMC is angry about police killing black people. Those bullets should not have left the chambers. He was moved by Dallas police chief David Browns Ill be loving you always eulogy for his five murdered cops. That was incredible! he exclaims. Hes also impressed with Browns community policing approach, and that he has fired more than 70 sub-standard officers. Weve got to go through all of Americas precincts, one by one, and weed out all the bad weeds.

He raises murders within African American communities, recounting a recent forum. A young girl gets up and says: Heres the truth, DMC: when a white cop shoots a black kid thats wrong, but when a black kid shoots another black kid thats how it is in the hood. That hit me in the gut. I said Damn, thats the fight right there. It goes deep: I remember when Jay got shot

Jays murder remains unsolved. Does DMC think anyone will ever be charged? Nope. I really, really dont think so, he sighs. A 2012 New York Daily News article alleged people in Hollis know who did it, but are too scared to tell the police. Yes, too scared. He quotes the perspective of someone living in Hollis. Jay travelled and they got Jay. Ive got to live here everyday. Ive got my wife and kids. DMC believes in an afterlife. You will see Jay again, he says, quoting the last line of Run-DMCs Peter Piper. You will. Right now hes jamming in heaven with Biggie and Kurt Cobain.

DMC says contemporary hip-hop is overwhelmed by mediocre rap. So illiterate, so disrespectful, so negative. Here in America, you can be a motherfuckin fool, as long as youre making money. If you get a young positive brother talking like a Chuck D or a KRS-One or a Rakim, America dont want to hear from you. We need to go to these radio stations and say we dont wanna just hear these same 10 records about sipping syrup, having sex and shooting motherfuckers.

DMC argues that hip-hop should be more about self-esteem, self-respect and the force of education. As he does frequently during our interview, he busts out a burst of verse, words from Raising Hells closing track: Im proud to be black yo.

He would love to see Public Enemys Chuck D shaking things up as a producer industry-wide. A lot of motherfuckers would be fired. It would be a total re-haul in this music business. Ninety-nine percent of rap today is bad demos. Its about responsibility. Its not about censorship and freedom of speech. We let corporate America come in and exploit us, tell us how to do our own hip-hop. You get more money if youre a knucklehead In the 80s we challenged Reaganomics.

Today, DMC is enjoying making music again. I dont need no substances. Hes working on Coming Like a Rhino, a new track with Chuck D, which aims to cross Rebel Without a Pause and Time Bomb. Were about to put the foot of God in the ass of the industry, in all rappers to come, the rappers that are still in their fathers nuts. Let em know they dont call Chuck the hard rhymer and DMC the King of Rock for nothing. Im just 52. Im not a fuckin senior citizen. Coming Like a Rhinos not for recognition; not for sales. Just dope ass beats and dope ass rhymes. Aint nothing better than that.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/jul/28/run-dmc-autobiography-darryl-mcdaniels