When I was a child, Hip-Hop was nowhere near the omnipresent thing that it has become. MTV barely let Michael Jackson on, much less some kids form urban America with big ass radios and bastard music. Music on the radio wasn’t really as segregated as it became either. We grew up listening to George Michael and Madonna in the hood as much as anything else that came on the radio. Then Hip-Hop exploded and became the irresistible force to the very movable objects of necks and asses. And one day, I turned to MTV and saw Run DMC’s “King of Rock” video and I was sold.
I’ve seen many waves of this music and as fate would have it, I’ve been blessed to be a contributor. But this site, my mission, my relationships and my service all go back to one thing: “King of Rock.” There were a lot of people who loved Run, and I dig it; he was the flashy one with the swagger. But to me, it got no better than the Devastating Mic Controller. The booming voice, the reverb and the superhero-like dominance struck a chord in me. Anyway, it is my distinct honor and privilege to bring to you guys Planet Ill’s interview with Darryl McDaniels. Long Live The King, Volume I.
Planet Ill: They used to call me Easy D, cause I rock the mic so easily. What led to the change from your earlier name to DMC?
DMC: That’s a really good question. At first I used to be called Easy D cause my name was Daryl, it begins with a D. It was easy for me to put rhymes together. But right around the Easy D time, I was still dabbling with trying to be a DJ. Cause originally I wanted to be [Grandmaster] Flash. I heard a tape of Grandmaster Flash live just doing the [scratching and mixing of] “Good Times,” and I was like, “Yo, I want to do that!” My original name was Grandmaster Get High. And I wanted to be a DJ. When I first got into Hip-Hop it was like well the DJ is this thing that they do in the park. And then I started putting 2 and 2 together because firs ti was introduced to the DJ, then the MC got a guy that does that talking thing. So I was dabbling in both. Easy D is when I first started writing rhymes into my black and white notebook.
It all changed when I bought the Cold Crush 4 emcees vs. The Fantastic 5 in Harlem World. When I brought THAT and they was doing “The initials of my name are GMC you can search all your life but you’ll never see higher power body rocking the galaxy…” It was over. So it was because of the Cold Crush 4, Charlie Chase, Tony Tone, they created a monster.
Planet Ill: Then you become the Devastating Mic Controller…
DMC: After I did the DMC, anything that began with a D, M and C that was dope, I would use that acronym DMC. Originally it was Darryl McDaniels. Right around the Cold Crush time, I was in 9th grade, Rice High School, Harlem New York, corner of 124th Street, Lenox. In typing class and then when you type a letter you would put your initials on it. So originally I was typing D McD for Darryl McDaniels. But once I heard the cold Crush, I dropped the d from it to be DMC like GMC, Grandmaster Caz and then just anything that was Devastating, dominating dope that could start with a D and end in MC that’s what it became.
DMC: it all started cause of the pioneers and they don’t even know it! Now the first emcees and DJs, the first rappers just to make it current, this younger generation the first rappers had no rapper sot look up to; they were the first. So when it went to DJing in the parks, in the street or at the clubs, and even when we started getting paid for it, when it went from the streets to the records to the record deals to the discos and the venues that was bigger than what we was doing in the hood, the perception is, “We doing concerts now, so we need stage attire!” So the first rappers didn’t have rapper sot look up to. So when you look at Flash, Furious 5, Afrika Bambaataa, Colf Crush, Kool Moe Dee, all the dudes who wore that stuff, you gotta understand who their idols were. Rick James. Parliament/Funkadelic. The Rolling Stones. Earth, Wind & Fire. So their idols were wearing that as performers and entertainers.
So when me, Run and Jay started making records, our idols when we was inspired and motivated by the look and the sound, the lingo, just the whole DJ and Hip-Hop culture; Melle Mel and them, Kool Moe Dee, Afrika Bambaataa and the whole Zulu nation used to wear Pumas, Adidas suits, Kangols, mock necks. So what Run DMC wore was what they wore before they got into showbiz. So when we got into showbiz, and started making records, Russell was like, “Ya’ll need stage stuff.” But me< Run and Jay was like, “Ok we’ll figure it out Russell, but we ain’t wearing THAT bullshit!” So we just took, Like I said so eloquently on “My Adidas,” all Run DMC did was take the beat from the street and put it on TV.
Our stage costume was the leather suits. But the leather suits was cut like the jeans and the blazers we was already wearing. We didn’t wear the tight leather and the boots and the spikes and the chains. We didn’t get the Jheri Curls. But you gotta understand something: everybody in the hood, their idols was George Clinton and Rick James. And even The Rolling Stones; the rock stars. So the first rappers were dressing like their idols. All Run DMC did was dress like our idols before our idols was into show business.
So when our audience saw us, you didn’t see costumes. Our audience looked up there and said, “Oh Shit! That’s Run! I know Run. D, that’s like my uncle and Jay, that’s me!” So the audience saw themselves, which was key in breaking rap into those neighborhoods and in middle class America and the rich white neighborhoods; the rich white living rooms of those homes across the country that MTV helped us get on when they put “Rock Box” on there. Those white boys, they knew B-Boys already. They saw Run and them and they were like those black kids that go to my school. And they doing Rock & Roll? They making rebellious, protesting enthusiastic, revolutionary rebellious music? So they related automatically because they saw themselves.
Planet Ill: “Larry put me inside the Cadillac. The chauffeur drove off and we never came back…” Let’s talk for a little bit about Larry Smith. Rick Rubin gets a lot of credit for a lot of those Run DMC records, but I’ve been trying to chase down Larry Smith, I know he had a stroke a couple years ago, but between you guys and Whodini and some of those Rock-infused productions, Larry changed the game in Hip-Hop and shifted it from disco breaks and James Brown to actual production. Can you tell us something about Larry Smith and those early days in the studio and what you learned?
DMC: I’m glad you brought Larry up. First of all you said it, they always credit[Rick Rubin]. Rick Rubin’s a genius, we love him. Dr. Dre is dope too, we love him Swizz beats… ain’t NONE of them fucking with Larry! I’m glad you said that. Think about this. That motherfucker Larry singlehandedly changed music culture. And nobody talk about him. I’m about to do a documentary on the greatest producer in Hip-Hop ever is Larry Smith. He produced Run DMC’s first two albums. He produced Whodini’s album. You know what’s crazy about Larry Smith? With most producers out they have that one sound. Oh that’s a Dre beat. Oh that’s a Swizz beat. Larry Smith made fucking hits and none of them sound alike.
He singlehandedly from 198 fucking 2 to 1986 before Rick Rubin got on, Larry Smith owned those years. By himself. You tell me what producer in the game…he produced “Rock Box,” Sucker MC’s,” he produced fucking “King of Rock,” he produced “It’s Like That,” all the records, even the ones he produced for us, none of them shits sound alike. He produced “Friends,” “The Freaks Come Out At Night.” Think about that! There’s not a producer in the game. You know a Pharell beat! Larry Smith, I’m saying it now and nobody can ever debate it. Put your work up. Larry Smith is the greatest producer in Hip-Hop history by himself.
But to answer your question, the reason why, he was a bass player. He was a musician. Even though he used the DMX drum machine, he wasn’t a beat maker! He was a producer extraordinaire. To answer your question, he’s a bass player; he’s from that band era. Me Run and Jay used to sit there and just listen to hear Larry talk. Cause when you talk about the bass player that gets with the guitar players and the drummers and the keyboard, Larry Smith always talked about the “cats.” “You me and my cats, when we play…” “Last night we had a jam session, a bunch of cats came over to my basement.” So he was a “cat.” He was a musician.
So the reason why Run DMC was able to do, I mean we could have been just another flash in the pan bunch of rappers. Even up to Raising Hell, even with Rick Rubin and “Walk This Way,” one of the questions was, “Okay this shit ain’t gonna last, Run DMC this rap stuff’s a fad where do you see yourself.” And that’s with “Walk This Way” and “My Adidas.” He was really the foundation that allowed Run DMC and Jam Master Jay to be the bridge between the old and new school. And the reason why I say he’s the greatest producer ever in the game, and Jermaine Dupri might acknowledge this, listen to my first album. Listen to “King of Box” and “King of Rock” was produced by Larry, two rock records but they have a different texture, vibe and feeling to them.
Larry Smith is a great musician who was the best producer in the history of Hip-Hop and I gotta do a documentary on Larry Smith. I swear to God at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, my entire speech was going to take time out to Larry Smith but when it was my turn to talk, I was so scared looking at that audience I could only think about the things that people do for kids He’s a great musician and producer in Hip-Hop that allowed Run DMC to “Bust through ceilings and knock down door.” Larry put all of Hip-Hop inside his Cadillac chauffer drove off and we never came back!
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