Darryl McDaniels is a legendary musician, author, publisher, and founding member of the iconic hip-hop group Run DMC.
McDaniels, also known by his stage name DMC, has left an indelible mark on the music industry, shaping the trajectory of hip-hop and influencing generations of artists.
In the 1980’s he pioneered new school hip-hop, and broke barriers worldwide as the first group to have a gold album, a platinum record, be nominated for a Grammy Award, and to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone. In this episode of London Real, Darryl talks to Brian Rose about the music industry, his personal struggles, and his inspiring transformation into a cultural influencer.
Born on May 31, 1964, in Harlem, New York, Darryl McDaniels found his calling in music during the early 1980s. Alongside Joseph Simmons (Run) and Jason Mizell (Jam Master Jay), McDaniels co-founded Run DMC, a groundbreaking hip-hop group that revolutionised the genre. With their fusion of rap and rock elements, the trio became known for their distinctive style, adorned with fedoras, Adidas tracksuits, and gold chains.
The trio’s eponymous debut album, “Run DMC,” released in 1984, marked a seismic shift in hip-hop’s landscape. It became the first rap album to attain Gold status, and the iconic single “Rock Box” introduced the world to the group’s genre-blending sound. Run DMC’s sophomore release, “King of Rock” (1985), further solidified their place in music history, earning them the title of the “Kings of Rock.”
Run DMC’s groundbreaking collaboration with Aerosmith on “Walk This Way” in 1986 catapulted them into mainstream success. The fusion of rap and rock not only revitalised Aerosmith’s career but also broadened the appeal of hip-hop, breaking down racial and genre barriers. The music video, featuring an iconic moment where the walls between rap and rock are literally broken down, remains a symbol of their genre-defying impact.
Behind the scenes, Darryl McDaniels faced personal struggles that were largely hidden from the public eye. Struggling with depression and questioning his identity, McDaniels found solace in comic books, eventually leading him to discover his true heritage. In a surprising revelation, he learned that he was adopted and had a birth family with roots in North Carolina.
This profound discovery fueled McDaniels’s personal transformation. He embraced his birth name, Darryl McDaniels, and sought therapy to address his mental health challenges. McDaniels’s openness about his struggles endeared him to fans and became a source of inspiration for those facing similar battles. His journey towards self-discovery and healing is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
Run DMC’s influence on hip-hop is immeasurable. They were the first rap group to receive a Grammy nomination, and they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, solidifying their impact on both rap and rock music. McDaniels’s signature delivery and lyrical prowess, showcased in hits like “It’s Tricky” and “My Adidas,” continue to resonate with audiences worldwide.
Beyond music, Darryl McDaniels’s cultural influence extends to advocacy work and philanthropy. He co-founded the Felix Organization, dedicated to providing opportunities and support for children in the foster care system. McDaniels’s commitment to giving back underscores his belief in the transformative power of art and the responsibility artists have to uplift their communities.
Darryl McDaniels, the lyrical virtuoso and co-founder of Run DMC, stands as a cultural icon whose influence transcends the boundaries of music. His groundbreaking contributions to hip-hop, coupled with his personal journey of self-discovery and advocacy, showcase the resilience and transformative power of art. As we discuss his legacy in this landmark interview, we celebrate not only the music that Darryl McDaniels helped create but also the enduring impact of his cultural contributions, both on and off the stage.