Run-DMC’s contributions to Hip Hop are immeasurable. Growing up in Hollis, Queens, Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels and the late Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell never could’ve predicted the global impact they’d have on the culture.
Thirty-six years after throwing their black bowler hats in the ring with their 1984 self-titled debut, the members of the pioneering Hip Hop group are bona fide music icons — JMJ included.
From their decades-long partnership with adidas to their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Run-DMC has been decimating barriers since their inception.
Much like stic’s recent sentiment that “Hip Hop has lost its true heart,” DMC believes a switch in mentality is necessary to move the culture forward.
During a recent interview with HipHopDX, DMC talked about the upcoming Run-DMC/adidas collaboration, the first time they went to Europe, JMJ’s 2002 murder and the lack of accountability in current Hip Hop culture.
HipHopDX: Bill Adler told me the first time Run-DMC went to Europe, he asked Run what he thought and he said, “Well, I don’t think it’s going to work over there.” And he was like, “Well, why not?” He said, “The french fries at McDonald’s don’t taste the same as the french fries at McDonald’s in New York.”
DMC: Yup, that’s true [laughs].
HipHopDX: What was your first impression of Europe?
DMC: My first impression of Europe was the sweets, pastries, pies and cakes are way, way better than here.
HipHopDX: Nice. So you had a different take. You didn’t care about McDonald’s fries?
DMC: Nah, nah, nah. Because Run and them was always eating. They would go all the way there and just eat pizza and burgers, the same stuff that you get to eat here. Over there in Europe, the breads and the pastries are way, way better.
HipHopDX: Bill had some nice things to say about you.
DMC: Yeah I saw him Runny Ray’s funeral.
HipHopDX: I know. I’m so sorry to hear that. That should be documented.
DMC: Yeah, he was the whole purpose of the  movie Tougher Than Leather.
HipHopDX: He had pancreatic cancer, I believe. Is that right?
DMC: Yup, yup. He was 56.
HipHopDX: That’s not fair, is it? But here you are still going.
DMC: Yeah, still rocking and rolling and hipping and hopping.
HipHopDX: Still the King of Rock. So, we are about to hit a major anniversary with adidas.
DMC: Right, yeah. The 50th year of the Superstar, I believe. They gonna have a Run-DMC sneaker and a Jam Master Jay model. Then we’re going to have a Friends and Family model.
HipHopDX: Oh, OK. So there’s going to be two separate ones.
DMC: Yeah, exactly. And then it’s the Run-DMC one and then the Friends and Family ones not for sale though. Then there’s going to be a sweatshirt hoodie, t-shirts and then it’s Friends and Family leather adidas shoes, the old school ’80s leather adidas shoes. They’re making a certain amount of those. But you know the resale on the aftermarket, it’s going to be ridiculous.
HipHopDX: At least we’ll get to see you guys rocking them. So will the apparel be dedicated to Jam Master Jay as well?
DMC: No, no, it’s just one of the sneakers. Instead of the adidas logo on the tongue, it’ll have the JMJ picture.
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HipHopDX: Oh, that’s dope.
DMC: I mean, the line is a basic Run-DMC line but within the line, we going to dedicate an article to Jay, of course.
HipHopDX: Bill Adler was just saying the most tragic thing about that entire story is that the killer still hasn’t been caught.
DMC: Exactly. It’s so crazy. I mean, it’s a shame, you know what I’m saying? And it’s not even just for Jay — ‘Pac and Biggie and all of them. It’s just in general. It’s really bad, and we know people know who did it. No one wants to speak up. It’s crazy.
HipHopDX: I’m so sorry Darryl. It’s awful.
DMC: Right. I don’t have a lot of followers and I’m not the social media guy, but I remember when Jay died — I think this is on MySpace maybe — I put a statement out. I said, “I’m not mad at the guy that shot Jason.” Man, the whole world cursed me out. They was like, “Muthafucka this, muthafucka this and that.” And I said, “Oh no, let me explain myself.” I said, “I’m not mad at the guy that shot Jason. He’s not my problem. My fight is so much bigger than one person. I’m mad at the mentality, the mindset that will cause a person to pull the trigger like that. Not just one Jay but anybody in general.”
DMC: But the thing about Jay was, Jay could have had a studio in Hollywood. Jay could have had a studio in Manhattan. Jay’s studio was five minutes from where he grew up at. So my fight isn’t with the individual; I don’t know what the individual been through. I don’t know that individual’s mindset, story or whatever. But we have to understand with Hip Hop, it’s all about tech and the mindset of individuals. It’s not just about catching Jason’s killer.
It’s about preventing any young man or woman from getting shot in our neighborhoods, especially when it comes to Hip Hop because Hip Hop was created so these individuals wouldn’t have to do those things. But I just remember saying that and the whole world cursed me out, “Muthafucka, fuck that dude that killed Jay.” But I said, “Yeah, no, no, you’re right, you’re right.”
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HipHopDX: They didn’t understand.
DMC: Right, but our battle is with the mentality. We need more records that state you don’t got to pull the trigger. We need more records that say you ain’t got to use fucking profanity, you know what I’m saying? I said, “Fucking use profanity” because you need an exclamation point to make people understand! [laughs]. We need to be more respectable. We need to value the potential and the possibilities that we give to each other. Hip Hop was all about taking the kid that lives in Beverly Hills and find something in common with the kid from Compton. So both of them can look at each other and say, “Yo, we need to do this. We can do something. We can make it better.” But that’s missing for right now. So we got get away from this “us against them” mentality because killing Jay didn’t just destroy Jay’s life. It destroyed the generational lives that follow.
HipHopX: I agree. When I interview artists, I often ask them if they feel any social responsibility for the messages they’re sending out there. Some of them say, “No, it’s their parents’ fault.”
DMC: No, it’s a huge responsibility. That’s an excuse that a lot of entertainers would use when they wouldn’t make just comparisons. They would say, “Man, you don’t go blame Bruce Willis for the action movies with guns.” That’s a whole different story. They’re right that it’s both entertainment. But with Hip Hop comes a greater responsibility because if you’re going to make a record about a gun, the very next record should be not about not using that gun. But a lot of them won’t take up responsibility because they so worried about the image and their street credibility. But all of those artists, they don’t understand they have no credibility in the heaven and hell of Hip Hop.
DMC: So that just makes you not down with this culture. You’re just some entertainer. And this is not about censorship of freedom of speech. What they need to understand, this is about genocide. It’s not their parents’ fault because the parents are the parents. Because you coming up through this genre of Hip Hop, these kids look at you and hold you to a higher respect than their parents. We dictate what’s cool. We dictate how people dress. We did dictate what cars people drive, what they eat, what they smoke, how they talk, but we don’t anymore. We don’t dictate how we all should live. See, the most powerful thing about Hip Hop is the power of communication. Yes, you can tell your story. “I’ve been to jail, I sold drugs,” this and that. But then you need to make a whole fucking album about not doing those things.
DMC: Kids don’t realize how incredible the Soulsonic Force in the Zulu Nation is until I say, “Did you know that the Zulu Nation was one of the biggest street gangs in New York City?” Now these kids in the street want to look at me, but they don’t understand that, “Yeah, this a street gang.” They made a record called “Planet Rock,” which was a positive record about vision. They didn’t talk about how many guns they had. They didn’t talk about who they shot, who they beat up, what they robbed and stole. They made a record called “Planet Rock.”
To this day, “Planet Rock” is better than 99.9 percent of all rap songs out today. When it comes to rhyme, ability, flow, presence, sound, beat, concept — nobody in this generation, and you can arguably say in any generation since that record dropped, reached that high of the essence of Hip Hop.
DMC: So that being said, these guys talked about how life is messed up, but they also talked about what it could be. And that’s the responsibility thing. Then again, a lot of the rappers is right. You ain’t got to do nothing, but you a sucker if you don’t. I think Hip Hop is so soft right now because about 15 years ago, somebody in Japan told me, “Man, Hip Hop. As soon as something would happen in the world, whether it was political, whether it was social, whether it was a current event, all the rappers would address it.” Not in a preachy way, but they all would address it. The ones that would address it in your face would be Public Enemy, KRS-One and X-Clan.
HipHopDX: We don’t really have that now in mainstream music.
DMC: If we were allowed to participate, we should be participating in our culture — the issues going on with government and the issues going on with society. Everybody from Run-DMC to LL Cool J would address those issues and we wouldn’t worry about our street cred or if somebody thought, “Oh, you being too political.” Because it wasn’t about being political. It wasn’t about being politicians. Our first responsibility, as the creative entity of our culture is to the audience or to the listener or to the consumer, or to the people who participate in our events, our concerts and supports us by buying our production. That’s our first responsibility. Now, nobody wants to claim it because here in America, you could be a asshole, you could be disrespectful, you could be a fool, you could be a complete jackass and a jerk like a lot of politicians, entertainers, athletes and leaders are. And even people in general, those so-called “celebrities.” But as long as you’re popular, people going to validate you. Hip Hop used to be about calling these muthafuckas out and not letting them in the door.
HipHopDX: “Sucka M.Cs.”
DMC: Exactly. Now, being a sucka MC is cool, which is not cool.
HipHopDX: Definitely not to me and definitely not to you. I like what you were saying about Africa Bambaataa and “Plant Rock.” They were really rapping about unity.
DMC: Yes, in the future. What was important about “Planet Rock” was the message. Here it is — it’s messed up. Death, destruction, darkness and despair, broken glass everywhere. “Planet Rock” was about, “We got to change that.” We got to look inside of us, rap, break dance, DJ, produce, do some graffiti, spin on your head. Whatever we can use that we have. Somewhere along the way, those ideas, concepts, images and envisions are not being allowed to be shown to the younger generation or the whole present generation.
When “The Message” was made, “The Message” wasn’t just about the young people from the Bronx, the conditions on 42nd street and the poverty in every ghetto. “The Message” actually was speaking for our mothers and our fathers and our aunts and uncles and the 9-to-5 grownups because the politicians and the media at that time wasn’t addressing the everyday issues that we all confront when we wake up.
DMC: And that’s why this younger generation needs to know that they have the power to make the changes. There are a lot of radio stations that say, “We’re the station that loves Hip Hop.” We should actually sue them because that’s false advertising. I’m not saying play Chuck D and KRS-One all the time. Go out and find those artists who are those 16 to 22-year-old individuals making records like Chuck D and KRS-One. What I mean by that is, there’s no records on the radio telling the kids to go to school. There’s no record on the radio telling the kids don’t take the drugs. You know what I’m saying?
Artists of this generation, they feel that it’s on the parents. But you got to understand the parents are busy being parents. We are busy controlling how people eat, think, move. I’m gonna sum it up like this — at the end of the day, the club closes and we all got to go home. A lot of people go home to these protective gated communities, but the people at these record companies, they’re only in a business to make records. That being said, OK, the negative records make a lot of money.
But Ice-T told me, “Man, Run-DMC proved that positivity could be gangster.” The perfect example is when I wrote my rhyme for adidas. I didn’t write, “I’m DMC/I got more money than you and I got all these sneakers in my closet.” I wrote my rhyme to remove the stereotypical acknowledgement of young people in the streets. Because the first thing the drug dealer do or the stick-up kid do when we get some money, we go get fly. So OK, I’m on a street corner. But these same sneakers standing on the street corner walk down the hallways of St John’s University. These sneakers stepped on stage at Live AID. You know what I’m saying? I wanted to talk about we’re in the things we can do with these sneakers on the feet, not just, “I’m DMC and I got a lot of seekers, because I got a sneaker deal.”
HipHopDX: What kind of effect did that have?
DMC: That had a profound effect, allowing everybody who thought everybody that wore an adidas suit and some adidas was just those young people that don’t have potential. I wanted to make it so that, “OK America, you’re not just going to throw some money at me and make me think I have arrived.” You’re going to put me in these positions and my work is just beginning. And that’s what I don’t think a lot of artists get. You’ve got some money now. You got your fame. You’re selling records, you started your businesses, but your work is just beginning. And what I mean by that, if the music business said, “There’s no more Hip Hop allowed to be anywhere in the world,” the real hip hoppers would be OK with that because we didn’t need radio play for this.
Check back next week for Part II of HipHopDX’s interview with DMC.