Darryl “DMC” McDaniels visited the Entertainment Earth booth during SDCC this year, and shared some amazing details and stories from the Run-DMC days! Follow along with Plastic Soul host Jason Lenzi as they discuss McDaniel’s comic book interests, what inspired his music interests, and how it felt to have the first hip hop song on MTV!
“DMC” Interview at SDCC 2023 on Plastic Soul, The Entertainment Earth Pop Culture Show
DMC: Yo what’s up y’all this is DMC, in a place to be, and I know a lot about places to be, the only place for you to ever be is right here watching Plastic Soul on the Entertainment Earth YouTube channel! Daryl McDaniels, Entertainment Earth YouTube channel, the only place for you to be with the King of Rock and Roll is with Plastic Soul, baby!
Jason: Is this your first Comic-Con?
DMC: Nope, uh, this is my fourth time here at the San Diego Comic-Con, overall it’s probably my 12th or 13th, and obviously it’s over the last over the last nine years
Jason: You’re a massive comics fan, so let’s talk about, we’re going to talk about a lot of stuff, but let’s talk about the comic work, like what fueled your interest in that, how far back does that go?
DMC: Well, before hip hop came over the bridge to Queens in 1973, before 60s and 70s rock and folk rock radio influenced my creative energy, all I did as a kid was read, collect. and draw comic books, since, well I started collecting in kindergarten, but I didn’t start reading until second grade, because I learned to read from comics, before that I was just looking at the pictures.
DMC: So, before music it was all comic books for me. And what was key about comic books, is it was the only place that had awkward, clumsy, confused people, but they were super bad! And I could relate to that, you know, because as a kid I got teased, bullied, and picked on… so, the comic book universe, especially Marvel, was a place where it was like “wow, these guys are like me!” They’re smart, but they got problems like me, but they’re Spider-Man and he’s Captain America and he’s Batman so, I could relate to that.
Jason: I love that, I have a theory about this too, where when the look for Run DMC kind of happened, because it was very different for hip-hop. Before, that style was very different, suddenly it was a uniform. Is there a connection to a, you know, a character?
DMC: Yeah, 100%, our Superheroes were the break dancers and the DJs and the MC’s and the graffiti artists, who are wearing the track suits and the sneakers and the gazelles and the tangles and The Godfather hat, so that look was our real life, they were our real life Spider-Man, and Batman, and Superman, so when we came into the music business the hip-hop artist before us, they’re the greatest hip-hop artists ever because they had no one to look up to, they were the first! But when they got in the music business there was nobody from our hip-hop culture in the music business, so they looked at their idols, which was the Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, Parliament Funkadelic, and Rick James. That’s why those early rappers dressed like the punk rockers, the funk bands, and the rock bands. When we came along, you know, I come from a generation of reading the comic books, so when it was time for us to choose some stage attire we put on the superhero costumes of the real life superheroes, who are wearing the Adidas suits, and the Puma suits, and you know, all the tracksuits. There’s definitely a connection.
Jason: I love that I totally love that
DMC: Look without hip-hop, I’m Daryl McDaniels, but when I touch the microphone, I transform into the most powerful King of Rock DMC! So you have your alter ego, but when you go to break dance, when you go to DJ, when you go to MC, when you go to, right, you know, when you go to do your tag you become that person, you’re Alter Ego, so it’s a 100% connection with comic books, uh, or pop culture, as I said, here before you I’m not just hip hop and rock and roll, you know, Aerosmith, I’m all the Marvel comic books I love you know? It blew my mind when I found out that Peter Parker lived in Queens, it was real, I live in Queens! So it was real to me, but I’m also, I’m the Flintstones and The Jetsons, I’m The Brady Bunch, I’m the Munsters, I’m The Addams Family, I’m Lost in Space-
Jason: All one big soup
DMC: Yeah, so everything that we are today, and I’m talking about generationally, everybody, those TV shows, those- I’m Snoopy, The Peanuts, that’s all part of us.
Jason: Love it, I love it. 50th anniversary of hip-hop, uh, are you able to get outside of it and really understand your place in that history?
DMC: No, no, because even to this day, I’m a participant, everybody say you’re a pioneer, I’m a participant, I mean hip-hop touched my life the same way rock and roll did, like comic books did.
DMC: You know what I’m saying? Now the thing that I’m bugging out about the 50th year anniversary, it’s been 50 years of hip-hop and I’ve been involved with them for 40 of them! That’s crazy because hip-hop started in ’73, me and RUN put out our first record in ’83! Right, but, um, when I look back on it, it’s- you know, people look at hip hop as a part of the music business, they look at that as the most dominant factor but that’s not true. Hip-hop didn’t just create rappers who created DJs and producers and designers and artists and journalists and directors and lawyers. Yeah yeah, like hip-hop it made people go, “I could do something.” Yeah yeah, but, um, you know, I think RUN DMC’s role in it, me, Run, and Jay were chosen by the hip-hop gods to be the personification and representation of the total aspect of the culture. The fashion, the style, the music, the look, the feel, and also how we carry ourselves, because every culture, like comic book culture, it’s a way of life. Hip-hop culture, it’s a way of life, you know? The bikers, it’s a culture, so people tend to forget culture is a way of life, it’s not just what we sell, it’s who we are as a community of people.
Jason: But the thing about Run DMC too, that is beyond the ground- many groundbreaking moments… First hip-hop act to be in rotation on MTV. That’s a mega. Can you tell me what that felt like at the time? And the cover of Rolling Stone!
DMC: Well, I mean, prior to MTV, only things that we knew that was like in the media or would allow us to be in the media, you have to be either on Soul Train or we have to be on American Bandstand. Those were the two dominant forces of, you know, if you’re a rocker, if you’re a folk singer, or even if you’re a pop star, there was American Bandstand, and it was Soul Train. So here’s what’s funny, we was just on MTV, but when we was the first on MTV, we didn’t know what it was because it wasn’t in Queens yet! Because we was living in Queens! It was only in Manhattan. So for a couple of years only people in Manhattan had access to us, so then when it came to Queens, and to all the other boroughs, and all the TV sets, MTV is very very influential, and MTV is a foundational part of the spread of the hip-hop culture, because by putting Run DMC on there, it put hip-hop in everybody’s living room. So we became a daily part of people’s lives outside of New York City, you know what I’m saying, so from New York City, to down south, to Beverly Hills, here are these young kids from New York City, doing this new culture and this music of hip-hop utilizing all the records of our mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and grandfathers, but you know at first people were kind of mad, but they was like, “Oh my God, they sampled Led Zeppelin” or “oh my God, they sampled Rush” “Oh my God, they sampled Parliament Funkadelic.” So I think our usage, our use, of music ideas, concepts, and images that we saw our mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles growing up, we just took their music and made our own music out of it. So MTV is a huge part of the success of hip-hop.
Jason: And because you, your influences prior to Run DMC, I mean, you grew up- you loved a whole Cornucopia of music, you know, Beatles, and everything. You kind of soaked it all up.
DMC: It was, it was Rock Folk, Rock R&B, and in the early, you know, Metal. Right, you know, what would be Black Sabbath, all of the groups like that. So they had sounds that went very good, but they had sounds that we grew up hearing and living around, you know, I mean, most of the, most of the, most of my mother’s and father’s music was, um, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Jackson Five, but radio in the 70s, most of the stations would play Family Stone, and it would play Led Zeppelin, that’s right, they did, yeah, yeah, you know what I’m saying, they were playing Janis Joplin and Jim Croce and Harry Chapin and Joni Mitchell. So, we grew up hearing this music from when we was one years old, all the way till we was 15. So when it was time for us to make music, we didn’t just choose Funk, Jazz, blues, and R&B, we put some Rock and Roll up in there and that gave birth to Rock Box, which was the first, um, hip-hop-esque song/video on MTV.
Jason: Literally my next question was, you brought up, you mentioned, there’s so many, you know, laser precision points with you guys, with MTV, the cover of Rolling Stone, Aerosmith, but Billy Squire, I mean Rock Box, right I-I don’t think Rock Box gets, I know of course it does get attention, but that to me is the ground zero of-
DMC: Travis Barker said that, when I met Travis Barker, he said “D, most people jumped on the bandwagon with Walk This Way, but I was there since Rock Box.” Rock Box was the one the first rock rap, its a tongue twister- Walk This Way isn’t the first rock rap record, the first rock rap record is Rock Box 1984, which was the first hip-hop on MTV. Then in 1985, we did King of Rock, right, that’s right, and then in ’86 we did Walk This Way, but like you said, when we did Rock Box, Billy Squire’s big beat, it’s just an influential and a foundational piece of hip-hop break piece as James Brown’s funky drama. So when we did, when we was making Rock Box, we was trying to make Billy Squire’s big beat.
Jason: And so that tune was ’80, ’81 that original tune of his, I think?
DMC: Billy Squire’s big beat was 80, 80, I think it was 80, 81, 81? Yes.
Jason: Has he ever relayed what it meant to him?
DMC: He knows, he knows, and it’s written that, uh, just says James Brown’s Funky Drummer, or all of the samples that the West Coast Shooters of Parliament Funkadelic, you know folk was a huge part of the sample, um, A Tribe Called Quest, Guru, and Gang Star, who using Jazz sampling to Bob James, Take Me To The Mardi Gras, which was made legendary by Run DMC and a bunch of others. What Billy Squire’s Big Beat, he knows, he knows, in his publisher, his publisher knows now too. But, um, anything that was hard and loud we needed to use to get attention. For me, when I came into music, I never wanted to be in the entertainment business, because like I said I grew up, you know Michael Jackson was cool to me, but it was just something about, um, Mick Jagger and Freddie Mercury, yeah, yeah. You know what it was? I was into comic books. So R&B, Disco- it was smooth it was sexy. Rock drums were hard, they were powerful, so for me when I heard a rock song, it was like the power of the music. It was like Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk all in one. So when we first came out I was like “let’s make a record like Billy Squire’s Big Beat”, ’cause I wanted my rhymes.. my rhyme style isn’t to use profanity and violence, so I needed a backdrop that would showcase the power, in my so-called clean style. So by using Billy Squire’s Big Beat, Russia’s Tom Sawyer, by using, um, you know even Queen’s um, um, We Will Rock You, you know if I’m spitting I could talk about lollipops ducklings and bunny rabbits while eating a ice cream cone over Billy Squire’s big beat and it’ll be way harder than any gangster rapper or drill rapper that ever existed in the culture of hip-hop.
Jason: Totally makes sense. So last question, how do you keep pushing the boat out with your writing, with the comic books, you haven’t been afraid to try different mediums with the platform you have.
DMC: I was afraid to do the comic book though. With Rock and Roll, I knew what I wanted to say. So all I had to do was find a sound. I didn’t want to write comic books, I didn’t want to start this company nine years ago. What happened was I went to a music meeting and I was meeting with a young man named Riggs Morales, who was, um, Eminem’s ANR over at Shady Records for the rise of that great empire, so I was going to meet Riggs for a music meeting to talk some music stuff, and when I went into the meeting he was looking at me like this because he couldn’t believe I was there to meet with him and he was like, “oh this is crazy” and he was like, “I don’t want to interview you, I just want to ask you one question.” And he was like, “What was like when you were a kid”. And just like I told you, I said, “Well, I use to read, collect, and draw comic books” and he goes “me too!” So we sat there for 3 hours and talked about comic books. We talked about my love for Marvel. DC was cool too but DC and Metropolis was more fictional. But I loved Batman, The Flash – The Flash was one of my favorite characters to draw, Green Lantern, Justice League… But Stan Lee puts the characters really in New York City. So I’m a little kid that can’t leave the block, not only did I love the adventures and find my favorite superheroes, I learned about the place that I lived in without leaving my block. I learned about the Lower East Side, the LES, I learned about Hell’s Kitchen. Like from a kid, so as I got older and I started seeing these places in the movies and TVs, Stan Lee had already educated me, and I didn’t have to leave the block. But when I met with Riggs, we just talked about being those kids in New York City. And he said, “Wow, D, so before hip-hop your first love was comics.” And he was like, “You should make a comic book!” And I said, “no! Don’t put me in that predicament, don’t send me down that road, I don’t want to be disrespectful.” I didn’t want to upset my fellow geeks and nerds, I didn’t want anyone to think, “oh, just because you’ve got a few hit records you can do anything.” ‘Cause celebrities have a bit of a habit of just doing things for money, yeah yeah, and it’s not sincere. So he laughed it off, he said “you’re not doing this as DMC the entertainer, right, you’re doing this as little Daryl, the kid that loves comic books. So then he asked me another question that totally rocked my world. He said, “let me ask you something, if you wasn’t doing music, what you would have been doing?” He asked me that and I sat there like this. I was like, “I don’t know!” I didn’t know, I was probably going to be drawing comic books for Marvel! I had no idea what I wanted to do, and then I thought about my life, like I said, I went to Catholic School my whole life, and since I was reading comic books it made me a good reader, so I was a straight A student. So I said, if I hadn’t ever done music I would probably have been a teacher. So he says, “that’s it! It’s going to be an alternate universe, it’s going to be you, Daryl McDaniels, but you’re not going to meet Run, you’re not going to rap, you’re going to graduate St. John’s University and you’re going to become a teacher who discovers he has super powers! And we’re going to put it in an 80s-like universe, and there’s going to be rap, and there’s going to be hip-hop, and there’s going to be metal, there’s going to be goth, and there’s going to be funk, and it’s going to be anything that could be adversity to us, you know as a hero for his people, there’s going to be mental health issues, there’s going to be political issues, and social issues, and you’re not just going to fight other superpowered beings and bad guys, yeah, you’ll fight martians, and dinosaurs, and demons, anything that could be aversity to any entity, is going to be in this book. And when he said that to me I still wasn’t convinced. And then he said, “you know what, let me do you a favor,” and he took me to the New York City Comic-Con, and when I went there, I saw all the comic books, an the tv shows and the toys that I had, and I said, “you know what, Riggs, I’ll do it.” And he said, “Okay, you can’t use Marvel, you can’t use DC, you can’t use Valiant, you can’t use Image- he named all the comic book companies… and he said, “what are you going to call your company?” I was like, “I don’t know, I want to go to Marvel!” He said, “no, no, you’re going to do your own, you’re going to keep it hip-hop.” So then I sat there and I was like oh, I’m Daryl McDaniels, the initials of my name is DMC. I said, “You know what Riggs, I’m going to name my company DMC and it’s going to stand for Daryl Makes Comics.” oh and he lost it. He said you can do the same thing with a book that you’ve been doing with your music for the last 40 years.
Jason: That’s so beautiful man, it’s so great, it’s an honor to meet you, and this has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for taking the tim,e all your stuff, thank you for all the joy for so many years, this is, I’m a little, uh, getting a little, uh, weird here, but thank you, we’re all in this together.”