Talking story with hip-hop royalty
Hip-hop fans are in for a real treat this weekend, as former Hawaii resident and Aiea High School graduate Slick comes home to celebrate the eighth anniversary of his clothing line, Dissizit.
Some would be happy enough to learn that the Dilated Peoples' DJ Babu and Rakaa Iriescience were making the trip from Los Angeles with Slick. Others would get excited to learn that Digital Underground founding member Money B would be in town with his partner, Scott Knoxx, from his new group, M*A*S*K. But add the name Darryl "DMC" McDaniels to the list, and Friday's anniversary party now doubles as one of the can't-miss hip-hop events in Honolulu this year.
The Pulse spoke with McDaniels last week via telephone from his home in New Jersey, where he was counting his blessings after avoiding the brunt of Tropical Storm Irene. During a conversation that lasted nearly an hour, he spoke about the current status of hip-hop, why younger generations aren't turning to MTV for new music and what the future holds for his music career.
QUESTION: Everything okay in the aftermath of Irene?
ANSWER: We're not flooded, but everyone around us is flooded. Put it like this — my block is lucky. We didn't have to evacuate. The worst of it was just rain. It rained forever. Just this morning, all the rivers are just illin.
Q: Did you watch the MTV Video Music Awards this year?
A: Nope. I don't even care about MTV. It's irrelevant right now. I mean, who cares, really? It's not special no more.
'Dissizit 8th Anniversary'
With special guests DMC, Rakaa Iriescience, DJ Babu, Money B, Scott Knoxx, Phoreyz and local openers Monarx
» Where: SoHo Mixed Media Bar, 80 S. Pauahi St.
» When: 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9
» Cost: $40 ($28 advance tickets available)
» Info: Click here for info and to purchase tickets online
» Note: DMC will participate in a meet-and-greet session at Prototype in Pearlridge at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9
When I speak to young people, they go, "Man, why can't you turn on MTV no more and discover new groups and new music?" People can't say you're hating if you telling the truth. … This YouTube generation is taking viewers from MTV and Fuse. You can't have a video network now. Kids go to YouTube. That whole platform of having one specific place to go, it don't exist no more.
Creatively speaking, though, the technique is really no different. These kids got YouTube and iPods. We had video cassettes and boom boxes. The only difference is, with the Internet you can do it on a bigger level. But now you've got to be really really good. Everybody can rap. But what's going to separate you from everybody else?
Q: One of the big winners was a young artist by the name of Tyler the Creator. Heard of him?
A: Yeah. What Tyler the Creator did doesn't surprise me, though, because Grandmaster Flash and Cold Crush used to be outside my high school passing out fliers. It all goes full circle. … What these kids are doing now are what Kurtis Blow, (Afrika) Bambaataa, that's what all those rappers before us were doing back then.
The thing is, once you get into that position of notoriety, can you produce quality … world-altering music? That's the problem right now. On every album we made, we didn't go back. We made one record, the topic was over with.
Now, you got dudes in this business seven years and they're still taking about the same thing they did on their first album. It's always about an evolution of creativity.
Q: Can you talk about the legacy of Run DMC and how it continues to affect the hip-hop scene?
A: Me, Run and Jay, our whole goal, truth be told, the whole reason we worked … our only main goal was to be better than the Cold Crush. We heard the legendary battle tape of the Cold Crush Four versus the Fantastic Five … in 1981.
Don't get me wrong, there was "Rapper's Delight" and "The Message," but what me, Run and Jay heard, the way Cold Crush dropped records … that demonstration, that essence. When we heard the Cold Crush tape, that pushed us to practice 365 days a year.
Our legacy is this — we took hip-hop for what it was, and took it to the world. If you were in Beverly Hills or the dirt ghetto, you knew what Run DMC was talking about.
We also addressed important issues that were relevant to everyone. The reason Run DMC worked was because we took what we saw at 12 years old and put it on TV. We took what Mel and Bambaataa gave to us and said, "This is what's changing the world."
Now, can you write a record that's going to make the world say,'can you see what these young people are doing?' There's a bunch out there right now. Andre 3000? He never spits a wack verse. He's a total package.
Jay Electronica is another one. I discovered Jay Electronica and it gave me life again. These dudes can write, and they love the music. They have the total package. They keep me writing.
Q: You were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. What kind of emotions did that stir up when it happened?
A: A lot of rock people was mad at us. And now, that's a great thing to say. We were excited just to be considered worthy enough to be nominated. They wanted to nominate us over all these people we used to steal music from!
(But) I think our presentation of it was sincere. So they started to look at us and thought that even though it was a combination of stolen ideas and melodies … listen to the songs that they're making. … We grew up with it, so we were just complimenting it.
Q: About five years ago, you were on television talking publicly about your health problems. Is everything okay now?
A: When I did that, it was like, "okay guys, here's what I'm doing now because you may not see me in a week." Real talk. Fortunately, there was a bigger purpose than I could comprehend.
I'm good now. I don't have no blood clots, my voice is good and I'm happy. I think what happened with me was, I needed to stop being DMC and be D the MC.
It kind of got me when people came up to me. The best advice was from the people on the street. With that encouragement, plus the looks on the faces when I do go out and speak. It helps give a deeper connection. I'm not a politician and I'm not religious, but music is able to succeed where politics and religion fail.
Q: You've worked with Slick on clothing projects, and now that collaboration has transitioned into music videos. Can you talk about your creative relationship?
A: Slick has his clothing line, and his fashion company is on some real hip-hop stuff. I went to his showroom one day … and while I was in there, he had all this RUN DMC stuff (and) wanted to do a shirt.
When he came back to me with the design, it was so off the hook it sparked a creative thing in me. I was trying to be creatively sneaky. I was looking as this opportunity to work with Slick as an opportunity to make a record.
So what just started off as a jingle for the clothing company turned into a song, and into a video, and now it's turned into a movement. Diszzit, when you hear it, it's one of those records with the best music and real DJs scratching on it. Most of these cats are just pushing a button. This is an official hip-hop song. It's vintage, but when people hear it they'll know it's new.
Even Chuck D said, we ain't making records just to make records anymore. He said we should just make music with as many people as possible. We're artists now. It's different. We don't need Def Jam records and MTV to survive anymore. Like B.B. King said, "All I need is my Lucille, my porch and the sunset."
Q: Tell me about your new single, "Rock Solid," and the upcoming album, "From the King of Rock."
A: I ran into some of the best producers ever. All I gotta do is show up and rhyme. This new album … is the closest thing (to that). I'm souped. And I've never been souped up in my life. I'm having fun again.
I think it's the headspace. I'm also independent, which is even better now. You can make the best music of your life, but when you sign with a label? It seems now, you gotta follow the blueprint. And what made every hip-hop icon successful is what they brought to the game.
"Rock Solid" is "King of Rock" on steroids. The music is so good that I can brag and not be egotistical. I think a lot of veterans went wrong … coming out now saying, "remember this?" Rock Solid is about how I'll bust your ass now. You gotta kick these young punks' asses now. So when you get in the room, they all step away from the mic.
Jason Genegabus is Entertainment Editor/Online at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at email@example.com.