When it comes to hip-hop royalty, it doesn’t get any more kingly than Run-DMC. The rap-rock trio – featuring Joseph “Run” Simmons, Jam Master Jay and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels – completely changed the game in the early ‘80s, helping usher in the new school of hip-hop based on the reality of the streets.
With its black fedoras, gold chains, leather jackets, jeans and unlaced Adidas shoes, Run-DMC. created a b-boy style that is still hip today. Its fusion of hip-hop beats and hard rock on hits such as “My Adidas,” “Rock Box” and its collaboration with Aerosmith on “Walk This Way” would pave the way for the rap-rock movement a decade later. Run-DMC. was the first rap act to have a video on MTV, and the first to score the cover of Rolling Stone.
Today, 13 years after the murder of Jam Master Jay effectively derailed Run-DMC, two-thirds of the original lineup is back, storming the Jazz in the Gardens stage at 7:10 p.m. Sunday.
McDaniels – whose DMC Band performs at the kick-off party at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Miramar Cultural Center (2400 Civic Center Pl., Miramar; $60) – talked to Miami.com about his new band and what inspired Run-DMC to rap over rock beats all those years ago.
You’re personally doing two shows related to this festival – tell us details.
Yes, because I have a band now. I’m in my Paul McCartney and Wings or Dave Grohl/Foo Fighters thing right now. I got a full-length album with producers like Tim Armstrong from Rancid – he’s on like three of the songs. I got Rome from Sublime, Travis Barker, Sebastian Bach, Mick Mars from Motley Crue, Chuck D of Public Enemy. And after 30 years of hip-hop, the one and only DJ Premier finally producing me. Yeah, the style is gonna be sick.
That’s heavy on the rock-‘n’-roll – sounds cool.
Oh, hell yeah – I’m the King of Rock! And people ask “Why you didn’t say the King of Rap?” Who wants to be the King of Rap!?!? They gotta beef on Twitter, they don’t make good music, you know what I’m sayin’? They’re acting like girls every day. I’m like, man, ever since I was a kid I’ve had high expectations of myself. Who wants to be the King of Rap!?!? I’m going for Elvis’ jugular. I’m going for Mick Jagger’s throat. I’m the King of Rock!
So at your solo set, we’ll hear a lot of the new album?
What’s good for the solo set, too, is, I do all my Run-DMC classics live – “Rock Box,” “King of Rock” – I do “Sucker M.C.’s” with a riff, “My Adidas” with a riff. It is ridiculous – the best thing I ever did in my life! We just run through a set of the classics.
Run-DMC was one of the first groups to add a rock-‘n’-roll element to hip-hop – what inspired that?
Well, back in the day a DJ would just find breakbeats for their MCs, so in a typical DJ’s crate was James Brown, and once we started recording hip-hop, James Brown was heavily sampled, because there was always a funky drummer beat for the MC to run his mouth on. Also, disco: Hip-hop started when disco started dying, and people were like, “Yo, disco sucks” or whatever. But basically, hip-hop was our discotheque on the streets. That being said, [Chic’s disco hit] “Good Times”: “Rapper’s Delight” is “Good Times” – disco records always had a bassline for the MC to run his mouth. Same thing with jazz records. Same thing with funk records – Parliament Funkadelic and Confunkshion. But in the ‘70s, also in a DJ’s crate were rock records: “Walk This Way” – me and Run never knew it was called “Walk This Way.” We just knew the cover said “Toys In the Attic,” and we’d tell the DJ, “Take out “Toys In the Attic” and play number 4!” Or “We Will Rock You,” or Rolling Stones’ “Miss You.” There were all these rock records being used by DJs.
Once rap started getting recorded, I said, “Yo, what is it that the people making records now ain’t doing?” Nobody’s using the rock breaks. So let’s make the rock records. When we did “Rock Box,” that was me trying to make Billy Squier’s “Big Beat” – that was one of my favorite records to rap over.
And rock-rap was born. But it wasn’t like, “We’re gonna create rock-rap and become pioneers and legends and famous and get white people to like us!” No! Rock beats were some of the dopest, loudest beats, and if you got a guitar riff to go with it, people are gonna look over there instead of looking at the guy rapping over disco. It was an attention-getter.
Did you know back then that it was ground-breaking?
No! It was normal – that’s what I’m trying to say. Afrika Bambaataa, Kool Herc – all the DJs before Jay, before rap ever went into a studio to be recorded, you go to a block party – we were rapping over rock beats. Everybody before Run-DMC used to rap like Run-DMC, but when they got into the music business, they didn’t do what they were doing in the parks and in the street. We were 12 years old, so when we got a record deal, we were like, “We’re not gonna change to be accepted into this radio program – we’re not gonna change our look, our sound, what we talk about, how we act, just to be in stupid-ass show-biz.”
So when we did it, to the world it was new. But to everybody from Hollis to Harlem, that was hip-hop.
And Jay always said, when they would ask him if he ever thought hip-hop was gonna be this global, forever, billion-dollar business: “It was so big to me in Hollis when I was 8 years old, it had to have the same effect on everybody else.”
What inspired you guys to reunite?
We’re only sticking to festivals and special occasions, because we can’t be Run-DMC without Jay. So when you come to the show – it ain’t a Run-DMC show. It’s, “Oh, s—, I saw Reverend Run and King D.M.C. onstage together last night, singing the songs that we love.” It’s not a Run-DMC reunion. It’s not that at all. It’s just that when we ain’t busy … and the offers are really good right now. Hopefully, we can get the offers up to The Who and Led Zeppelin-type money.