Interview: DMC of Run-DMC speaks with DJ Nurse Annabella

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Darryl McDaniels (aka DMC), New York, 1980s (Still from Run DMC: Streets of New York, 2015, by Jeff Pinilla. Fair use)

from DJ Nurse Annabella

(from a recent interview aired on KXSF 102. 5 FM)

DJ Nurse: So glad to have you back on DMC!

DMC: Glad to be here!

DJ Nurse: So tell us about the new music you’ve been working on?

DMC: Oh, we’ve been working on a lot of music. It’s probably like two projects in one basically. I have a project called D. M. C. What the “D.M.C.” stands for is Dynamic Music Collaboration. So far I’ve got songs with Sammy Hagar, Tim Armstrong from Rancid, Travis Barker, Mick Mars, Ice T, Chuck D of Public Enemy, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Joan Jett, which is incredible, Who else? Charlie Benantefrom Anthrax, he’s producing a song for me. So yeah it’s crazy.

DJ Nurse: So I’m curious what was the craziest DJ technique you’ve seen Jam Master Jay do?

DMC: Jay he did everything. It’s funny you ask that question because you know when we (Run-DMC) first came out, we had access and contact with a lot of early DJ’s. So a lot of early DJ’s like DJ Davey DMX, DJ Scratch who is like amazing, DJ Jazzy Jeff. So all these guys would sit with Jay and just trade techniques. If there was something new, like if DJ Jazzy Jeff invented something he would show Jay. Same thing with DJ Scratch.

DJ Nurse: So what do you think of today’s rap music?

DMC: Well hip hop now has a place in the so called “entertainment world” now. Now there’s two things. With the entertain world you don’t need to have the necessary fundamental foundational aspects of the presentation. ‘Cuz now you could just be fake. I just finished submitting my lyrics with Sadat X from Brand Nubian, and we did a song called “It Can Never Be Fake”. Now that’s no disrespect to nobody, but it’s just like this. You have movies with CGI, and then you have movies that have no special effects that are timeless, more impactful, more emotional, more impressive than any movie with special effects. So with Hip-hop now, you have that aspect of they don’t care about the content, they don’t care about the purpose, they just putting it out as pure entertainment to sell. You know what I’m sayin? And the example I’m trying to make is that we never thought hip-hop would fall into the space of corny pop music. You know what I’m sayin? With no substance. If you see somebody rapping without a DJ there, that’s not hip-hop, that’s just somebody rapping making a rap song. See people don’t understand the difference. It has to be a DJ playing the music, and the Emcees rhymin’, that’s hip-hop. Now the elements of hip-hop have been picked and chosen just for the sake of entertainment. That’s why you don’t see newer rap groups anymore. Hip-hop is a superior form of entertainment that rivals the power in emotional enthusiastic communications of punk rock. There’s a lot of great individuals out there, but hip-hop is not defined by just 1, 2 or 3 great individuals but everything about it is great. You know what I’m sayin’? Even though Run-DMC were the Kings of Rock, we had KRS-ONE, De La Soul, The Beastie Boys, Cypress Hill, NWA, Public Enemy, MC Lyte . . .

illustration by DJ Nurse Annabella

DJ Nurse: I wish it was like that again, dang!

DMC: Well the beautiful thing about it is there are new groups out there, there’s young people out there doing it, but it’s just that they’re not getting signed and backed by the record industry.

DJ Nurse: Anyways I was curious what types of video games did Run-DMC play while on tour?

DMC: Jam Master Jay was an Xbox and Playstation nut!

DJ Nurse: Ha ha ha . . .

DMC: Me and Run never got into games like that, although video games in the 80’s for me wasPac-Man, Space Invaders, you know what I’m sayin’? The arcade grown video games, that’s my era. By the time games like Nintendo, Mario and all that stuff came out I was so far into music I didn’t have time to play video games. But that being said Jam Master Jay (Jason Monzell) was a video game nut! As a matter of fact he died playing a video game in his studio. The day that he got shot, he was sitting there playing a video game. He would travel with it also, bring it on the road with us. Set it up in his hotel room. We would come to Jay’s room, and he would have all the people that we met in the hall from the show that day playing video games. So Jay made a lot of friends through the video games!

DJ Nurse: By the way I’m glad they caught someone regarding the case . . .

DMC: Oh yea that was a big blessing and a relief for us and his family.

DJ Nurse: So it’s interesting JMJ was into video games . . .

DMC: Yeah he was a video game expert. I used to tell him you should quit music and compete in video games! (Laughing) You could make a billion dollars competing in the video game tournaments. He did all that stuff.

DJ Nurse: We’re running outta time, but I have two more questions . . .

DMC: Okay . . .

DJ Nurse: When was the last time you spoke to Mike D and Adrock?

DMC: I spoke to Mike D and Adrock maybe about three years ago in New York City. I saw Adrock here in NYC at an event called the Garden of Dreams because we work with the Garden of Dreams kids’ charity. And oh here’s a good news report for you: Adrock said he’s gonna play bass on one of my new songs!

DJ Nurse: Oh wow!

DMC: Because people forget he is also a bass player! So now it’s up to me to set up the studio time in LA. People forget he is also a musician, as most people think he’s just the rapper in the Beasties.

DJ Nurse: Oh yeah I always knew that though!

DMC: And I saw Mike D maybe about 4 years ago. I was in Paris as a matter of fact, and me and my manager were just walking on a block, and then my manager saw him, and was like “D! D! You gotta come here Mike D is right here.” And he was there doing some Djing stuff. So shoutout to Mike D!

DJ Nurse: Oh wow Mike D DJ’s on the turntables sometimes?

DMC: Yeah yeah! Yup . . .

DJ Nurse: Oh wow I never knew that, and I was curious also they always say 808 bass started in Miami, but I always hear it in earlier New York songs?

DMC: It started in New York! We were the ones to bring the 808 sound to the music industry. It started in NY in ‘80, ’79 even. We been doing that already. Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Jazzy Jeff’s “It’s Your’s”. Remember “It’s Your’s”?! So no no we started that. Run-DMC. Mantronix, Scott La Rock, KRS-ONE. The 808 “B-boy” sound, 808 drum machines whatever you wanna call it we started it, and then it moved down South. Let’s not try to get it twisted out there no(Laughing). That being said Miami took it and made it a whole completely different genre like house music or whatever. I’ll give them credit for that, but we started the utilization of and comes from the hip hop b-boy mentality of masterpiece production.

DJ Nurse: And it’s interesting how a lot of today’s rap has gone back to the 808 . . .

DMC: Yes because the 808 is such a dominant sound you don’t have to be complex. It sounds so good, know what I’m saying? Alot of these newer rap songs aren’t really about lyricism anymore. Our thing was to put lyrics over the 808. Now people with the 808, it’s such a dominant sound, now they let the music just do the work. So you don’t really need to write lyrics , just have a chorus and a jingle over and over in a song and you have a hit record. Our thing was that WE were the power , and we wanted the sound to be the back up. Now it’s the other way around.

DJ Nurse: Anyways, it was great talking to you . . .

DMC: Yes thank you real DJ’s make the world go round!

DJ Nurse Annabella hosts Lava Lamps & 8-Track Theatre Wednesdays at Midnight