DMC Hits Rock Bottom, Climbs Back With Help of Limp Bizkit's DJ Lethal

Run-D.M.C. rapper deals with depression by recording solo album.

Who says multiplatinum rock stars only collaborate with other current chart-toppers?

As Limp Bizkit search for a guitarist to replace Wes Borland (see "Limp Bizkit Scouring 22 Cities For New Guitarist") and frontman Fred Durst continues to sign and mentor new bands to platinum success, Bizkit turntablist DJ Lethal is embarking on a project with rapper Darryl "DMC" McDaniels of Run-D.M.C.

And DMC didn't even have to ask. When DJ Lethal found out the hip-hop pioneer was working on a new disc — which DMC hopes to have in stores this spring — the Bizkit spinner approached with demos and asked to be involved.

"I went over to his house, and he started playing me tracks, and it was so crazy," DMC enthused Wednesday. "The records that he played me were so perfect for the records I had already written. He did three tracks on the album, and they're incredible."

Maybe so, but just don't expect songs from the tentatively titled Homicidal, Suicidal & Political to sound anything like classic Bizkit. It'll be more like classic rock. DMC is forming songs around snippets of Neil Young's "Old Man," Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Ohio," the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and Pink Floyd's "Us and Them," though instead of using recorded samples, DMC may hire live musicians to replay the passages.

"I don't think it's a record where I'm gonna be saying, 'I'm the king of rock, and I'm the best rapper. Run-D.M.C.'s the greatest,' " said DMC. "I did that already. I've got more important things to do with this music. The stuff that I'm writing now is more like John Lennon and Bob Dylan."

Many of the classic-rock-inspired tracks are not done, but DMC and Lethal have completely revamped a version of the Beatles' "Come Together." "I'm using that hook, and I'm rapping about, you know, don't kill the whales," said DMC. "I guess people that are against fur are gonna be happy. That record is really dealing with the environment and let's not fight each other. Let's not accuse each other and just come together."

The second track with Lethal is an energetic cut called "What's Wrong," which features a guest rap by Napoleon of the Outlawz.

"I'm talking about what's going on in the world today: kids killing each other, bringing guns to school, everybody taking ecstasy," said DMC. "The name of the record first was gonna be What's Wrong With These Kids Today?, but I didn't want to alienate myself because we all do the same things no matter what generation it is — sex, drugs, everything. Basically I'm kind of like the older guy [in the song], but I'm still doing those things, and Napoleon, he's the younger guy, and we talk about everybody in between."

The final song Lethal worked on will either be called "Negative and Positive" or "My Life." The uncharacteristically dark track addresses DMC's recent battles with substance abuse and depression, which worsened after the last Run-D.M.C. album, Crown Royal (2001).

"It's a real personal song about how I struggle with suicide, alcoholism and drugs," he explained. "Sometimes I just want to go out there and take a gun and kill people. You know, there's always a time when you're sitting at home and you've had something in your job that's messing with you or something in your life. It could be your wife, your kids, your boss. And you just go, 'I wanna kill motherf---ers.' I was at this point where I thought I was gonna really go through with that. And then it was like, 'All right, I don't really want to harm anybody. Let me just take this gun and put it to my own head.' Then I was like, 'Nah, I don't wanna do that. Let me just drink myself to death.' "

Though he didn't brood in silence, even his bandmates didn't realize how close to the edge he had slid.

"I was always thinking to myself, 'Let me go get my gun.' And I would always make jokes around Run. I'd say, 'Yeah, man, see what's gonna happen tomorrow. I'm gonna pull my gun out and kill all y'all.' And Run would always go, 'D, don't kill me, man. I got five kids and they love me. I'm not ready to leave.' And I would say I was joking, but those thoughts were coming from somewhere. I really meant it. I just never let myself go there."

DMC's rage stemmed largely from his frustration with the Crown Royal sessions, in which he was hardly involved, and not by choice. Intent on evolving, DMC wanted edgy raps and innovative music, but his bandmates were more intent on capturing the energy and bounce of their '80s classics like Raising Hell (see "Run-DMC: Kings Of Pain").

"Everybody was saying, 'Aw, D, you ain't rhyming no more. Your voice is gone. Nobody likes what you're writing about,' because I was writing from my experience and I wanted my music to grow. I don't want to be still rhyming about driving around in cars. I don't want to rhyme about stuff I don't do."

Right when DMC felt as confused and disillusioned as he thought he could get, he found out he was adopted. The news sent him into a self-destructive tailspin.

"I was definitely bugging out," he said. "My dad told me because I was working on my book ['King of Rock'], so I had to ask my mother where I was born and what time. And my dad was like, 'I think he's prying,' so they called me back and said, 'Don't you know, you remember you was adopted?' They said they told me when I was 5 years old, but I don't remember. I was like, 'Damn, what else is gonna happen in my life?' "

Last winter, around the time he hit rock bottom, DMC started writing the songs for Homicidal, Suicidal & Political and was surprised to find the work extremely therapeutic. To come to terms with his adoption, he remade Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle." Within months of that he had more than 100 different parts written for various songs. DMC now has 11 songs finished and wants to record at least two more before he shops the record around to labels.

Having vented his aggression on his new album, DMC seems to be at least hitting the entrance ramp of the road to recovery. This year he plans to promote the disc with a solo tour and will also tour with Run-D.M.C. In addition, he's getting ready to search for his real parents and plans to become a spokesperson for adoption agencies.

"All of this has really given me something to live for," he said. "I can't commit suicide. Look, my life's a mystery now, and if I leave I'll never be able to solve that mystery."