HOLLYWOOD — Sixteen years after starring in the Rick Rubin-directed "Tougher Than Leather," Darryl "DMC" McDaniels is returning to the movies.
This time around, the rapper is taking on a producer role, developing what he describes as a hip-hop film similar in spirit to George Lucas' 1973 coming-of-age classic, "American Graffiti."
"It's gonna be about rap before rap records were ever made," D said recently. "Before rappers were even thinkin' 'bout making records, before rappers even thought it would leave the corner. It's gonna be deep."
A script for the as-yet-untitled movie is still in the works, but DMC plans to start casting as soon as it's approved. Along with the movie, D is also developing a cartoon called "Hip-Hop Superhero Homies from the Hood." "I'm just looking for someone to put it out," he said.
Right now though, DMC's main focus is launching a solo career. His long-awaited debut album, Checks, Thugs, and Rock 'n' Roll, is finally coming out in the fall.
"It's like Run-DMC, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Public Enemy, with a little bit of Funkadelic in there, that's how the album's gonna be," he explained. "I mean, I gotta be honest, when I get up in the morning, I put in a little Rolling Stones, I put in some [Bob] Seger, because I can relate to what they talk about, touring and balancing it with a wife, having a couple of brews, and stuff like that."
D has collaborated with both rappers and rockers on the album, including Kid Rock, DJ Lethal, Fieldy from Korn, the Outlawz and Doug E. Fresh.
"Its rap-rock at its fullest, but a little more mature," he said. "I ain't rapping about things I rapped about when I was 25. I'm 40 years old now so I gotta talk about things I do when I'm 40 so people don't say, 'This guy's faking.' "
On the first single, a cover of Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" featuring Sarah McLachlan (see "DMC Gets Real With Sarah McLachlan On Checks, Thugs, And Rock 'N' Roll"), D address an intensely personal subject.
"It's actually about me being adopted," D said. "I found out I was adopted three years ago. And then Jay died. I was sitting in my room and I was like, 'You know, God, what's my purpose, why should I keep rhyming?' And that idea came to me: There's a lot of adopted kids that feel 'I'm worthless. Nobody loves me.' And I told LL Cool J about it and he was like, 'D, you have to do that record. You have a purpose now. You have to tell that story. Do you know how that'll be for mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and kids to hear you sing a song like that?' And I was like, 'All right, God, you gave me my answer now. I gotta go out and make the record.' I wanna inspire people and help people out. That's my main purpose.'"
McLachlan — who is also adopted — and DMC are shooting the video later this summer. While D is tight-lipped on the concept, he said to expect something "revolutionary."
Checks, Thugs, and Rock 'n' Roll will also feature a tribute to Jam Master Jay called "I'm Missing My Friend." "It'll probably make [listeners] cry," he said. "I don't talk about Jay as the DJ, I talk about Jay as the man."
Although his voice has been damaged over the years, D plans to tough it out and promote the album on the road. "First, I'm gonna go out with the DJ, then I'll go back out with the band, because I do use a lot of live instruments on the album," he said. "I'm scared to death without Run and Jay. Oh my god — I'm scared to death. But I'm gonna do it. I'm just gonna act like they're there."
Although he listens to little hip-hop these days, with the exception of DMX, D's planning to launch a label called Rags to Riches Records with up-and-coming rapper Vector Mode as the first artist.
"[Vector Mode] is street hip-hop — something I don't do, 'cause I can't do," D said.