DMC On Violence In Hip-Hop: ‘Something Has To Give’

After deaths of Proof, Jam Master Jay, veteran rapper wishes lyrics were more relevant, less violent.

NEW YORK — D12 rapper Proof’s death is a tragedy. But why this violence keeps occurring is another tragedy altogether, according to hip-hop pioneer Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, who lamented that rappers getting in violent altercations has become so commonplace that it’s expected.

“There’s a lot of that going around lately,” he said when MTV News caught up with him Tuesday at a Saturn auto show/ charity bash for the bone marrow donation center DKMS, for which he’s a spokesperson. “It’s not a good thing. Something has to give.”

McDaniels, who lost Run-DMC’s DJ Jam Master Jay in 2002 (see “Jam Master Jay, Run-DMC DJ, Killed In Shooting” ), said that while the music doesn’t cause crime, it’s not helping matters either. Imitating a thug life, even just for image’s sake, helps keep the cycle of art-imitating-life-imitating-art on repeat. “Everything that these rappers try to get away from is everything that kills them,” he said.

Plus, when it’s not about projecting a tough image, it’s about bling, which doesn’t address or solve any problems either, he said.

“We know what they’re doing, what they’re wearing, what they’re driving, who did what last night in a club, who’re they dating. You get a lot of rappers saying, ‘Yo, we got money now, everyone’s eating, everything is good, you know what I’m saying?’ Well obviously everything isn’t good, and I don’t know what you’re saying, because a lot of rappers aren’t saying nothing on records right now.”

What DMC would like to see is a little more balance and substance, he said. If hip-hop is the black CNN, as Chuck D once suggested, then make it more well-rounded, more objective, and use the power of communication for more than boasting and posing, which can only cause more problems when rappers start believing their own bluster.

“If you’re going to rap about a gun, rap about not using a gun,” McDaniels said. “If you’re going to rap about a bitch and a ho, let them know there’s aunts, grandmothers, good people in the world too. We rap about the kid selling drugs on the corner, but what about the kid flipping burgers at McDonald’s so that he can not sell drugs? We laugh at that kid, but that just might be more gangsta than being out on the corner hustling.”

Citing Public Enemy, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and N.W.A, DMC said hip-hop used to be “all relevant and universal” and that a lesson could be learned from the old school: “You’ve got to say more than one thing. You’ve got to have more than one image and concept in your music. You’re missing the universal concepts that keep another person from shooting another person.

“The only reason I’m saying what I’m saying is that I have experience on my side,” he added. “I’m not in jail, I didn’t OD, I didn’t get shot.”

Just in case anyone thinks he’s just nostalgic and wants a return to the way hip-hop was back in the day, DMC has a retort ready — he doesn’t want it mired in the past, he’s more concerned about its future, “so that the younger generation can understand that it’s not all about what you see and hear on the records now.”