Interview: DMC Says New Hip Hop Is Missing 'Creative Innovation' Despite Its Success

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Armed with their black boller hats, dookie rope chains and adidas tracksuits, Run-DMC started breaking down barriers since exploding on the scene with their 1984 self-titled debut, in the process becoming the first Hip Hop group to ever earn a gold record.

With the release of 1985’s King Of Rock, Rev Run, DMC and Jam Master Jay then became the first Hip Hop group to earn a platinum record and only a year later, their third album Raising Hell was certified multi-platinum, firmly solidifying their pioneering status.

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But that was only the beginning for the Hollis, Queens trio.

Their collaboration with Aerosmith, “Walk This Way,” marked the first rock-Hip Hop hybrid and their accolades just continued piling on from there.

With all of DMC’s success, he’s unequivocally earned the right to comment on the state of Hip Hop today. He believes it’s sorely lacking “creative innovation” despite the genre’s global impact.

In Part II of the HipHopDX interview, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer points out Hip Hop, at its root, has always been an international phenomenon. He also notes, in the many schools he visits, the young kids feel pressure to listen to the homogenized music than infiltrates mainstream airwaves for fear of not fitting in.

HipHopDX: Hip Hop is now the biggest genre in the world. 

DMC: But it’s always been that way. Here’s something I want you to think about.

HipHopDX: The most commercially successful, I should say. 

DMC: Yeah. Right, right. I’m going to trust that. Listen, they made that announcement about three years ago. 

HipHopDX: 2016.

DMC: It was a big thing. Here’s something the world didn’t know — it has always been that way. We went over to Japan and London. We went over to Germany. We went over to Saõ Paulo, Brazil. This is the ’80s. When you go over there, every artist they saying made Hip Hop so big now in this generation, people overseas don’t listen to. When we played Moscow, Red Square, it was Naughty By Nature shirts, A Tribe Called Quest shirts and Public Enemy shirts.

Here’s what I want you to think about. They made that announcement at a time when our Hip Hop was at its most ignorant, negative state. So what is that doing to the youngest generation? “Oh man, if I act like an ass and make stupid records like they put out now, I could be down. I could be accepted.” Let me tell you something, globally they want to hear P.E. They want to hear records with messages. They want that stuff. If you go to Italy and you go to France, they not settling for this party rap stuff. They love it. They party to it, but it’s not a part of their daily lives.

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HipHopDX: I under that overseas it’s much closer to the root there. 

DMC: Yes. Why? Because they’re dealing with social issues. Those young people, the riots, the people getting stoned and mortar thrown on them and this and that. The people that don’t have access to education, the unemployment. These are young kids like 10, 11 and 12 asking for their rights now. So what I’m trying to say is, when they made that announcement, “Oh, Hip Hop is the biggest thing commercially.” Yeah, they made it at a time when, commercially, our music is the most stupid, ignorant shit that nobody liked.

We went to Amsterdam in ’85. When we went over, Hip Hop was the biggest thing ever. The records they played on the radio were records of substance and vision, and nothing negative. They loved LL Cool J’s “Around The Way Girl” because he’s not using “bitch” and “whore” to describe the women.

So when they made that statement, it added to the conspiracy factor. And what I mean by that is, if you got a group like Migos rapping like Public Enemy, Naughty By Nature or KRS-One, the powers that be got a problem with that. But if they talking about their cars, women, money and stuff like that, of course the powers that be going to throw fame and fortune at them. Why? To keep them in their place.

HipHopDX: That’s sad. 

DMC: It’s a known fact 2Pac was getting ready to put out even greater messages. 

HipHopDX: And now he’s dead. 

DMC: Once we realize our potential, there’s still so many places that we need to go.

HipHopDX: I agree. Speaking of “My Adidas” and the 50th anniversary, how did it feel to be back on stage at the Grammys with Aerosmith after all these years?

DMC: It’s cool. What people don’t know is I perform with Aerosmith often.

HipHopDX: Oh, I didn’t know that, no.

DMC: Yeah. I perform with Aerosmith often. The crazy thing about the Grammys was the last time we was there was 1988, I believe. I love the reception that we got and everything. It was cool. I respect that. But now what I’m trying to say is, there’s a lot of new artists making that type of music, but we’re not getting nominated in a category. My only thing is this. All right, if you’re going to bring me back, let me let you know what I’m thinking now. You know what I’m saying? They’ll bring me back next year if I sing “Walk This Way”. Oh no, I’ll sing “Walk This Way” to you, but I just made a record with Joan Jett that’s new. 

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HipHopDX: When are you going to send me that [laughs]?

DMC: Starting in April, I’m going to start dropping some of the new music. . I collaborated with Joan Jett, Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, Travis Barker. Oh, this is coming really soon. We getting ready to shoot the video. I’ve got a song produced by Bumpy Knuckles. Freddie Foxx produced a song featuring me, Chuck D, Public Enemy and Ice-T together. And it don’t stop there — with DJ Jazzy Jeff performing live throughout it.

HipHopDX: So you’re doing a video for it?

DMC: Yeah, yeah, it’s coming soon. I’ll send it to you once it gets mixed and mastered. There’s a lot of new music that adds to what has been created through the 80s and 90s and even in the 2000s. When you listen to Classic Rock radio, everybody knows Classic Rock radio is going to play the classics, which is true, but what I don’t understand is, when Bruce Springsteen puts out his new album, Classic Rock radio at least plays his new single, so the people that love rock know that this legendary artist who’s been around forever has new work out.

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DMC: So if you love Hip Hop, you suppose the play, “Oh shit!, Chuck D just put out a new song.” I’m not saying to add it to rotation, but you supposed to play it because what the younger generation don’t understand, when we changed the world, we wasn’t 50 and 60. When we changed the world, we were their age, but they don’t see that now because our own media and our own facilities and the corporate structure of our own culture don’t treat us like we’re part of it anymore.

HipHopDX: You have an advocate in me. I just got my own Hip Hop radio show here in Colorado. 

DMC: Oh, wow.

HipHopDX: I play everybody’s new stuff, too. 

DMC: You have to. 

HipHopDX: I will always rock your music. Part of my passion and mission is to always respect the pioneers and architects. 

DMC: Exactly.

HipHopDX: Chuck D is still out there rocking arenas. 

DMC: No, he’s killing it. His flow is crazy. When you hear me, him and Ice-T together, that’s legendary because we’ve never been together. We’ve worked side by side, but we’ve never done something together.

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HipHopDX: I emailed Schoolly D today because I heard he and Ice-T finally did a song together. I guess Chuck was a part of it and I’m trying to figure out where it is. I haven’t heard it yet.

DMC: Wow. Really? That’s going to be some legendary shit. That’s the stuff that’s alive and kicking, you know what I’m saying? And so as long as that exists, I’m going to put it out. That’s what I was saying, if they were to prevent us from participating in the commercial music zone, we’d keep going. This is what’s funny — Hip Hop is going back down underground now and I say that’s a good thing. It’s marinating again.

HipHopDX: Do you think we’re starting to see a shift now back to its roots? 

DMC: Yeah, it’s a hit on the radio. The only thing missing is the messages, the fun and the creative innovation. 

HipHopDX: You guys still made fun records, but they had messages. 

DMC: Yeah and we wasn’t preaching. There’s still a lot of stories to be told. 

HipHopDX: I miss the storytelling. Slick Rick, you, Beastie Boys all told hilarious stories. LL Cool J, Sir Mix-A-Lot — they’re just such good storytellers. “Swap Meet Louie” is hilarious. 

DMC: Yeah, that’s right. What it was, it was about our daily lives.

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HipHopDX: Exactly and it was real. Did you see Billie Eilish’s comments about rap? 

DMC: No. What did she say?

HipHopDX: Basically, she was talking about the difference between storytelling and lying in her music and she said there’s a lot of lying going on in Hip Hop right now.

DMC: Really?

HipHopDX: Styles P spoke out about it and said she didn’t have a right to speak on the culture. What do you think? 

DMC: Any saying that becomes monotonous becomes boring. Hip Hop has gotten to a point where it’s like disco, but here’s the difference. I mean, I go to high schools and I speak. The kids don’t like the music, but they feel pressure to listen to it. My friends that are like 40 and older, they always go, “Yo, I must be getting old because I can’t listen to it. They talk about the same thing.” I said, “No, no, no. Don’t put yourself in that category. It has nothing to do with age.” I’d say what happened was, when we were younger, we had higher expectations of our art, our craft and ourselves. What’s going on with Hip Hop right now, especially for the kids that don’t do it but listen to it, is a self-esteem thing. They think if they don’t listen to it, they won’t be cool.

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HipHopDX: That’s so true. My friend’s son has a girlfriend who’s around 17. They came to visit me in Colorado and was talking about how she feels pressured to listen to Nicki Minaj or Cardi B. She didn’t even know there are women out there like Rapsody or Tierra Whack.

DMC: Cardi B is not a problem. Nicki’s not a problem. The problem is the kids think if they don’t listen to what everybody else listens to, they’re not going to be cool. They say, “Really? How could you say that?” I say, “Because I’m Hip Hop.” I said, “The coolest kid in this school is the kid that don’t want to wear adidas because of Run-DMC and don’t want to wear Jordans because of Michael Jordan.” You could hear a pin drop and they looked at me and one kid said D, “Do you mean you don’t have to?” I said, “You don’t have to do nothing. You do what you like. If you want to wear sandals, you wear sandals.” That was the beautiful thing about Hip Hop. 

Now with the music … I was just somewhere recently and they had the SiriusXM radio station on and it was just streaming all these rap songs for three hours. It was all different artists, but every song, every flow and everything out the rappers mouth was the same.

So Billie Eilish has a point with that, but what she should have been saying was, “I”m Billie Eilish, I’m gonna co-sign the new Queen Latifah or the new Monie Love or Chuck D. I love Chuck. He said, “OK, if Hip Hop is so powerful and positive and number one, why you don’t see rappers calling herself queen? Why is there no more Lauryn Hill? Why is it bitch and ho?” Everybody in the room got quiet. 

HipHopDX: You should have seen this young girl’s face. As soon as I started showing her different artists, she’s like, “Oh my God, they’re not half naked. Oh my God, this beat is really cool. I could get in it.” She really liked what I was showing her. 

DMC: Right, because that’s what she didn’t know it exist.

HipHopDX: She told me because of Cardi B, she was even thinking she had to be a stripper just to make it through life. I was like, “No girl, no.” 

DMC: Wow. Right, to be accepted, which is not it. No, they should go to college. You can make a rap song about it. It’s really a self-esteem permission thing. They think they need to do this in order to be accepted.

HipHopDX: Mike D was talking about how the Beastie Boys had this great idea they were going to all show up in these matching Puma outfits to some Hip Hop club in a limousine. He was looking back and realizing they were “fucking clowns.” 

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DMC: That’s what they was thinking. The Beastie Boys were more accepted when they came as they were. They didn’t have big gold chains and Kangols and stuff like that. Mike D was so Hip Hop, he had a plastic chain with the VW Volkswagen emblem hanging from it that he really took off a Volkswagen.

HipHopDX: And because of him, I stole one of those in my neighborhood when I was a kid [laughs]. 

DMC: Of course, right. We toured with them. When they took the stage, they got full applause from this black audience because real recognize real. They would have probably got booed if they was dressed like us and talking like us. We talked about Old English and Bacardi. They talked about Brass Monkey and Budweiser. So when you heard this song, you’re going to love that. What was special about the Beastie Boys, they wasn’t white rappers trying to be black rappers. They were white rappers talking about their lives and that was real to us. They wasn’t saying, “I got a dookie rope chain.”

HipHopDX: They were rapping about their rights to party.

DMC: Exactly [laughs].

Read Part I of the HipHopDX interview with DMC here. 

Source: Hip Hop DX