Darryl "D.M.C." is one of the pioneers of hip hop culture and founding members of the hip hop group Run-D.M.C.
McDaniels grew up in Hollis, Queens, New York and attended St. John's University. He first became interested in hip hop music after listening to recordings of Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five. In 1978, McDaniels taught himself to DJ in the basement of his adopted parents' home, using turntables and a mixer given to him by his older brother, Alford. During this period he adopted the stage name "Grandmaster Get High.”
McDaniels sold his DJ equipment, after his friend Joseph "Run" Simmons acquired his own turntables and mixer. After Jam-Master Jay - who already had a solid reputation as a young DJ joined the group—Run encouraged McDaniels to rap rather than DJ. McDaniels agreed, and adopted the nickname of "Easy D.” In 1981, he dropped the "Easy D" moniker in favor of "DMcD,” then to the shorter "D.M.C..” (D.M.C. stood for both "Devastating Mic Controller" and his childhood nickname "Darryl Mac.”)
In 1984, the trio released their self-titled, debut album. The group's success continued to grow and reached its peak with their third album Raising Hell. The album went to #6 on the Billboard 200 and #1 on its Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, making Run-D.M.C. the most popular hip-hop group at the time. During this time, McDaniels began to build a reputation as a heavy drinker and was arrested twice for public intoxication and driving while intoxicated.
In 1997, McDaniels began to slide into a deep depression. He became extremely unhappy with the rigorous routine of touring and performing and being apart from his wife and newborn son. While on tour, McDaniels’ voice weakened. He was later diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia, a vocal disorder which causes involuntary spasms of the larynx muscles.
McDaniels also began to have creative differences with his bandmates in Run-DMC, which by then, was a commercially successful hip-hop group. A longtime fan of artists such as The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Harry Chapin, McDaniels wanted to move towards a slower, softer sound, while Run wanted to continue with the aggressive, hard rock-edged, sound that the group was known for.
These disagreements caused McDaniels to sit out most of the recording of the album Crown Royal - appearing on only three songs.
McDaniels heard Sarah McLachlan's song "Angel" on the radio. The song touched McDaniels deeply that it inspired him to reassess his life and career. (He has credited McLachlan and her album Surfacing with saving his life.)
(NOTE: A video of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" is featured on her post.)
With a new outlook, McDaniels decided to write his autobiography. While researching his early years, he found out he was three months old. He also learned that he was born in Harlem, Manhattan, not Hollis, Queens, as he had always believed. He began working with the VH1 network on a documentary chronicling his quest. His autobiography, King of Rock: Respect, Responsibility, and My Life with Run-DMC, was released in January 2001.
In February 2006, VH1 premiered the documentary titled DMC: My Adoption Journey. The program ends with McDaniels reuniting with his birth mother, and, despite previous information, was not of Dominican descent.
In March 2006, McDaniels released his long-awaited solo album, Checks Thugs and Rock N Roll. The first single, "Just Like Me,” features an interpolation of Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" performed by Sarah McLachlan. During a recording session, McLachlan revealed to McDaniels that she, too, was adopted.
In September 2006, Darryl McDaniels was presented with the Congressional Angels in Adoption Award for his work with children in foster care and promotion of adoption. He founded a summer camp providing 170 foster children a childhood experience.
He is currently working on writing an updated autobiography In his earlier autobiography, the first draft of the book was written before McDaniels found out that he was adopted.
McDaniels was also said to be working on a second solo album. Three tracks off the new album have been released ("Next Level,” "Hip Hop,” and "Beef Eater.")
McDaniels is featured in the 2008 video game Guitar Hero: Aerosmith singing Run-D.M.C.'s singles "King of Rock" and "Walk This Way.” In June 2007, McDaniels joined Aerosmith on stage at the Hard Rock Calling festival in London, England to perform "Walk This Way."
In 2009, McDaniels performed in The People Speak a documentary feature film that uses dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans, based on historian Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.