D.M.C. Talks Struggle and Recovery with Berklee Students

Salim ALi
November 16, 2017
DMC Speaks at Berklee College of Music
D.M.C. rhymes to beats before Berklee students
DMC performs for lively Berklee crowd
Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels speaks with Berklee students about his difficult journey to self-acceptance.
D.M.C. also performed, kicking fierce rhymes before the appreciative student audience.
Berklee students react to D.M.C.'s high-energy performance, which was sponsored by Berklee's Reach Out Initiative.
Image by Mike Spencer
Image by Mike Spencer
Image by Mike Spencer

Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels, a member of the pioneering hip-hop group RUN-D.M.C., recently paid a visit to Berklee, sharing his life story with Berklee students through an engagement sponsored by Berklee's Reach Out Initiative. With RUN-D.M.C., McDaniels has won both Hall of Fame and Lifetime Achievement Grammy awards. The group became the first rappers to do so, and claims many other "firsts," including being the first hip-hop on MTV or to grace the cover of Rolling Stone. McDaniels is also a celebrated comic book publisher, philanthropist, and cofounder of the nonprofit Felix Organization, whose mission is to create "inspiring opportunities and new experiences to enrich the lives of children who are growing up in the foster care system," as McDaniels himself did.

Beyond giving students a glimpse into life as a superstar, McDaniels offered some important tips about success not just in the entertainment industry, but in life.

Below is an edited and abridged transcription of five key pieces of advice that McDaniels discussed at the forum.

Success without Significance Means Nothing

"If you don't feel right mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, all of your relationships will fail. I'm a perfect example of that. Your success or your talent—your gift, your job, or the things you like to do—mean nothing if you aren't feeling right."

Music Heals

"When I found out I was adopted, I was dealing with these emotions and drinking, but then I got an idea: 'There’s probably a lot of people in the world going through the same thing I’m going through—a lot of orphans and a lot of foster kids.' So I got another idea: 'I'll make it [a record] with that lady whose record did for me what I want to do for other people.' So I tell my manager, 'Yo, get Sarah McLachlan on the phone!'"

"She says, 'Yes, I’ll do it.' We go to Vancouver, Canada. I go to Sarah McLachlan's house to make the record. At the end of the session, when I was about to leave to fly home, she says, 'Darryl, before you go, there's something I need to tell you: I was adopted too.' So it wasn't just a record; it was a feeling that I had identified with."

When You Need Help, Go Get It

"If you get a toothache, what do you do? You go to the dentist. If you hurt your ankle or leg, what do you do? You go to the doctor. If you're feeling funny mentally, go get help about it."

"What you hold in will destroy you if you don't release it."—Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels

"It's cool to go get help. It's just a feeling, and it's okay. You're not a weirdo, you're not a knucklehead, and you're not strange. What you hold in will destroy you if you don't release it. That's true for emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical troubles. When I went to therapy, I found it allows you to say stuff that you said to yourself and that you should've listened to, or it makes you repeat stuff that you said that you didn't listen to. Therapy is gangster."

To Remove the Pain, Remove Guilt and Shame

"D.M.C. was the set up for what I was really put here to do. I don't represent fortune and fame and dope-ass rappers and success in hip-hop; I represent purpose and destiny. My story is all of our stories. We all go through something."

"If you remove the guilt and the shame, you remove the pain. Guilt and shame causes us to commit suicide, or to abuse substances. It causes us to feel less than other people around us. We feel pain because we're actually going through something, and we start believing the world when they say that we're weirdos. Ninety-nine percent of the time, we don't speak up because we're ashamed of it. And the people around us, when they discover we're going through something, they're reluctant to speak up because they think our situation makes them look weird."

"It's your responsibility not to be ashamed of what you're going through and it's your responsibility to go get help and tell your story because you could save a life."—Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels

"It's not wrong for a person to say, 'Yo, I don't feel like living anymore.' That’s a beautiful thing because they're letting you know something. What is wrong is the world's reaction to that. They tell you, 'You shouldn't feel like that.' But here's what we overlook: I do feel like that. It's your responsibility not to be ashamed of what you're going through and it's your responsibility to go get help and tell your story because you could save a life."

Find Your Happiness

"What people think of you isn't important. The thing that you ain't got isn’t important. The things that you want aren't important. Impressing people? That's not important. Don't worry about what people think of you. The only thing you need to do as a person in this universe, on this Earth right here, in this galaxy—all you need to do is be happy with yourself. That's it."