Darryl “DMC” McDaniels’ Message To Black Men: “Be Honest With Your Feelings…That’s Your Power”

Darryl DMC McDaniels

Darryl “DMC”McDaniels/Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Most hip-hop heads know lyrical mastermind Darryl “DMC” McDaniels from his days in the rap group Run-DMC.

But most people, including hardcore Run-DMC fans, don’t know that McDaniels spent years battling alcoholism and depression. This later escalated to suicidal thoughts after McDaniels found out he was adopted and the 2002 murder of bandmate Jam Master Jay.

After stints in rehab and therapy, McDaniels put the bottle down and penned his mental-health journey in his latest memoir, Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide.

“I’m not a solution for everybody but I’m an example,” McDaniels said. “I shared how I felt.”

During a book signing and discussion at the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, McDaniels took questions from the audience about mental health in the Black community.

Darryl McDanielsAudience member: Can you talk a little bit about mental illness in the Black community? Was it hard for you to tell your story?

DMC: In anything in life, if you remove the guilt and the shame – I don’t mean for this to rhyme, but – you remove the pain. Black men in general, since we have this false role that we got to live up to, they think that admitting you have a problem that is emotional, admitting that you have a problem with anything, is considered weak and soft.

What happened to me was simple. After Jam Master Jay passed away, Run-DMC disbanded. My partner, Run [Joseph Simmons], went on to have nine or 10 years of a successful TV reality show [Run’s House, which aired on MTV].

Me, on the other hand, I lose my voice. I find out that I’m adopted. Jam Master Jay is shot and killed. That’s what happened to me. I thought I was going to kill myself after I found out I was adopted. When Jay died, now I really got to kill myself because there’s no more Run-DMC.

Everybody would see Run on TV and when they see me, they go, DMC, what’s up with you?

I just found out at age 35 that I was adopted and everybody knew. Whoa. But then, [people] would immediately go, wow. We’re really glad you didn’t kill yourself. We’re really glad you been helping yourself out but could you come talk to my daughter? And I’m like, why? Because, we just revealed to her that she’s adopted and she’s acting out.

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When I first went into therapy, my therapist just sat there and asked this question: D, during your time with Run-DMC, did Run, Russell [Simmons] or Jay or anybody at the label do anything to upset you? I said, no. He pushed his glassed up on his nose and he looked at me and said, you a [expletive] lie. When he said that, it all spilled out.

So for Black men, the most gangster, the most masculine thing you can do, is be truthful and honest with your feelings. The reason why you have emotions is because they’re yours and that’s your power.

BlackDoctor.org: What could friends and family have done for you at the time when you felt like you were going through depression? In your opinion, would they have been able to see that you were depressed and be able to do something?

DMC: They knew something was wrong. Friends and family and people should never [say] this to a person: you shouldn’t feel that way because…

Right away, you become the enemy. OK. I got money. I got fortune and fame. Everybody loves me but I feel like this.

When they first noticed something was wrong with me, why do you feel that way? You’re DMC – first to go gold, first to go platinum. And Run is like, suck it up, D. Right from the minute I found out I was adopted, suck it up, D.

The first thing we can’t do when somebody is suicidal or something is to say, you shouldn’t be suicidal. [Instead], OK, come sit down. Why do you feel that way?