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Celebrity Drive: Run DMC’s Darryl McDaniels

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 6/29/2015 K.S. Wang

Quick Stats: Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Run DMC
Daily Driver: 2009 Ford F-150 (Darryl’s rating: 10+ on a scale of 1 to 10)
Favorite road trip: New Haven to Hartford on I-95
Car he learned to drive in: 1978 Chevrolet
First car bought: 1986 Cadillac Fleetwood

When Darryl “DMC” McDaniels made it big in the iconic 1980s rap group Run DMC, he bought a brand-new Cadillac in 1986, fulfilling the line in their hit “Rock Box” on their debut album just two years before: “I’m driving a Caddy; you fixin’ a Ford.”

But these days, McDaniels is loving his Ford. The rapper has always supported American car companies, and to say he loves his 2009 Ford F-150 Platinum is an understatement.

“I’ve always wanted a pickup since a little kid,” he says, giving his Ford a “10 plus” on a scale of 1 to 10. “It’s the best vehicle ever. Ford got it right. I had the Chevy Silverado. The Ram trucks look as good as the Ford, but they don’t ride as good as the Ford.”

McDaniels makes sure he takes good care of his F-150 so that it stays looking new. “The crazy thing is I’ve got an ’09 F-150 that I keep spanking clean,” he says. “Everybody wants to buy it. People come up to me and say, ‘What year is that — 2015?’ And I go, ‘No, it’s an ’09,’ and they go, ‘Get the hell out of here!’ I get looks and compliments from old ladies and women all day. When I take it back for service, the service people tell me every time I go back, ‘Damn, D, you keep this car clean. We’ve never seen a car this clean.’ It is clean. I just make sure I take it to the car wash often.”

He says it isn’t just about supporting American car companies, though. “It’s just to support America,” he says. “I don’t live in Germany. Why would I want a German car?”

McDaniels likes that the F-150 is strong and powerful. “It represents safety and positivity,” he says. “What I mean by that is a pickup truck is very versatile, especially a pickup truck that looks good. So it’s heavy duty, it looks good, and it has a style,” he says.

Darryl DMC Mcdaniels And 2009 Ford F 150 Front View© Provided by MotorTrend Darryl DMC Mcdaniels And 2009 Ford F 150 Front View He recalls driving his F-150 for an interview at a radio station with other rappers and turning heads with his Ford. “All the other rappers were pulling up in sports cars, Porsches, Bentleys, and Phantoms,” he says. “When it came up for me to pull up and park, I pull it up, a pickup truck, and all the people on the street came over to my truck, looking at it like it was the star. I remember Ed Lover just cracked out laughing and said, ‘I knew it. I would expect D to roll up in something like that!’ So it’s unique, and it’s in a class by itself. A lot of people have pickups, but each pickup truck is an individual representation of the people that buy them. You could have 10 black pickup trucks, but they all have their own personality. That’s what I like about it.”

The truck is his only vehicle. McDaniels says he doesn’t want or need any other car, and then he starts rapping: “They sent me a Bentley. I sent it back. I don’t want no Phantom ’cause that is whack.”

“They always say,” he continues, “ ‘Yo D, take a picture with the Lambo.’ Nope. ‘Yo DMC, for this scene with the Bentley.’ Nope. ‘Yo, we would like to do an ad with you in a …’ Nope. No Porsche, no Bentley, no Phantom, no Lamborghini, no Maserati. Black Ford pickup truck — Platinum or Limited or Harley Davidson. That’s all you’re getting out of me. That’s all I will get into. The Harley Davidson model is dope, too.”

McDaniels chose the Platinum because he didn’t want the name of another brand, Harley-Davidson, on it. “But it looks nice,” he says. “If I could get the Harley and take the Harley off — nothing against them. What I like about the Platinum, you could order it the way you want. I ordered it with the automatic running boards, the sunroof, but I didn’t get the GPS. I don’t want the computer in it because I like my brain to work when I’m driving. Keeps you alert so you don’t miss the exits.”

McDaniels connects American cars, including his own F-150, to rock ’n’ roll and American movie stars. “As a little kid the cars that I remember growing up were the Chevys, the muscle cars, Steve McQueen with his Mustang,” he says.

He proudly relates American trucks to rock ’n’ roll so much so that he mentioned his F-150 when he got to meet one of his favorite musicians, John Fogerty.

“When Public Enemy invited me to their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2013, I was backstage. John Fogerty was back there, and I looked over at John Fogerty, and David Grohl and Chuck [D] and Tom Morello saw that I was starstruck,” he says. “I was like, ‘That’s John Fogerty, yo. I love his music. All I listened to is classic rock, the early days of hip-hop, and hip-hop before it was on records and my classic rock stuff stops probably with Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, Alice in Chains.’ David Grohl was like, ‘Go over there to speak to him.’

2009 Ford F 150 Platinum Edition Top Front Left© Provided by MotorTrend 2009 Ford F 150 Platinum Edition Top Front Left McDaniels was too shy to introduce himself to Fogerty. “He started to walk this way, and David Grohl goes, ‘Hey John, this is DMC from Run DMC.’ John looks up and he goes, ‘Hey, I love you guys!’ This is what I’m thinking: ‘He thinks that I’m the rapper guy,’ and I don’t know what made me say it like this — I used ‘pickup truck’ because he’s rock. It ain’t hood, it ain’t Bentley and gold chains, and I was just being sincere, I was like, ‘Mr. Fogerty, when I ride around in my pickup truck, all I do all day is listen to your music!’ He just gave me a look, it was probably a flattering look, but to me, I was like, ‘Damn, I just f-ckin’ ruined meeting one of my idols.’ I just felt, ‘Damn, should I have said pickup truck?’ Because he’s thinking this rap guy, he’s got a Bentley, and when he walked this way, I said, ‘No, Mr. Fogerty, I really do have a pickup truck!’ ”

Car he learned to drive in

McDaniels grew up in Hollis, Queens, and that’s where he logged time driving his mom’s yellow and brown 1978 Chevrolet sedan. “The car I learned to drive in was a 1978 Chevy. It wasn’t an Impala, but it was made off the Impala when they started making the cars smaller,” he says. “It was a midsized Chevrolet, and it was two-toned. There was a lot of them made back then.”

McDaniels went to high school at an all-boys Catholic high school in Harlem, which was a bit of a trek every day. He first learned to drive in Driver’s Ed class, which was held even farther away in the Bronx.

“We had to go from school to the Bronx to meet the dude, which really pissed me off,” he says. “I already took three buses and two trains to get to Harlem from Queens. Now I’ve got to get on a subway that I’m not used to. It was crazy. It was scary. It was very scary.”

Although it was an experience to have to travel that far from home to learn to drive and get his permit, McDaniels accomplished the task. “You know how when you’re going somewhere you’ve never been — coming back was easy because I knew, get on the D train and go home,” he says. “Imagine a little kid. I’m navigating the subway. I’m from Queens, as in the suburbs. You’re already miles from home; now you’ve got to go somewhere you don’t normally go. It always bugged me out. Why couldn’t the guy drive to my school and take us driving around it?”

He thinks the Driver’s Ed car was a Crown Vic. “That was 1981; I was in 12th grade,” he says. “We learned to drive up in the hilly area of the Bronx. I just remember, ‘Man, they don’t need to put me behind this wheel, because I’m about to hit everything.’ ”

Even today McDaniels has recurring dreams that he missed public transportation to get to school each morning. “My whole life from ninth to 12th grade was subway, subway,” he says. “I was so happy when I learned to drive.”

McDaniels says the cool thing was he got to take his driver’s test in Queens just minutes from his home in Hollis, and he passed, but he also had a problem with the parallel parking part of the test.

“I got the parking all screwed up,” he says. “You get two tries, so I backed in. I hit the curb. So pulled back out, do it again. I backed in. I hit the curb. And the guy said, ‘Go, just go. Just go.’ ”

McDaniels was lucky the DMV worker let him off the hook. “I’ll never forget the guy,” he says. “I’m driving like, ‘Damn, I failed.’ But he passed me because I was a good driver. I’ll never forget hitting the curb, and you get a chance to correct it and I couldn’t get out of this space. I’ll never forget him just saying, ‘Just go.’ He must’ve wanted to get home, or he liked me, because he passed me. When I came back, my father was sitting there waiting for me, and I was like, ‘Dad, I think I messed up. I screwed up the parking totally, I got caught in the space, it was crazy.’ ”

After getting his license, McDaniel’s dad let him drive his 1976 Buick Electra 225. “It was Buick’s answer to the Fleetwood Brougham Cadillac,” he says. “It was huge. He was with me, but that’s when I first started driving on the highway.”

McDaniels’ first time driving on the highway was especially memorable because the busy, urban highways around New York can be intimidating. “The crazy thing is he puts me on the damn Belt Parkway, one of the most notorious parkways in Queens,” he says. “It was a Saturday morning. We drove from Queens to Brooklyn by the Verrazano Bridge. He was like, ‘Exit here, turn around and go back.’ And I made it back. On the Belt Parkway in New York City.”

Even though McDaniels’ dad let him drive everywhere with him, he didn’t have his own car until his mom gave him her Chevy when she got a nice new Chrysler. He painted his mom’s car gold and tried his best to make it his own. “I got some fake hot rod rims,” he says. “I graduated high school, and I was driving that car ’83, ’84, ’85.”

Photo Credit: Jonathan Mannion© Provided by MotorTrend Photo Credit: Jonathan Mannion First car bought

In 1986, with the success of Run DMC, McDaniels bought a new 1986 Cadillac Fleetwood; Jam Master Jay got a Mercedes-Benz. McDaniels had always wanted a Cadillac and got to finally live out that line he wrote in “Rock Box.”

“I wanted a Cadillac, but I wanted a big Cadillac,” McDaniels says. “But this is when Cadillacs went small. They stopped making the big ones. But when I walked in the dealership, I saw the black Fleetwood. I was like ‘Yo, I want that one right there.’ ”

In fact, there’s a picture of his Cadillac on the cover of “Pause.” “It had the loudest system in it, and it was dope,” he says. “I cut two holes in the back seat and put in 20-inch speakers behind each seat, so whoever sat in the back seat got their ears blown off in a massage. I had the loudest car in Queens for a minute, till Jay got his.”

McDaniels bought a Chevy K5 Blazer in 1988. “I fell in love with the K5 Blazer, which made me say, ‘From now on, it’s pickup trucks,’ ” he says. “Ever since I got my K5 Blazer, it’s been pickup trucks because the K5 Blazer was like a monster truck. The K5 was like a pickup without the pickup bed in the back. They were the bigger versions of like an Explorer back then.”

Naturally, he put a stereo system in the back. Even with the Chevy, people heard McDaniels coming way before they saw his car. “I had 10 amplifiers and $50,000 speaker system in the back of the truck.”

He had the Chevy truck as the daily driver for just two years before buying a second car. “I used to pull up on 125th Street in front of Harlem, where everybody used to go to this place called Dapper Dan to get their clothes made — me and Rakim, Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, all us hip-hoppers used to go to Dapper Dan,” he says. “I pulled up in my K5 Blazer when ‘Don’t Believe the Hype’ was coming out for P.E., the day that Mike Tyson punched that guy in the face and busted his eye, Mitch Green. When I came off the Triborough Bridge, I was at the Bridge and they heard me all the way down by St. Nick, and everybody said ‘Oh, shoot, D’s coming.’ ”

After the Chevy, McDaniels bought a BMW 7 Series (a European-spec model is shown here), he says, because Jam Master Jay got a Mercedes-Benz and Reverend Run got a BMW 325i. “I gave my Cadillac to my mother because she got rid of the Chrysler, and then Jay and Run convinced me to buy the BMW 750,” he says. “A 12-cylinder Bimmer. But I hated it. They wanted me to buy it because it was a cool rap thing to do because all the rappers were getting BMWs and Benzes because we were making money. But I hated it. I didn’t like the system in it. I didn’t like the control panel and the buttons and all of that.”

e32-bmw-750il-front-quarter© Provided by MotorTrend e32-bmw-750il-front-quarter He rarely drove the BMW and instead stuck with his K5 Blazer until 1991, when neighborhood thieves broke in and stole his sound system.

“When I went to the window and looked, my speakers and all my amps were gone,” he says. “I used to always drive the K5 Blazer. This one night I said, ‘I’m going to take the BMW.’ All the speakers were gone and where they put all the amps under the seat, all the amps were gone.”

He was always taking the Blazer back to get the sound system fixed. “This is before they were perfected,” he says. “I bought this sound system and that very week I was back at the auto sound place getting something repaired. So it was new to them, but they weren’t going to say they didn’t know how to do it. They wanted my money.”

Every Christmas and Thanksgiving, his dad enjoyed joking about his son’s expensive sound system on the Blazer. “My father would say, ‘You know what this fool did? He paid $50,000 for a sound system that never worked,’ ” he says. “He brought that up every year and the joke is, people always ask me, ‘D, what’s one thing that you would have done with your money now that you look back that you wouldn’t do again?’ I wouldn’t pay $50,000 for a sound system that doesn’t work. Now I just go with the factory one they give you.’ I’m a little older now. I don’t need people looking at me when I’m coming. The factory systems are good now.”

Photo Credit: Jonathan Mannion© Provided by MotorTrend Photo Credit: Jonathan Mannion “Walk This Way”

Run DMC’s 1986 cover of the Aerosmith song was a pivotal song for the group, as well as its collaborators Aerosmith, bridging hip-hop and rock and solidifying Run DMC as a top mainstream act in the 1980s. But few know that McDaniels was worried about a car during that entire recording session.

The night before they recorded the song, McDaniels rented a car for Rev. Run. “We were going to the studio,” he says. “That was ’86. I had my Caddy. The day that we went to record ‘Walk This Way,’ I was so angry because the night before, I rented Run a car because he needed a rental car to get around when we were off the road in Hollis. I think his car was in the shop. So I rented him a car from Budget Rent A Car at LaGuardia Airport, and his stupid behind goes in the house and he leaves the key in the ignition. So he called me the morning, ‘Yo D, we need to go to the studio to record, but I’ve got something else to tell you.’ ‘What?’ ‘Yo! Somebody stole the car last night!’ ”

They reported the missing car to the police before the recording session. “By the time we got finished recording, the police did find the car six blocks away,” he says. “Apparently some kids went joyriding, and they just left it there, but I’ll never forget — during that whole session of recording ‘Walk This Way,’ I was in another world because I was so pissed at this stupid m-ther f-cker, excuse my language, left the damn key in! And I’m young, so I’m thinking the world is over now because it’s my credit card, I’m responsible for it, and my mother is going to kill me. Fortunately, when we got back home, the police found the car. I’ll never forget that day. True story.”

Favorite road trip

Back during the Run DMC days, McDaniels would often drive just from Queens into the city, or Long Island to Queens. But after meeting his wife, who is from Connecticut, he found a scenic drive he really enjoyed.

“I like driving up I-95 between New Haven and Hartford, that strip of road, because it’s green, it’s mountains,” he says. “It seems like you’re driving through Montana. For me that’s beautiful because I never get to see that, between New Haven and Hartford. There’s a stretch of road that is just mountain, trees, and green.”

DMC “Darryl Makes Comics” Comics

Last year at the New York Comic Con, McDaniels released his first graphic novel, “DMC” the superhero, which he bases on himself.

“It’s my life, me — everything that I am now, in this universe, Darryl McDaniels from Hollis, Queens, New York — grows up and the power that he’s given to change and make the world a better place,” he says. “In the comic book universe, I never meet Run. Same guy, Darryl McDaniels — St. John’s University, I become a teacher because I love educating the kids, but I’m this superhero running around fighting all the bad guys and the evil guys. Spider-man, Superman, Batman, DMC.”

McDaniels underscores the fact that as a kid his whole existence was going to school, coming home, and absorbing himself into the world of comic books. “I was a little weird kid who went to Catholic school, got straight A’s, and all I did was read comic books and draw,” he says. “The funny thing is, in Issue 2, Batman had the Batmobile, the Green Hornet had the Black Beauty, DMC is going to introduce his ride, and his ride is going to be an ’86 black Fleetwood Cadillac, tricked out like a James Bond car.”

Issue 2 is slated to be out in September. “It’s an ’80s-based universe, when you look at it,” he says. “You’ve got the graffiti, you’ve got the trains, there’s break dancing, there’s punk rock, there’s Andy Warhol, Madonna, Michael Jackson, CBGB’s, but the question is, is it the ’80s? It could be the future. There’s no condos, kids are break dancing on the cardboard, it’s an ’80s-like universe, but we don’t say it’s the ’80s. It looks like it, so you’ve got to figure out as reader, is this the past, or is this where we’re going?”

McDaniels was right in the heart of the 1980s, with Run DMC part of its zeitgeist, so he easily draws from that era.

“I put it in an ’80s-like universe is because visually, musically, conceptually, artistically, the ’80s was so creative,” he says. “You had punk rock, you had hip-hop, you had Bon Jovi, you had Cher, you had Madonna, you had Michael — it was just so vivid creatively. The ’80s was an eternal presence because now, even when I go to radio stations or if I go to high schools and middle schools and I talk about what it was for me, all the kids go, ‘Mr. DMC’ — because I’m old now, I’m 50 years old — ‘Excuse me, Mr. DMC, I wish I was alive in your time.’ It’s the cutest thing. Everything was cool. The automobiles were cool, the music was cool, the fashion was cool. It was just that time.”

New album

McDaniels is working on a new album, which he intends to make with live musicians. “I’m working with Travis Barker, Mick Mars from Mötley Crüe, Tim Armstrong from Rancid, DJ Premier, Sublime with Rome, Rob Dukes from Generation Kill,” he says.

DMC 1 Cover Darryl Makes Comics© Provided by MotorTrend DMC 1 Cover Darryl Makes Comics McDaniels listened to a lot of A.M. radio when he was growing up and was influenced more by classic rock musicians than those in R&B.

“When I was a little kid — it’s funny,” he says. “I like pickup trucks. I don’t like all these Bentleys and Phantoms and Porsches and Lamborghinis, and A.M. radio, you would hear the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, and the Doobie Brothers, Jim Croce and Harry Chapin, and you would also hear James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, and the Jackson 5. For some reason as a little kid, I didn’t like soul music. There was just something always rock music, whether it was the Beatles, whether it was Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, what people call ‘classic rock,’ and it just resonated with me.”

He also liked the fact that many of those rock stars such as Bob Dylan and John Lennon wrote about social issues happening in America.

McDaniels says the new album will have some of the best musicians in the business. “This new album is going to be ‘Tricky’ on steroids; one of the songs that we did, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the song ‘Black Betty’? ” he says, singing it. “I did a remake of that with Travis Barker, Sebastian Bach, and Mick Mars. So that’s going to set the tone of the album.”

He says there will be no samples. “ ‘Tricky,’ we had samples, also we had studio musicians played in and we had programmed drumbeats,” he says. “This new album is going to be live drum, live guitar, live bass, everything is done by your favorite live musician.”

For more information about McDaniel’s comic book, visit dmc-comics.com. For more updates on his album, visit @TheKingDMC.

More Celebrity Drives:

Darryl DMC Mcdaniels And 2009 Ford F 150© Provided by MotorTrend Darryl DMC Mcdaniels And 2009 Ford F 150
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