Universally known as the “Devastating Mic Controller,” D.M.C. is one-third of one of the greatest music groups of all time: Run-D.M.C.. But, for decades now — especially after the untimely death of third member Jam-Master Jay in 2002 and the 2005 launch of the MTV reality series, Run’s House, which highlighted the family life of frontman Run — D.M.C., born Darryl McDaniels, has been the most obscure member of the trio.
Enter Justin Bua, the man behind the intimate original documentary D.M.C.: Walk This Way, which aired last month on Ovation TV. An acclaimed NYC-raised artist fascinated by the gritty nature of hip-hop, Bua teamed up with the Queens rapper to finally tell his story, including being adopted, his struggle with alcoholism and coping with his ongoing vocal problems.
XXLMag.com caught up with Bua and D.M.C. to talk more about documenting the man behind the music. —Rachelle Jean-Louis
XXL: How did this documentary come about?
Justin Bua: [Ovation TV] gave me an opportunity to do my own [documentary] and to host my own. I’ve always been a huge fan of Run-D.M.C.. I reached out to D. I just felt like his story is the story that you never hear. We can’t really get Jay’s story; he’s dead, and Run is kinda like this caricature of himself on MTV. He’s kinda like the polished reverend. But nobody really knows Darryl. You know, nobody knows the man behind D.M.C.. I do, and I actually learned more as I went along. It was so compelling and so interesting, and I was like, “That’s a story that needs to get told.” So that’s what I did: I told the untold story.
How did you meet? How long have you known each other?
Bua: I’ve known D for a couple of years. I was working on a project with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar called On the Shoulders of Giants, which I directed this documentary narrated by Jamie Foxx. I was with Chuck D, who was also on the documentary, and Kareem, me and Chuck were shooting some of the documentary at my studio. I was working on a painting. Chuck went up to the painting and was like, “Yo, my God, this is dope.” It was a painting of Run-D.M.C. for my Legends of Hip-Hop book that I was working on. Chuck’s like, “Yo, D is gonna love that.” I was like, “You know him?” He was like, “Yeah, I’m gonna text him right now.” That’s actually how it started. He just texted me right back. He was very humble, you know, very down to earth. We just started building right off the bat, just like that.
D.M.C.: He’s an artist, and he does this incredible artwork. He does with art what Grandmaster Flash does with turntables. [laughs] He’s a foundation of hip-hop. He looks at me like I’m great, but like, he was there in the beginning. He was there with Crazy Legs and Rock Steady and Bambaataa. He’s the real deal because he’s hip-hop without the music business. We hooked up with just our mutual friend because of the culture of hip-hop.
For those who haven’t caught it, what can fans expect to see in this documentary?
D.M.C.: I’m a normal dude. My new saying is, “you’re not my fan, you’re my friend.” You just happen to be somebody that likes my music. But I ain’t better than you. Like, my whole thing is, rap is what I do; it’s not who I am. None of us is special. I’m the dude that’s not afraid to show that. If I’m doing good, I’ll show you; if I’m doing bad I’ll show you. So people always know me as the “King of Rock,” you know, the first to go gold, first to go platinum, that’s bullshit to me. Excuse my French, but that’s bull. It has nothing to do with the life that we live. For me, I’m not a politician—I hate politics and I hate organized religion, ‘cause organized religion and politics divide the people. Music is the only thing on the face of the earth that succeeds where politics and religion fail. People tell me, you know, all these guys – Eminem, Diddy, Nelly – “Yo, because of you, I do what I do.” But I had to get it from somewhere. There would be no Run-D.M.C. if it wasn’t for the rappers that came before us, before this music was put on records. So that’s why I love Bua. Our culture has nothing to do with show business, but it is part of it. So for me, I’d rather do a presentation of the D.M.C. guy, but not just what I do on records.
What do you think is the most interesting part of the project?
D.M.C.: [Bua] brought Grandmaster Caz from the Cold Crush Crew in. Caz started talking. I started reciting his lyrics, and Caz looked at me and could not believe I knew every word of every song of everything that they’d ever said. It was just amazing. When Bua brought Caz into that room, all my D.M.C. kingdomship went out the door, because I was humbled because nobody understands—if it wasn’t for Caz, there would be no Run, D and Jay. So for me, that’s the most powerful moment, ‘cause nobody understands what was going on in that room right then and there. Now I really realize when somebody comes to me and says “Yo D.M.C., you don’t know what Run- D.M.C. did for me.” I do understand, because when Caz walked into that room, something happened to me.
Bua: In the documentary, I do a portrait of [D.M.C.]. I do a literal portrait, like in paint. But I think that you really uncover the spirit of who D.M.C. is – the realness, the authenticity of him, and the sadness. I think the portrait is significant.
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