Hip-hop statesman Darryl McDaniels has weighed in on some contentious issues surrounding the state of the genre today. In an incendiary interview with Double Down News, the rapper shared his views on a variety of topics, including hip-hop’s glorification of gun violence, the public responsibility of artists within the genre, and the future possibility of change. A founding member of the legendary Run DMC, McDaniels’ lyrics promoted positivity, inspiring youths to educate themselves and avoid the violence and illegality that is often glorified within the genre.
“All of the possibilities to make changes is right at our fingertips, but nobody is utilising them.”
Calling for artists to step up to the plate as role models for the younger generation, McDaniels took aim at the rampant endorsement of drug use, violence, and materialism in hip-hop today. Arguing that artists have a responsibility as storytellers to shape the narratives that influence their listeners, he maintains that it’s not acceptable to promote violent behaviour simply because it’s “entertainment”. By focusing on beef and violence between rappers, he claims, we distract from a far more pressing issue: the violence and conflicts in our communities.
“We need groups that look like Migos rapping like De La Soul. We need a guy like Drake making records like Chuck D and Public Enemy.”
Once a counter-cultural movement that resisted the establishment and fought for the rights of minorities, hip-hop has grown into the dominant musical force in the industry today. McDaniels remembers a time when “every time there was an issue in our community, in our music, in society, that very week a rapper would make a record about it.” It could be said that hip-hop’s entry into mainstream culture has caused a shift in focus from the political to the personal: no longer concerned with social change, it’s become nothing but a business aimed at selling as many records and tickets as possible – and the lyrics that sell the most records conform to a stereotypical notion of the genre, promoting an individualistic outlook that glorifies violence and drug use. Despite this, McDaniels acknowledges that there are outliers within the scene – artists like Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper that is moving the genre forward with thoughtful lyrics and a positive message.
“We need dudes in hip-hop that don’t get high. We need dudes in hip-hop that ain’t in a street gang. We need to flood hip-hop with Kendrick Lamars and Chance the Rappers.”
McDaniels says that the need to use music to effect social change has never been more urgent. With such deep divisions and conflict in our society today, the responsibility to effect “change in the everyday lives of our people” is as pressing as it was when Run DMC formed in 1981. The problem, McDaniels says, is that nobody is talking about it.
“What’s lacking is the responsibility that comes with hip-hop to make the necessary changes, that nobody’s gonna do for us.