Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels says he gained strength by embracing his mental health struggles

The legendary rapper reflects on how his career impacted his mental health and what got him through tough times.

Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, Run DMC, Kings From Queens: The Run DMC Story, Black mental health, Black men's mental health, theGrio.com
Darryl McDaniels attends Tribeca TV: I Want My MTV - 2019 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theater on May 01, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

While Run-DMC was rising to become one of the most impactful rap groups in music history, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels admits the fame had dire consequences on his mental health and well-being. 

“When you see us after the concert, when the record’s out, when we’re doing the shows and on the radio and the videos, you don’t understand. You’re seeing results; you don’t see the process,” he told People magazine in a recent interview.

He added, “[E]ven when the process does go good, that didn’t mean I was immune to struggle or adversity. It hit me at a late point in my life, but it was always there. It just got magnified by the situation that I was in.” 

The rapper noted that “fortunately,” he practices an art form where performers pride themselves on “keeping it real.” 

With the release of the documentary “Kings From Queens: The Run DMC Story,” which chronicles the rise of Run-DMC, McDaniels, 59, is opening up about the mental toll of a career in the limelight in an interview with People. He said he’s struggled with depression, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse. 

He told the publication he’s learned, “When I tell my truth, I am given everything necessary for me to overcome it. If I hold it in, it will destroy me.” 

The latter almost occurred when McDaniels’ mental health caught up with him in 2002, shortly after the murder of fellow Run-DMC founding member Jam Master Jay. He said he was in a “dark place” and even considered taking his own life until he heard Sarah McLachlan’s ballad “Angel.”

“There was no feelings on the earth that I could relate to that would make me say, ‘It’s going to be all right’ — until on the radio station, I heard that piano, and then I heard that voice saying, ‘In the arms of an angel/Fly away…” he sang.

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“Something in my spirit said, ‘D, it’s f—ed up right now. Life is traumatic. It feels like the world is ending, but as long as something that sounds like this exists, maybe I can stay here another day.'”

McDaniels said talking about his mental health struggles is his way of showing his fans that opening up “isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength.”

If you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741, or visit 988lifeline.org. You may also visit therapyforblackmen.org or therapyforblackgirls.com to be connected with culturally sensitive mental health providers. 

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