Review by C.J. Bunce
Darryl McDaniels–he’s the DMC of the trio Run DMC, known for its team-up with Aerosmith on the band’s cover of “Walk this Way,” plus hits like “Tricky” and more. He’s the King of Rock, sold 30 million albums, made rap and hip-hop the popular music genre it is today, and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But he doesn’t count any of those things as his most important personal accomplishment. In his memoir, Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide–A Memoir, McDaniels reveals in a personal and down-to-earth way the trials he has faced despite his money and career success, leading to alcoholism and debilitating depression. Despite its “Ten Ways…” title, it’s not his version of a twelve-step program as much as an insightful self-help book that doubles as an autobiography.
McDaniels’ story is deep and dark and yet he uses his story to motivate those around him and his writing reflects this generous sharing of failures for others to learn from. McDaniels was a middle class, self-styled geek, raised in a good family, successfully avoiding the gangs and violence of New York City as a kid, and by the time he was out of his teens he was a superstar. As a kid he loved comic books and he loved to draw. “Growing up, I’d always been a comic book geek. I loved to draw superheroes almost as much as I liked to read about them. Comics were an escape, a way to make myself feel strong and invincible rather than like the quiet little four-eyed nerd I essentially was.” But his venture into comics wouldn’t happen until much later. He jumped on board with two neighborhood kids from Queens as they used turntables and rhyme to create a new music niche in the mid-1980s. All those kids wearing high-top sneakers with no shoestrings? Run-DMC also set a new fashion style for a generation. And McDaniels infused comic book concepts into his songs along the way.
But McDaniels says he always felt something missing, and he often turned to alcohol to escape. Ups and downs and assistance from family and friends allowed him to break through it all and come out on top, but not easily. In one of his best stories he recounts the backlash early on that he received because of his band’s instant fame–even beyond other established rap heroes. Members of his favorite band–Cold Crush–dissed him and Joey “Run” Simmons backstage at a show, but rather than be brought down by it, he saw it as an indication of success. But by McDaniels’ account, Run’s dominance in the band left him without a role after a few albums, and alcoholism would literally take away McDaniel’s voice. After he thought he was past the alcoholism, he would find himself returning to drinking whenever a life crisis presented itself. A key event was discovering he was adopted, learned after a conversation with his mother while working on documenting his life story. He would go on a reality show and track down and ultimately find his biological family, which introduced even more confusion for his mental state, but it was also his pathway for getting help from a therapist and rehab. Inspiration to get help and move forward surprisingly also came from the soothing music of Sarah McLachlan, and his story of her role in his upward climb is now well-known. They eventually recorded an album together (I discussed it here at borg.com after meeting McDaniels at Planet Comicon back in 2014). It’s a great story and he recounts all the details in his book.
We know McDaniels in the comic book world from what he has done after Run DMC broke up upon the death of band member DJ Jam Master Jay, publishing his own comics as DMC, now “Darryl Makes Comics” and speaking and rhyming for fans across the country. McDaniels has attended local conventions and comic book store events, and is a champion of foster kids and adoption.
You won’t find ten steps in this book that will help you or someone you care about deal with depression, but his message of “you are not alone” should resonate with anyone. McDaniels addresses many areas of tragedy, and if you or someone you know suffers from depression, addiction, has experienced the deaths of close family and friends, if they’ve wrestled with attempts at brainwashing or religious cults, overbearing friends and colleagues, and if you’ve been adopted or are thinking about adopting and fostering, you will find something positive and helpful to take away from McDaniels’ story. A great read published in hardcover late last year, Darryl McDaniels’ Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide–A Memoir is now available in paperback here at Amazon from HarperCollins’ Amistad imprint.