First Wave Student and Local Talent Standout Record with Run-DMC Legend

Last Saturday was one of those days of local legend: Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels found himself coming to Madison to shoot a video at the Allied Boys & Girls Club for the song the two collaborated on called “What it Feels Like.”

Hip-hop music legend Darryl "DMC" McDaniels of Run-DMC fame, right, and 18-year-old Sam "Pretty Boy Hefner" Wright of Madison discuss their collaborative music video during a session Saturday at the Allied Boys & Girls Club.
Hip-hop music legend Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run-DMC fame, right, and 18-year-old Sam “Pretty Boy Hefner” Wright of Madison discuss their collaborative music video during a session Saturday at the Allied Boys & Girls Club.

Amy Alida, a UW-Madison student and a 6th Cohort First Wave Urban Arts scholar, also is featured in the song.

The story begins with an encounter between McDaniels – better known as hip-hop legend DMC of Run-DMC fame – and Sam Wright in a meet-and-greet line after DMC performed at the 2013 Taste of Madison.

Wright — who had performed an opening act as “Pretty Boy Hefner” — stood in line behind all the fawning fans taking their turn for a handshake and a selfie. When Wright’s turn finally came along, he had a message to deliver.

As DMC recalls, there were two main points to that message: “Run-DMC changed my life,” and “I want to change my generation.”

It was a message that got DMC’s attention. It also was a distinctly different message than he got from most other wannabe rappers.

“Most young dudes run up to me and say, ‘Yo, listen to my CD, I want to get rich and famous,’” DMC said. “He didn’t say that. He said, ‘I want to make music that’s going to inspire my generation. I have a vision, I want to do things that change the world, just like you did.’

“His presentation and his approach was amazing.”

For the soft-spoken Wright (“Hef”), the whole chain of events is pretty amazing.

“To know that you inspired a legend … that’s huge,” said Wright, 18, of Madison.

During that first conversation, Wright got DMC’s email address and sent him some of his music to hopefully receive some feedback. Eventually, DMC agreed to add a verse to the song.

Hip-hop music legend Darryl "DMC" McDaniels of Run-DMC fame.
Hip-hop music legend Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run-DMC fame.

“It started with me listening to his song and it turned into where he got DMC on his record, shooting the video with him and to come to his city and make an appearance at the Boys and Girls Club here,” said DMC, 50. “That’s a story to tell.

“It was all because of him. More young people need to see that potential. I always tell young people, take advantage of every little opportunity that is given to you, no matter how corny it may seem. Because it’s the corny, cool, nerdy, geeky stuff that changes your life and the world. He’s an example of that.”

Wright said he didn’t really have a problem working up the nerve to approach DMC, part of just the second hip-hop group to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Growing up in a sketchy environment, spending much of his life in foster homes, Wright was determined to seize the opportunity.

“I looked back at my life in the past and it was like, hey, this is my chance to get away from that,” he said. “I just wanted a chance and that’s how I reached out to him.”

Wright, who graduated from La Follette High School, started coming to the Boys & Girls Club at age 16. He met music producer Gregory Doby through the club’s Celebrity Music Mentors Program and last year was named the national winner of the Digital Arts Festival competition for music.

Wright recorded his part of “What it Feels Like” at the Boys & Girls Club recording studio, while DMC sent his vocal tracks by email.

The song and video are expected to be released early next year. It will be used to promote the club’s Celebrity Music Mentors Program and presumably boost Wright’s career.

At this point, DMC wouldn’t put anything past his protégé.

“Somebody asked me what do I think he’ll be in 10 years,” DMC said. “I think he’ll be a mogul, because it’s not just about the music. It’s bigger than that.

“He’s a young man with a vision. Young people with vision change the world. But it’s up to us, people in position to give those kids the opportunities to help them get to where they’re supposed to go. Persistence overcomes resistance. He was persistent and it made his dream come true.”

Wright hopes that he can be an inspiration for other young people who may find themselves in tough circumstances.

“What we’re trying to do is inspire the world,” he said. “Young people can take on this motivation and say he’s just like me, but I can do the same thing he’s doing. That’s amazing when I can touch somebody’s heart.

“I want to be in a position 10 years from now where, if I stop or die, my name will still be circling the world. To do that I have to do what the next man is not trying to do. I have to work harder than that.”

Originally written by Dennis Punzel | Wisconsin State Journal