Drugs, Money, Sex… Music: The DMS Crew
Words by Horace Byrd III
Lord Ezec, A.K.A. Danny Diablo, of the DMS Crew wants you to know that he’s too legit to quit the pit. Music is his blood. He’s paid his dues on these wicked streets, and if you don’t believe, he and hiz boyz may have to smack the taste out yo’ mouth.
It all started in the late 1980s. They were originally from Queens. A nice guy named Jere—a mild-mannered skinhead/computer geek who wrote graffiti, skated, and went to hardcore shows on the Lower East Side–would come up with the name: Doc Martens Skins (Dr. Martens being the steel-reinforced shoe of choice on the punk scene; Docs are like the shell-toe Adidas of rock n’ roll). The crew would hang out in a school yard and drink 40s and things. The crew would grow real quick. When crews grow quick and strong, other crews take notice. Shit usually happens when other crews take notice.
The Doc Martens Skins would soon be a force to reckon with within the New York hardcore scene. Since hardcore is linked to so many little crazy worlds, the DMS people would eventually collide with the madness that churns within the graffiti scene (word to MQ). Still, the clique continued to grow. More and more tattoos came into the mix. Then came the bands. Playing music was a healthy, positive way to channel their aggression in-between brawls. Did I mention that they brawled a lot?
DMS bands like Madball and Skarhead would eventually tour the world. And all around the world the locals would come to shows, their heads already pulsating with the spoils of DMS folklore. Even if the stories were too bananas to be true, the kids, they wanted to believe. The thing that you walk away with after a long conversation with high-profile Drug Money Syndicate homie Lord Ezec is, like, you kinda believe what he’s telling you. There’s an intensity that beams off the teardrop tat that hugs his upper cheek. He’s got hard horror stories for days, but what he’s most interested in now is making bomb music. He’s focused, his crew is focused. It’s all about making music and money, not maiming folks. Here come the drama lords…
Mass Appeal: What year did you get down with DMS?
EZEC: I need to think about it man…maybe 1987?
What do you remember about DMS back then?
Just the hardcore shows and the neighborhood shit. Jackson Heights shit. Beef. Most everybody hung out at [Intermediate School] 145’s yard. Me and Hoya [from Madball] and MQ became real good friends. We started going to the city, going to hardcore shows, and from there to clubs. The crew just became bigger and bigger. There was no one leader or anything like that, it was just crew. Me, Hoya, MQ, Nark…we started doing all this stuff, nah’mean?
Doin’ stuff like…what?
Chillin’. Doin’ music. This is in like ’94. Madball jumped off before my first band, Crown of Thornz, did.
So what was the first official DMS band?
I would say Dmize was. They started playing in ’90.
Tell me about Jere, the dude who started the crew.
He was from Ireland. He had a lot of heart. He was an artistic kid. He was the best writer back then out of our crew, which doesn’t say much. But he was good, he had a lot of artistic talent. He’s very educated. He was a cool kid; still is a cool kid. He looked more like a librarian than anything else.
So this librarian started a crew that went on to gain this notorious reputation…
Don’t judge a book by its cover…
But then Jere would eventually sort of disappear, right? Do you think it was partially because the crew sort of took a different turn?
Probably. He was more cool with the older [DMS] guys. But he’s still a brother of mine. I guess he grew up.
Okay, getting back to the music. First there was Dmize, and then what was the next band that came out of the crew?
Madball. I met [Freddie] Madball when he was like 16 years old; he was playin’ basketball at Thompkins Square Park. We started hanging out. His older brother is Roger Miret from Agnostic Front. I was actually supposed to play bass for [Madball]. So then we all started to hang out on the Lower East Side—in the bars. We were young, but the people knew us.
Okay, so Madball starts taking off. They tour Europe. Your band, Crown of Thornz, sorta came up right after them, right?
Yeah. We had an EP drop in ’95 called Train Yard Blues [Equal Vision]; we dropped an album, Mentally Vexed [Another Planet/Profile], in 1996. We started touring. By ’98 we’d been all over the world, but we wound up breaking up that year. And it wasn’t like we were a DMS band or anything. Crown of Thornz was pretty much a rock n’ roll band. Skarhead, my band after Crown of Thornz, was a DMS band. Shit, our first EP’s titled Drugs, Money, Sex [Another Planet/Profile]. Skarhead was ignorant thugcore. Straight up. We were the first of the “thugcore” bands. So many of these kids try to do that shit now.
CROWN OF THORNZ “JUGGERNAUT”
I’m not gonna say names, man, hurt peoples feelings like that.
C’mon, man. If you pioneered it, why not?
“Nah, we just did the right thing. We were the first ones to talk about what we talk about. Instead of talkin’ about the typical hardcore, ‘You stabbed me in the back/I thought you were my friend’ shit, we talked about life.” – Lord Ezec
Yeah, well, the lyrics you guys were kicking certainly were different from the sort of, like, rich, white kid from Connecticut sort of worldview that was popular in the late ‘80s. Then again, a lot of people say that, because of the influence of DMS and Skarhead, a lot of those suburban kids stopped coming to shows because they were afraid of the violence that DMS is often associated with.
That’s why it’s called hardcore and not fuckin’ softcore. I mean, when we were going to hardcore shows when we were kids, we used to be scared of fuckin’ freaks like [Murphy’s Law’s] Jimmy Gestapo, or Harley, or John Bloodclot from the Cro Mags. It was like, “Oh shit, those guys are crazy.” If someone got beat up, it was for a reason, and you knew not to stand over there, and that’s it. These kids come to shows now, they’re like, fuckin’ P.C. They should be wearin’ dresses. Hardcore was all about the mission: you come off the train, go into the city, see fuckin’ crazy people hanging out and anything can happen to you. Now it’s like…it’s fuckin’ horrible.
1"I don’t give a fuck. Yo, if you’re not from New York City, you don’t know anything about hip hop." - Lord Ezec
So you became one of the crazy people.
Hey, I’m always well mannered…
Did that rep for violence hurt you guys at a certain point? Did promoters not want to book the bands?
We didn’t give a fuck. I mean, we never got paid or anything, but who cares? We didn’t give a fuck. We’re about playing music and having a good time: get laid, fuckin’ get fucked up, and that’s it. We’re like Vikings. All over the world, that’s what we did. We went to someone’s fuckin’ country, city, state, wherever. We go in there, play the music, destroy shit, fuck their bitches, do a whole bunch of drugs, and bounce somewhere else. Steal something also and bounce. Punch someone in the face, bounce.
Would you say that at a certain point things got a little nutty?
Yeah, you could say that. It was crazy early on, but then as you get older, people start going to jail, getting in trouble for a lot more stuff. It gets more serious. We aren’t kids anymore. People start making money doing other things, then money gets involved in the friendship sometimes…right now, it’s way different. We’re trying to do the same thing like Soul Assassins did over there on the West Coast. We’re just a crew, an organization….
We got our own Secretary. We got a Sergeant of Arms, shit like that.
So who’s the Secretary? Who’s the Sergeant of Arms?
I can’t say. People are gonna read this, man. Just know that if something happens, we take care of it real fast. That’s all.
Something like what?
Do you guys have DMS meetings?
Yeah, of course. It’s almost like what we’re doing now, minus the tape recorder [laughs].
LORD EZEC AKA DANNY DIABLO LIVE AT B.B. KING’S
What happened with Skarhead?
Yo, you meet someone—a girl or something—and you try to change your life or whatever, but shit doesn’t work out.
So a girl sort of tried to change your life?
Well, I tried to change my own life. I don’t blame it on the bitch. I blame it on myself.
How did you try to change your life?
Try to do the right thing, like stop hanging out with certain friends…I’m a fuckin’ man, I’ve been hangin’ out with these kids my whole life—which would get me in trouble, no matter what I do. But still, they’re my boys. I did a lot with my friends. Like anything else, shit doesn’t work out, you go back to your roots. Music is what I want to do with my life. Make music, tour. I’m doing my own solo shit now, going from Lord Ezec to Danny Diablo.
Wasn’t there some kind of weird beef between you guys and Papa Roach?
Yeah, the Papa Roach guys’ tour manager said we tried to pull a gun out, said we tried to rob him or something. People are always making stories up. We never did that.
I know you were living out in Cleveland for a while, but didn’t you have some beef with some locals out thataway?
I was living out there, dating one of their homegirls, in their neighborhood and they didn’t do anything. But it was squashed, they were just herbs talking shit. I remember we were on tour with Motörhead, and I caught one of them out there; I punched him in the face and he called the cops on me. But I hid and I played the show. Then he got arrested. Then I caught the fuckin’ guy who was talking the most shit. I feel bad, but it was for like eight years this guy was talking mad shit.
Did you ever see or hear from this guy again?
It was fucked up, I heard he went home early, that his whole tour got fucked up. And to top it off, he came home to his fuckin’ wife in bed with some guy. Imagine getting beat down severely, embarrassed, go home and somebody’s fuckin’ your wife? That’s why I’m like, “Fuck bitches.” Fuck bitches. That’s fucked up, man.
Talk about the infamous war between DMS and RIS [Rockin’ In Style, a rival crew].
I saw my man Ghost at his opening the other day. He’s cool. I like Ghost. We talked about his Ren & Stimpy joints.
But throughout the beef you always liked his stuff, you always had respect for him?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I respect him, man. He’s a neighborhood guy.
How did the beef start?
Oh, you should know…some guy from my high school had beef with someone—someone he plays basketball with now [laughs]. Seriously though, I never liked JA anyway, so it doesn’t matter. Those kids, they’re weird, man. Most of those kids are like…I give Ghost respect, but the rest of them have always been dick-riders. I told JA he was a dick-rider. All those kids are just rich kids. Most of them are rich kids that wanna get down. Yo, listen, all the shit is the same. That’s why fuckin’ white fuckin’ rich girls from fuckin’ nice schools wanna fuckin’ hang out with niggas like me. It’s the same thing: roll around in the dirt for a little bit. Then when they get caught up in it, they’re like, “Ohhh!” Either they bounce back home, or they become strippers hooked on dope. Same thing with these guys. When they’re caught up in the graffiti thing, either they’re fuckin’ hooked on drugs, or they get killed by a real nigga. That’s basically it.
Again, back to the big question: Do you think your reputation has hurt you in some ways?
It helped me, too.
But how has it hurt you?
Because sometimes people, instead of seeing me as a musician, they see me as a thug. I really don’t give a fuck. But now with my solo stuff, I see people treating me as more of an artist. I like it better that way. I don’t regret anything I’ve fuckin’ done. It’s part of life. I could sit here babbling story after story, there’s so much shit I can’t even tell.
Do you think the world at large is ready for New York thugcore?
You mean like normal people? Yeah, of course. People consider fuckin’ 50 Cent and all that shit to be the same shit. He’s talkin’ about the same thing I’m talkin’ about, right?
Well, tell me about this song you got dissing Fred Durst—over the “Wanksta” beat.
Yeah, that song, it’s promo only…I feel kind of bad about that.
Why do you feel bad?
Because it’s, like, tearing him up, poor guy. I just don’t like him because of the way he talks…he thinks he knows about hip hop. He doesn’t really know anything about hip hop.
A lot of these artists, a lot of people, would probably look at me and go, “Yo, that little whiteboy don’t know anything about hip hop.” Me? I’ve been going to clubs since way before some of these so-called artists even knew what rap was. You know, like, they don’t even know who Kool G Rap is, or who Lord Finesse is. They listen to Fabolous and fuckin’ Murphy Lee.
You dis Fred Durst and now you feel bad? Why? 50 Cent doesn’t feel bad about dissing people.
Well, I’m not 50 Cent. But Fred Durst…whatever. I just don’t like anything he stands for, just the way he is. His music’s kinda wack, it’s candy-coated. To me, I just hate that shit. That’s all.
This is just an on record battle, right?
C’mon, are you crazy? [Laughs]. He doesn’t want it. I’m coming with that street shit. With the rap and the hardcore mixed together. And the punk stuff also, nah’mean? And the classic rock shit. I’m just gonna do good music, that’s all. Something I can wake up the next day and respect myself for. Not like these guys who sell their soul out. Some of these guys must be crying inside because they can’t do what they wanna do.
What is the goal? The overall goal is what?
The goal is to make a lot of money, fuckin’ go on tour, have a good time, get fucked up. Do it all again the next day. That’s it. And represent my crew and my people.
What’s the future of DMS?
It’s a closed thing now. We don’t put people down with the clique anymore. We’re getting older. Half of us are buying fuckin’ motorcycles…Fuckin’ who knows? But right now, it’s a brotherhood. Drugs, Money, Sex. Dirty Money Syndicate. It’s a lifestyle, and we do live it everyday.
Describe the lifestyle.
Drugs, Money, Sex. Some do a little bit more than others, some do a little less…but that’s basically it. And no matter right or wrong, we take each other’s backs. That’s what makes us different from a lot of people. A lot of people are like, “Yo, I’m not involved in that shit.” But no matter what, if one of my brothers is involved in something, I have to be involved in it—whether they’re right or wrong. And that’s it.
You’ve been in situations when shit was wrong, but you had to…
Yeah, of course. C’mon—half of my fuckin’ friends are wrong. You know that. Still, they’re crew. Some people hate us, naturally. I know there’s dudes out there that, when they see my CD in their girl’s apartment, they get mad. But that’s life. Same thing happens to me, too. I’ve been with girls when other niggas in bands done fucked them. And I hate them, too. What goes around comes around, B. I’m not gonna cry about it.
I got stabbed up once with a rusty screwdriver. I was in the hospital for two months. It was an 8-inch flathead. My liver got cut in half. I almost died. I didn’t even care back then. But now that I think about it, I don’t wanna get stabbed again like that. Sometimes I think I’m invincible. I’m human, but sometimes I don’t give a fuck. Because God’s gonna take you no matter what. Your time is your time. That’s why we live life to the fullest. I try to do the right thing, and that’s all.