Darryl McDaniels heard the voice. He sensed honesty in the lyrics. And they were calling him to Dallas.
McDaniels, better known as “DMC” of the iconic hip-hop group Run-DMC, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, wanted to get in the studio with Cole Beasley.
“I’ll collaborate with anybody if they’re making good, inspirational, positive music,” DMC said Friday in an interview with The Buffalo News. “He’s not an athlete trying to be a rapper. He’s a serious song writer, artist, human being that has something to say.
“That’s what attracted me to him.”
Beasley, the Buffalo Bills’ wide receiver, at the time a member of the Dallas Cowboys, released a rap single, “80 Stings,” in January 2018. It was a prelude to his 13-track debut album, “The Autobiography,” which came out four months later through ColdNation Records, a company he co-founded with producer Victor “Phazz” Clark.
Around that same time, DMC and Beasley recorded a track titled “Adrenaline Junkie,” which has remained unreleased because of contractual issues. That is, until this week, when The Buffalo News began reporting a story on Beasley’s rap career and began asking about the holdup.
“It looks like I was able to get the details and the percentages worked out,” Clark said late Friday night after negotiating terms with talent manager John Gomez, who had initially reached out to Beasley's camp to connect the athlete and DMC. “That means that you can say that the record is going to come out in a couple of weeks. I could have it drop by next weekend, actually.
“We’ve been sitting on this for a minute.”
Gomez confirmed a deal was in place to release the song, which includes performances by Chris Perez, a Grammy Award winner perhaps best known as Selena’s lead guitarist and widower; Blue October bass player Matt Noveskey; and a chorus by 18-year-old De’Stani Bryant, who has appeared on FOX’s the Four: Battle for Stardom and advanced to Hollywood Week on ABC’s American Idol.
“It was awesome just to see somebody who’s done it for a long time and did it at a high level and watch their process in the studio, because that’s very interesting to me,” Beasley said about collaborating with DMC. “He doesn’t write anything down when he’s in the studio. He kind of just does it, remembers it and goes.
“Every now and then he would forget a line that he had on there, and then he’d go, ‘Oh, yeah.’ It’s amazing to me that he can do that, and kind of recite those things without having it written down. Because that would be impossible for me.”
DMC said their song delivers a powerful message.
“Adrenaline Junkie is about the adrenaline that you can get at any given time, but when it comes to anxiety, nervousness, questioning yourself, use that adrenaline in a positive way,” DMC said. “Cole’s lyrics inspired me to write my lyrics the way that I did on the record, where I open up about wanting to commit suicide and being depressed and being alcoholic.
“So in Cole’s verse of the Adrenaline song, it let me see myself and how I could turn a negative into a positive, because a lot of people get adrenaline and then they run from it. You know what I’m saying? When I heard his song, he said stuff about how you question yourself sometimes and you get that anxiety, but that’s just an adrenaline rush. Don’t use that fuel to take you further in a negative direction. Let it power you up.”
A different vibe
Beasley, a 5-foot-8, 174-pound, 30-year-old from suburban Dallas, announced the formation of his record label in 2018 with a news release explaining that family and football remained his top priorities.
He brought a different vibe to the hip-hop genre.
Beasley’s lyrics were free of profanity, and he rapped about his wife and kids and putting money away for their college education.
“If it’s something I don’t know anything about, I don’t want to talk about it,” Beasley said. “Or if it’s something that I don’t go through, I don’t want to talk about it, either. I don’t concern myself as much with worrying about what people want to hear. That’s not what music is for me. It’s more about what I want to express and get out of my head.”
His talent, while admittedly raw, was evident.
“The Autobiography” peaked at No. 7 on the iTunes top 100 chart and No. 25 on the Billboard Top Rap Albums chart, Clark said, after a social media push and release party attended by Cowboys teammates, including running back Ezekiel Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott.
“We definitely got a super, super boost. Ain’t no doubt about it,” Clark said. “But the boost elevated from the talent. There’s a lot of athletes that drop records, and it don’t do that.”
DMC, 55, arrived at Clark's home studio in Frisco, Texas, sporting a black Guns N’ Roses T-shirt. He recalls eyeing up the diminutive Beasley, who had a red-and-black flannel cap turned backward and perched atop his tufts of curly blonde hair.
DMC said Beasley was “very soft-spoken” and “very polite.”
“When I saw him, I was like, ‘This (expletive) plays football?’” DMC said, laughing. “And then you see the highlights and you’re like, ‘Yo, this guy’s phenomenal.’ He’s like that in real life.
“When you meet him, even as an artist, you’re like, ‘This can’t be the guy that was on that record I just heard.’ And then he goes in the booth and he transforms into an energetic juggernaut of performance art, which is the same thing that he does on the football field.”
Beasley was 11 when Eminem’s third studio album, "The Marshall Mathers LP," debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200, and he was enamored by the rapper’s vulgar but introspective lyrics about fame and controversy.
“I was probably listening to some (stuff) I probably shouldn’t have,” Beasley said. “But that’s all right. I loved it, man. I got drawn into it. And then I started listening to it differently and kind of dissecting every song and the patterns people rhyme words with. That’s really why I became a huge Em fan. I studied his stuff, from how he breaks it down to syllables instead of words, almost. He makes more words rhyme in a bar than anybody, and I fell in love with that.
“I just enjoy the craftsmanship of it more than anything.”
In high school, Beasley and his friends used to freestyle lyrics in the car.
At SMU, he bought an editing program called Studio One and began writing, recording and mixing his own music.
I’ve been rappin since college so quit with the negativity. Without music there is no football for me.
— Cole Beasley (@Bease11) April 18, 2018
Beasley signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2012 and nearly walked away from football during that first training camp.
“The NFL wasn't how I expected it to be,” Beasley told The Buffalo News in May. “When you're growing up, you think the best players play all the time, but there's a lot of other things that go into it because of the business aspect of it.”
After conversations with his father, his coach at Little Elm High School, Beasley returned and earned a spot on the Cowboys’ 53-man roster. He spent seven seasons with the Cowboys, posting his best stats in 2016, when he recorded 75 catches for 833 yards and five touchdowns, all career highs.
A year earlier, Clark and then-Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox, who played keyboard, were introduced by former Cowboys defensive end Greg Ellis. Ellis had hired the music producer to work on his film, “Carter High,” and soon, Clark and Wilcox were recording beats.
It wasn’t long before other Cowboys were hanging out in the studio.
“Cole heard about what was going on and got my number from Jeremy Mincey, one of the linebackers,” Clark said, “and he came through and we chopped it up. He told me he rapped. I said, ‘OK, cool, why don’t you let me hear something?’ So he played me something out of his phone, and I was immediately like, ‘That’s not you, right?’
“Yeah, that’s me.”
“I was just kind of blown away,” Clark said. “I was totally caught off-guard that he could rap like that. And I’ve been in the business for a long time. I’ve been full-time for 20 years, so I know talent right away. It doesn’t take no rocket scientist to see it quick.”
'The great ones'
The Bills signed Beasley to a four-year, $29 million contract in March, while revamping the offense around second-year quarterback Josh Allen.
Beasley had five catches for 40 yards in the Bills’ season-opening 17-16 victory against the Jets last Sunday, but he also had a low, hard pass bounce off his hands in the first quarter. It was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by C.J. Moseley, an inauspicious debut for the veteran slot receiver.
“There’s no reason to dwell on it because I don’t do stuff like that, and I know that, so there’s no reason to overthink it,” Beasley said. “I can do things to try to prevent it from happening in the future. But the great ones are ones that can have plays like that and move forward and make plays later. I take pride in doing that.”
Beasley worked on catching low passes at practice this week and on his hand-eye coordination by snagging tennis balls, thrown from behind him, off a wall at the Bills’ practice facility.
— Receiver School (@ReceiverSchool) September 12, 2019
He hasn’t been in the studio in weeks.
“It’s so hard right now with football,” Beasley said. “I wish I could do it a lot more than I do now. A lot of people would be like, if you love something, you make time for it. But it doesn’t work that way.
“I love my family more than anything, so when I’m at home I’m with them. And then I’m doing this to provide for my family, and this is what’s doing that, more so than music, so I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do for this right now, but eventually I’ll get to do that.
“I rarely get in the studio right now. It’s tough. Since the season started, I haven’t been in it.”
'Bease making you understand life itself'
Beasley has fans in the Bills’ locker room.
Cornerback Tre’Davious White first met Beasley several years ago, in Clark's studio, while he was an underclassman at LSU. White is close with former Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne, who released a single, “Pressure Makes Diamonds,” this summer.
“Him and Bease, they use the same producer, Phazz,” White said. “We went to the studio, and he was in there rapping. He was writing and stuff. … He got some flow, man. It was pretty dope. He takes it serious. And you can tell when he’s talking around here, he’s got some real savvy in him, for sure. I told him let me get on a track.”
Defensive end Shaq Lawson is angling to contribute, as well.
“Cole got the sauce. He got the flavor,” Lawson said. “I’m trying to get on a song with Cole right now. We’re going to come out with a whole mixtape. We might call it ‘Bills Mafia’ or something.”
Wide receiver Duke Williams downloaded Beasley’s album this summer.
“If Bease wasn’t playing football, then I know for sure he can be a rapper, because they’ve got so many rappers out here that are just saying anything,” Williams said. “Bease not just saying anything. Bease making you understand life itself.”
Not everyone in the Bills’ locker room – or the wide receivers’ room, for that matter – was aware of Beasley’s musical background.
“Bease?” wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie said. “You’re talking about the 5-7, little white guy with the curly hair? An album? A rapper? Nah.
“I’ve got to go check it out. I’ve got to go hear this.”
Beasley said he’s already recorded about five or six songs for his second album, which could come out as early as next offseason or take a few years.
“I’m still in the beginning stages of this stuff and learning my own sound and what I can do,” Beasley said. “I would rather take my time and do the best job I can on it.”
He said it’ll have “nothing” to do with football and be even more personal than his first album.
DMC said it was a pleasure working with Beasley on “Adrenaline Junkie.”
“It was just impressive to see somebody that was serious about the art form,” DMC said. “For Cole, it’s not a fame thing. He has his athlete life, he has his family life, and then he has a lot of stuff inside that he wants to say, that he doesn’t want to spend time going back and forth on social media with folks. If you really want to know who Cole is, you should listen to his hip-hop, his music. That’ll tell you who he is as a person.”
He also suggested a trip to Buffalo is in his future.
“I’ll see all of y’all when I come up there,” DMC said, “so me and Cole can perform it live for y’all one day.”