The idea of a psychic/intuitive and reader of tarot cards and a certifiable hip-hop icon speaking on anything let alone karma and fate sounds like the beginning of a very bad joke. “So, a psychic and a rapper walk into a bar…” Certainly the whole concept of this recent talk at The Rubin Museum of Art fell under the umbrella of WTF, but then again the evening had real potential.
Last Friday, while the eastern seaboard was on the lookout for Hurricane Joaquin, I threw on my rain boots, went into the city, and headed over to the Rubin. The museum houses a world-class collection of Southeast Asian religious art, but I hadn’t braved the elements to take in some Tibetan Buddhist mandalas. I was at the Rubin to hear psychic/intuitive and reader of tarot cards Pattie Canova and Run DMC’s Daryl “DMC” McDaniels chop it up about karma and fate.
Canova is a respected interpreter of archetypes and symbols, and a teacher with a serious following. As for DMC? He’s the King of Rock. Sadly, as it turns out, single handedly changing the pop music landscape doesn’t carry much weight with people who wear those wooden bead bracelets. After conducting a highly random poll of, like, five out of approximately 75 attendees I learned that other than the lone black guy—who told me he was there because A) the topic sounded interesting and B) he was a Run DMC fan—everybody else was rolling with Pattie. Maybe on some level I shouldn’t have been so surprised. It was a mainly white middle-aged crowd—but hey, I’m mainly white and middle aged! Aren’t the Beastie Boys and Run DMC the two rap groups that all white people know? Should I hum a few bars of “Walk This Way?”
As it turned out, Canova wasn’t exactly sure who DMC was, either. Canova claimed that, like DMC, she was a pioneer in her field, but admitted that she’s not a big hip-hop fan. Although, she said laughing, she had given birth to a rap-loving son. It was after seeing 8 Mile that Canova changed her mind about rap. “[Rap] is like poetry,” she declared. New drinking game: Every time a middle-aged white person says rap is like poetry take a shot! “Poetry with music,” DMC said, finishing her thought. Maybe these two had more in common than I realized.
Wearing skin-tight black jeans and an equally clingy black glittery top, the flame-haired Canova, who is probably in her late 50s, was equal parts Lanie Kazan, Shirley McClaine and Fran Dresher, the latter thanks to Canova’s New Yawkese (she and DMC were serving up a master class in outer-borough accents). Canova might have been the draw but she knew enough to lay back in the cut and allow DMC, a natural story teller if there ever was one, to wax philosophic and nostalgic about fame, his former battles with depression and alcoholism, and how, when he was in his mid-30s (he’s now 50), he found out that he was adopted. “In some ways we are all adopted” Canova assured him. Whatever.
After letting DMC grab the mic—not literally, of course—Canova took control. “I want to talk to you about, about karma, words that we hear bandied about, and we are going to see what you think about what I’m going to say.” First things first. Canova told DMC that his personal tarot card was the High Priestess, a revelation that was met with quiet oohs and murmurs from the audience. Said High Priestess is not only a dweller of the underground that visits the realm of death but is the keeper of secrets. “She’s born with a secret,” Canova intoned. Cue more murmurs. The implication was that the secret(s) all stemmed from DMC growing up not knowing who he really was. DMC was all ears, taking in everything Canova had to say, mulling it over and then immediately making a connection between what she and the cards “knew” and actual events. When Canova asked him if he knew he had a biological sister, DMC exclaimed “yes!” as if he couldn’t believe that this woman he had just met could possibly know that. Mugging for the audience Canova boasted, “I’m good.” A joke. She was actually kind of funny.
Although I wouldn’t base my life around the outcome, I’ve done my share of dabbling in quasi-new age stuff, including Tarot and consulting the I-Ching. My best friend is well versed in both and over the years has given me many readings and tossed many an I-Ching coin, of which the results have been quite informative. Then again, she is my best friend and knows me like the back of her hand. But I’ve also had my cards read by strangers including a former porn star turned soothsayer. Not for nothing, but the guy knew his stuff. Yes, there has to be some suspension of disbelief but when done by the right person I think that you can glean real insight.
By virtue of her being at the Rubin, Canova is someone of substance, but now and then her insights into DMC’s life—especially when she read his cards—sounded a bit like hunches and clichés. That Canova knew DMC had a sister was as much intuition as it was a lucky guess (he also has two brothers). Canova offered that for DMC, “The journey for you will be about your father—you’re the father. That’s the role you’re trying to assimilate.” Her musings could be applicable to any man, but she was aware that DMC was adopted, worked with children, and had a family of his own. Not too big of a reach to connect DMC’s “journey” to the search for a father. Ever wonder why some some folks make it and some, under the same circumstances, don’t? According to Canova, it’s “because we all have a script. Everybody comes in with their own script.” Ding! Ding! Ding! Cliche in aisle 7.
After deeming his cards as “good,” Canova ran through a list of things DMC needed to be on the lookout for: real estate (“That land deal you might be thinking about? I think it’s a raw deal—I think there’s the letter ‘L’ involved”) and shady business deals (hello, he’s in the music biz). Referring to DMC’s friend Eric, who was in the audience, Canova said, “[He] can tell you that somebody around is not handling your money right.” Canova said she saw a death in the family, a distant relative. She also told him he was about to make a change in his career—turns out that DMC has been taking meetings about a possible Broadway show, but, again, who hasn’t ruminated about their careers, their money, family? Now and then Canova would redeem herself. Riffing on the nature of the destiny and fate, Canova announced: “and when somebody says ‘You have lousy karma, cause you really had a shitty life,’ you have to get up and smack that person. You should be allowed to smack that person.” DMC greeted it all with flashes of enthusiasm and deep thought, after which he launched into more monologues about everything from his inner child, the demise of Run DMC, his love of heavy metal, and meeting his personal Jesus, Sarah McLaughlin at Clive Davis’ annual Grammy party (DMC claims that her hit “Angel” lifted him out of the depths of despair). Canova was clearly taken with DMC, laughing at his stories, guiding him towards seeing the bigger picture. But by the end of the talk it felt like the audience wanted more Canova and less The Rapper Guy—charming as he might be—telling crazy stories about that one time he and his manager drove to rehab and what a nut Run is.
All in all it was a highly enjoyable and, at times, engrossing night. Not much of what DMC had to say was news to me; I’ve interviewed him in the past. His openness, however, especially considering that Canova had home field advantage, was admirable. Canova deserves much dap for allowing DMC to be himself but always bringing the conversation, such as it was, back to the subject at hand. Did I think that the evening was going to dive a little deeper into that subject? Yeah, kinda. Yet even with some of the predictability of Canova’s responses, I left feeling as though she did have that intangible something. The only thing that didn’t ring true was her claim that not only did she have no idea who DMC was and that she hadn’t Googled him before the talk. Psychic or not, if you’re going to be essentially interviewing someone you want to suss out some information. Maybe that’s the latent cynic in me. Maybe part of that suspension of disbelief is trusting that whatever Pattie Canova knew about Daryl “DMC” McDaniels came from sources more ancient than Wikipedia. I’m willing to spot her that—just don’t call rap poetry, ok?
[Illustration by Jim Cooke]