H.E.A.R. Honors RUN-D.M.C.
More than any other hip-hop group, Run-D.M.C. (official
site) is responsible for the sound and style of the music.
As the first hardcore rap outfit, the trio set the sound and
style for the next decade of rap. With its spare beats and
excursions into heavy metal samples, the trio was tougher
and more menacing than its predecessors Grandmaster Flash
and Whodini. In the process, it opened the door for both the
politicized rap of Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions,
as well as the hedonistic gangsta fantasies of N.W.A. At the
same time, Run-D.M.C. helped move rap from a singles-oriented
genre to an album-oriented one -- they were the first hip-hop
artist to construct full-fledged albums, not just a collection
with two singles and a bunch of filler. By the end of the
'80s, Run-D.M.C. had been overtaken by the groups they had
spawned, but they continued to perform to a dedicated following
well into the '90s.
All three members of Run-D.M.C. were natives of the middle-class
New York borough, Hollis, Queens. Run (born Joseph Simmons,
November 14, 1964) was the brother of Russell Simmons, who
formed the hip-hop management company Rush Productions in
the early '80s; by the mid-'80s, Russell had formed the pioneering
record label Def Jam with Rick Rubin. Russell encouraged his
brother Joey and his friend, Darryl McDaniel (b. May 31, 1964)
to form a rap duo. The pair of friends did just that, adopting
the names Run and D.M.C. respectively. After they graduated
from high school in 1982, the pair enlisted their friend,
Jason Mizell (b. January 21, 1965), to scratch turntables;
Mizell adopted the stage name Jam Master Jay.
In 1983, Run-D.M.C. released its first single, "It's
Like That" / "Sucker M.C.'s," on Profile Records.
The single sounded like no other rap at the time -- it was
spare, blunt and skillful, with hard beats and powerful, literate,
daring vocals, where Run and D.M.C.'s vocals overlapped, as
they finished each other's lines. It was the first "new
school" hip-hop recording. "It's Like That"
became a Top 20 R&B hit, as did the group's second single,
"Hard Times" / "Jam Master Jay." Two other
hit R&B singles followed in early 1984 -- "Rock Box"
and "30 Days" -- before the group's eponymous debut
By the time of their second album, 1985's King of Rock, Run-D.M.C.
had become the most popular and influential rappers in America,
already spawning a number of imitators. As the King of Rock
title suggests, the group was breaking down the barriers between
rock & roll and rap, rapping over heavy metal records
and thick, dense drum loops. Besides releasing the King of
Rock album and scoring the R&B hits "King of Rock,
"You Talk Too Much" and "Can You Rock It Like
This" in 1985, the group also appeared in the rap movie
Krush Groove, which also featured Kurtis Blow, the Beastie
Boys, and the Fat Boys.
Run-D.M.C.'s fusion of rock and rap broke into the mainstream
with their third album, 1986's Raising Hell. The album was
preceded by the Top Ten R&B single "My Adidas,"
which set the stage for the group's biggest hit single, a
cover of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way." Recorded with
Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, "Walk This Way"
was the first hip-hop record to appeal to both rockers and
rappers, as evidenced by its peak position of number four
on the pop charts. In the wake of the success of "Walk
This Way," Raising Hell became the first rap album to
reach number one on the R&B charts, to chart in the pop
Top Ten, and the first to go platinum, and Run-D.M.C. was
the first rap act to received airplay on MTV -- they were
the first rappers to cross over into the pop mainstream. Raising
Hell also spawned the hit singles "You Be Illin'"
and "It's Tricky."
Run-D.M.C. spent most of 1987 recording Tougher than Leather,
their follow-up to Raising Hell. Tougher than Leather was
accompanied by a movie of the same name. Starring Run-D.M.C.,
the film was an affectionate parody of '70s Blaxploitation
films. Although Run-D.M.C. had been at the height of their
popularity when they were recording and filming Tougher than
Leather, by the time the project was released, the rap world
had changed. Most of the hip-hop audience wanted to hear hardcore
political rappers like Public Enemy, not crossover artists
like Run-D.M.C. Consequently, the film bombed and the album
only went platinum, failing to spawn any significant hit singles.
Two years after Tougher than Leather, Run-D.M.C. returned
with Back from Hell, which became their first album not to
go platinum. Following its release, both Run and D.M.C. suffered
personal problems as Daniels suffered a bout of alcoholism
and Simmons was accused of a crime. After Daniels sobered
up and the charges against Simmons were dismissed, both of
the rappers became born-again Christians, touting their religious
conversion on the 1993 album, Down with the King. Featuring
guest appearances and production assistance from artists as
diverse as Public Enemy, EPMD, Naughty by Nature, A Tribe
Called Quest, Neneh Cherry, Pete Rock, and KRS-1, Down with
the King became the comeback Run-D.M.C. needed. The title
a Top Ten R&B hit and the album went gold, peaking at
number 21. Although they were no longer hip-hop innovators,
the success of Down with the King proved that Run-D.M.C. were
still respected pioneers. After a long studio hiatus, the
trio returned in early 2000 with Crown Royal.
Jam Master Jay supports H.E.A.R. with a special appearance
in our PSA shot at San Francisco's Justice League.