Being one of the most beloved hip-hop groups ever assembled has certainly become a double-edged sword for Run DMC. As one of the cultures most influential groups, the names of Run, DMC, and Jam Master Jay immediately garners a certain degree of well-earned respect. Conversely, it has also put the trio under an incredibly intense microscope; a dissection that will become more exacerbated with the shameful Crown Royal.
The group’s inability to get Crown Royal off the ground has been well-documented; the project was in pre-production for nearly two-years, saw numerous release dates get pushed back, and the group was virtually held hostage by guest-artists demanding ridiculous payoffs for their lackluster contributions (Fred Durst). However, most distressing was the fact that we saw the pioneering group’s internal diffusion on a VH-1 Behind The Music special. Which focused on painting Run as being so hungry for the spotlight that he was unable to come to grips with the groups demise. Not to mention, chronicling DMC’s voice problems, and his reluctance to even partake in another LP.
Let’s just be honest and get this out of the way, with Crown Royal Run-DMC has undeniably sold out. This LP is a slap in the face to anyone who “truly” calls themselves a supporter (and a fuck you very much to longstanding fans). Some eighteen years after their inception, the script has been painfully flipped on Run-DMC. Worse, some of the individuals, Fred Durst (“Them Girls”), and Kid Rock (“The School Of Old”) who looked to the group for inspiration, are unfortunately in on what we can only hope will be the trio’s swan-song.
Crown Royal spirals so recklessly into contrasting segments, it’s easy to forget you are even listening to a Run-DMC record. Lacking any discernible sense of direction, or continuity, the once cutting-edge trio has mutated into a virtual 3-headed beast. They miserably play the role of alternative genre rockers on “Rock Show” feat. Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind, and “Here We Go” feat. Sugar Ray, use Everlast’s moody guitar blues to lazily interpolate Steve Miller’s “Take The Money And Run” then top it all off with the ho-hum R&B stylings of “Let’s Stay Together” feat. Jagged Edge. The group’s previous successes dabbling in the rock arena with Aerosmith are nowhere to be found on Crown Royal, as these groupings lack the same ingenuity, and conviction. And though the tracks with Fred Durst, and Kid Rock may eventually strike a chord with TRL fanatics (their intended destination), these calculated attempts to generate revenue come at Run-DMC’s own expense.
The most pressing question that arises while listening to Crown Royal is—where the fuck is DMC? There is no need to wonder what a Reverend Run solo LP would sound like, because Crown Royal is basically just that. Reason being, DMC appears briefly on a sparse 3-tracks. However, in an attempt to combat DMC’s limited contributions, Jam Master Jay does employ some studio-wizardry, as he cunningly tries to mask his very noticeable absence by cutting up, and inserting snippets of his voice whenever possible.
So what’s left for the fan that was weaned on Run-DMC? Not much, as they have seemingly lost touch with their original fanbase. Sure, they throw the hip-hop populace a few bones on “It’s Over” feat. Jermaine Dupri, “Queens Day” feat. Nas & Prodigy, and “Simmons Incoroprated” feat. Method Man. But even these ordinary tracks are not nearly enough to quench a thirst.
If hip-hop has proven anything since its inception some twenty-years ago, it’s that few emcees, or groups age gracefully. And there comes a time in everyone’s career when they are faced with an inevitable decision—should we continue to make music just for the sake of doing so, or leave on our own terms. Unfortunately, not many choose the latter, and with the heartbreaking Crown Royal, the legends from Queens have missed out on their opportunity to bow out gracefully. Hopefully, with their legacy still intact, Run-DMC will now trade in the shell-toed Adidas, fat gold chains, and leather pants for a long overdue and deserved bow.
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