ï»¿ While B.D.P. and Jay-Z have lent their respective “blueprints” for hip-hop, there’s one album that pretty much laid the foundation for everything that would follow, and didn’t have even have the gall to put “blueprint” in the title. Hell, this album didn’t even need a title, it was just “Run DMC”.
Prior to RUN DMC was the furious, fantastic, romantic, cold crush era, which found early microphone masters sampling funky disco breaks – many using the same ones over and over again – almost making hip-hop in it’s earliest incarnation a branch of disco music. But when Run DMC appeared on the scene in 1983, their brand of hip-hop was much more raw, taking a much more bare bones approach. Hard hitting drums, nasty guitars, and rhymes with attitude separated this upstart crew from Hollis, Queens from everyone else out there, and people took notice.
Like other groups of the same era, their 1984 full-length debut was a collection of singles that had been rocking on turntables a year before. Their first single was a powerful entry into the rap world – a double sided treat that boasted the conscious party jam “It’s Like That”, back with “Sucker MC’s”, which had arguably one of the dopest beats in hip-hop ever, and that classic verse that every longtime hip-hop fan can sing along to. Following this was the promo only single “Here We Go (Live At The Funhouse)”, which never appeared on this album (UNTIL NOW!), but was one of the crew’s best early recordings, featuring Darryl and Joe ripping up Billy Squire’s “Big Beat”, as Jay cut the record down to the bone. This was the beginning of Run DMC.
Run DMC was the first rap group to appear on MTV, however they took a Trojan Horse like approach in doing so. While their second official single “Hard Times” and “Jam Master Jay” (the first of many living tribute songs to the great JMJ) sold more copies than their first single, it’s impact wasn’t nearly as big. It was “Rock Box”, an it’s accompanying video, that took Run DMC from being buzz-worthy to celebrity. However because MTV, at the time, had absolutely NO hip-hop in rotation (a far different animal than the MTV of today), they disguised themselves as a rock group to get on. “Rock Box” was the first rap-rock fusion record, which featured the sleazy but lovely guitars of Eddie Martinez meshed with Larry Smith’s trademark big drums. This was the first of many records that would later help define Run DMC as the “Kings of Rock”, when in fact the opposite was true. Oh, the irony.
At nine cuts, there was little room for error, and the impact of Run DMC’s first LP cannot be denied. Not only did they reinvent hip-hop, but they turned rock and roll on it’s ear as well. Think “mash-ups” are something new? Try “Walk This Way” from 1986 on for size; even “Rock Box” counts to some degree. They were rap’s first household names, influencing an entire generation of emcees and deejays. Even twenty years later homage is paid, as fellow Queens native, Nas recently borrowed samples from “Jam Master Jay” for “You Know My Style”, while J.M.J. discovery 50 Cent (yes, it’s true), almost channels “It’s Like That” for his own club-banger, “Disco Inferno”. Meanwhile, El-P chops classic Run DMC drums for many of his incredible beats, and Mos Def jacks their logo for his own. The list goes on.
Run DMC’s sound evolved over the years, especially when Rick Rubin came in to produce perhaps their greatest LP, “Raising Hell”. It’s no secret that in attempts to change with the times, Run DMC fell hard, trying on different styles for size, from New Jack Swing (“Pause”) to Pete Rock beats (“Down With The King”) to the embarrassing “Crown Royal” LP, but it was never the same as their golden era, captured on their first four albums. But you all know how the story go.
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