Thursday, September 15, 2005

CD Reissue: Run-DMC - Tougher Than Leather

I didn't buy Tougher Than Leather when it first came out. I've told this story before, but I'll tell it again here. I was visiting Memphis and the album had been out for a little while. I had heard the single, "Mary, Mary", and I liked it. Especially since it sampled The Monkees. I was in the Frayser neighborhood when I noticed a small record store in a strip mall. I had a little bit of money on me so I decided to see what they had. The little bit of money is the key thing. I was on a super tight budget since I was between jobs. I entered the store full expecting to leave with Tougher Than Leather but I didn't.

When I walked in the owner greeted me and told me he had a few rock and roll records in the corner. But I wanted to look in the hip-hop section. I was after Tougher Than Leather. They had plenty of copies so I grabbed one. I was about to head to the counter to pay when I noticed they had Public Enemy's new one It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. I had heard "Bring The Noise" and "Don't Believe The Hype" on college radio and all I had heard from Tougher Than Leather was "Mary, Mary". I couldn't buy them both. A choice must be made.

As I left the shop a teenage girl sitting on the curb asked me what I had just bought since the owner was her father. "Public enemy's new one" I replied. "That's def," she said and I knew I had made the right choice. But what was wrong was I then forgot about Tougher Than Leather. I passed up other chances to buy it and soon I forgot about it. I wasn't the only one as it failed to match the sales of Raising Hell. Which is really not fair. Raising Hell was a phenomenon and it's always hardest to compete with yourself.

What's ironic is that in the liner notes to this reissue Chuck D. of Public Enemy says Tougher Than Leather is the "greatest rap album ever recorded. I don't know if I would even say it's the best Run-D.M.C. album, but I'm loathe to argue with Chuck. It really is great. As I'm hearing "Run's House" I think it just might be the best single cut they've ever recorded. "Beats To The Rhyme", "Radio Station" and the title cut all get me grooving. Run-D.M.C. and Davy D. are at the producer helm this time around and perhaps they threw just enough of a little too much in the mix for this album to rise to the top like Raising Hell did. One of the bonus cuts included is the sublime "Christmas In Hollis". The video of that song is a staple on VH1 on Christmas Day.

If only I had saved some Christmas money back in the day I might have walked out of that store with both It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back and Tougher Than Leather. Instead I just ended up blasting Public Enemy out my car and friend's cars that summer. It would have been even cooler to have been blasting both albums. What a one-two punch it would have been. But I can make up for lost time now because I know where I want to stay. "Who's house, Run's house!"

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