Monday, September 12, 2005

CD Reissue - Run-DMC

You try to bite lines, but rhymes are mine

Youse a sucker MC in a pair of Calvin Klein

Comin from the wackest, part of town

Tryin to rap up but you can't get down

You don't even know your english, your verb or noun

You're just a sucker MC you sad face clown

from "Sucker MC's"

Run-DMC's self titled debut dropped in March 1984 and it was big. It became the first rap album ever to go gold. The innovative mimimalism, the heavy beats, and the addition of some hard rock flourishes propelled Joseph "Run" Simmons, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, and "Jam Master" Jay Mizell of Hollis, Queens to the top of hip-hop. They proved that the Bronx didn't have a monopoly on funky fresh rhymes and like Public Enemy later was to rap - "that a deejay could be a band". The next few years would see the hip-hop culture cross over into rock and roll with Run-DMC leading the charge with the guidance of Russell Simmons, Larry Smith, and Rick Rubin to help along the way. Those people who were uprockin' to "It's Like That" in 1984 knew the music was on the one, but I wonder if they knew how big it would eventually be. Run-DMC was a template for the future.

Sugar Hill Records had been dominating the rap game with tracks which fairly gleamed of studio polish, but a style born out of economic necessity would change that. Run-DMC were signed to the tiny Profile label and producers Larry Smith and Russell Simmons didn't have access to big budget studio equipment or a cadre of studio musicians. Their first single was "It's Like That" with "Sucker M.C's" on the flip side. "It's Like That" was musically like Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" minus the bells and whistles. From the liner notes, Run says, "Ours is the hood version. We made a nasty, grimy version of 'Planet Rock.' But, innocent, too." "Sucker M.C's" was even sparser. It's just a drum machine, beats and electronic handclaps which is all the syncopation needed for Run and DMC to lay down some of the dopest lyrics around.

When Run-DMC starting blowing up they enlisted their friend Jay Mizell to be the deejay and soon Jazzy Jase became Jam Master Jay, The Big Beat Blaster. His scratching masterpiece "Jay's Game" became a highlight of the full length album. The lead off cut was a cover of Kurtis Blow's "Hard Times" which ended up doing better on the charts than "It's Like That", but the monster track had to be "Rock Box". Russell Simmons wasn't into rock and Run didn't want to do it, but Larry Smith persuaded them to put some heavy rock guitar played by Eddie Martinez on the cut. The rock and rap hybrid worked becoming the first rap tune to have its video played on MTV. Run ended up loving the song.

Soon people all across the globe were loving Run-DMC from the beats and rhymes to the casual street corner hustler clothes. Hollis, Queens was not only on the map. It was the map leading an explosion in American musical culture not seen since the Sun Records days back in the Fifties. The kids call it old school today, and if it is then class is still in session because Run-DMC is still timeless to me. The just reissued disc contains four bonus tracks. Grab one today and soon you'll find yourself "chillin' in a b-boy stance."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Still one of my favorites, it doesn't seem to get old.