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    Run DMC

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    Run D.M.C 8 ( 1984 )
    Hard Times / Rock Box / Jam Master Jay / Hollis Crew / Sucker M.C's / It's Like That / Wake Up / 30 Days / Jay's Game

    Inspired by Grand Master Flash 'The Message', Run D.M.C presented their debut LP offering, and legendary it is too. The first hip-hop act to mix rap and rock, the first to move rap away from being a singles genre to one where albums weren't just hits and thrown together filler. A tougher take on the likes of pioneer Grand Master Flash, Run DMC paved the way for many acts to follow, not least the politicised rap of Public Enemy. Run DMC presents hard hitting, sparse beats over which the guys give us literate raps touching on a number of themes. They effectively present rap songs where the lyrical content takes priority over the musical backdrop. The music here is fairly skeletal, drum machines, scratching and the occasional keyboard or guitar riff. The technology of the 80s dates the record I suppose, although the album is so strong it doesn't really present a major problem. 'Rock Box' and the like got rap and hip-hop on a very white MTV, which is hard to believe in this day and age where rap, r'n'b and hip-hop are the dominent musical forms on the likes of MTV. Going back to 'Rock Box', the guitar parts mix with the beats and straight away the guys hit upon something special. 'Rock Box' stands up right through to this very day, it's a thrilling track from beginning to end. The albums opening cut 'Hard Times' is a statement of intent and a message quite different from Rap we'd heard previous to Run DMC, taking Rap back to the streets from where it came. 'Hard Times' is a great example of the approach Run D.M.C take on the album as a whole, the music complimenting the lyrical flow and message rather than trying to supplant it. 'Sucka MC's' is another highlight of the set, key lyric for me Tryin to rap up but you can't get down you don't even know your english, your verb or noun.

    Unemployment was at a record low / and the presidents were chillin at our show / listening to the things that we had to say / and trying to create a new and brighter day. Yeah, give me a bit of 'Wake Up', a song about a dream of a brave new world. 'Wake Up' again presents a sparse musical approach although this only enhances the use of a single bass riff that goes throughout the song. Oh, before I go. This eponymous debut LP offering has received renewed interest in recent years thanks to a remix of 'It's Like That' which became a huge worldwide hit. I remember there being some debate from the Run DMC guys because everyone was giving 100% of the credit to the remixer, Jason Nevins, all they did was pay him a flat-fee. Listening to the orignal presented on the album here, the song was a Run DMC song, so I can't say I can exactly blame them for not giving Mr Nevins a royalty payment rather than a flat remixers fee. The song remains the same, as they say. I prefer this original version, it's harder hitting without all the dance-floor stuff, which only takes away from the original idea of Run DMC in the first place. Rap in recent years has hardly been a favourite genre of mine, the stuff that gets played on the radio and the stuff that sells seems too far removed from Rap origins for my liking. Plus, I was never really into all that gangsta stuff. I liked De La Soul for the very reason they weren't just a bunch of macho idiots bigging themselves up. Run DMC partly inspired these bunches of idiots bigging themselves up, yet Run DMC have an intelligence. It's present right here on this LP. It's a great little album and a fine debut.

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    top of page King Of Rock ( 1985 )
    Rock The House / King Of Rock / You Talk Too Much / Jam Master Jammin' / Roots Rap Reggae / Can You Rock It Like This / You're Blind / It's Not Funny / Daryl And Joe

    A big blabbermouth, that's what you are / If you were a talk show host, you'd be a star / I said your mouth is big, size extra large / And when you open it, it's like my garage. You can't argue with it really, can you?!? Yes, Run DMC mix in a little rock and a little humour for this solid sophomore set. Generally overshadowed by the more famous successor and the historic and arguably important predecessor, 'King Of Rock' stills works very well for me. I'm the king of rock, there is none higher / Sucker emcees should call me Sire! rightly flows the title track. 'Roots, Rap, Reggae' pays tribute to the musical links between Kingston and the Bronx. All of this and further forging the links between Rap and the rock scene. Indeed, the title track was one of the first rap videos to be widely circulated on MTV. By bending a little away from pure Rap songs, Run DMC not only reinvented the genre but brought so many more people into the scene, giving it a respect it hadn't previously enjoyed on such a wide level. Legendary doesn't even cover half of it. The title track also has this hard hitting, insistent energy. You know, the sad state of hair metal of rock music in general in the eighties, i'd rather have listened to Run DMC given the chance. I wasn't given the chance, being from the UK, we didn't quite get rap until a year or three later, you know? I love the ironic album title and the sheer bravado such a claim puts out. It's harmless and it's fun, but a point is made, all the same.

    If truth be told, around half of this album is seminal but the rest is very so-so. The title track of course is an event, 'You Talk Too Much' always a joy, 'Can You Rock It Like This' is hugely entertaining and 'Daryl And Joe' has energy and hard hittings rhymes in abundance. The rest of the album sees the band finding their place, falling on their feet, yet the reggae groove of 'Roots, Rap, Reggae' does quite gell with the raps, 'Jam Master Jammin' is fairly pointless. I don't want to rag on the album though, because it's good. It really is. The filler sits inbetween the high points which are so high, you don't care 'bout the rest too much.

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    top of page Raising Hell ( 1986 )
    Peter Piper / It's Tricky / My Adidas / Walk This Way / Is It Live / Perfection / Hit It Run / Raising Hell / You Be Illin' / Dumb Girl / Son of Byford / Proud to be Black

    Jam Master Jay, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels and Joseph "Run" Simmons. We must remember that before heavy sampling and programmed beats, Jam Master Jay would need to create these sound-scapes the old fashioned way, by showing off his skill with the turntables. The remake of Aerosmith's 'Walk This Way' became a record breaker much in the way 'Rappers Delight' did. 'Rappers Delight' edged into the US top 40 at number 38. 'Walk This Way' became the first rap/hip-hop tune to reach the top 10. I must say, I do admire 'Peter Piper' and 'It's Tricky' as a one-two opening punch as far as 'Raising Hell' is concerned. True, the raps aren't as advanced as today's, yet let's not forget this was cutting edge, breakthrough stuff at the time. Indeed, third tune 'My Adidas' captured a good chunk of a generations attention. The mix of rap and rock is done so well in 'It's Tricky', arguably better than it is on 'Walk This Way', although 'Walk This Way' of course is the true historical monster. 'Walk This Way' is song four so you've got a pretty stellar album opening sequence for the first fourteen minutes or so, hard to argue with it, really. Produced by rap and rock lover Rick Rubin, 'Raising Hell' has become part of American's lives and cultural heritage much as an album like The Stone Roses would become part of the british cultural heritage. Impossible to compare the two and if listening either side of the pond, easy to dismiss each others act. Well, Run DMC had an inarguable global reach and impact whilst The Stone Roses didn't. I'm rambling again, sorry. De La Soul was the first Rap record I bought in 1989. That was the year I, fourteen at the time, first started to take notice. It's taken until now as a Brit to get into Run DMC. How slack of me?

    The title track raises the albums game when it needs to be raised whilst 'You Be Illin' contains a lot of ideas and is another highlight. It's an easily listenable set of tunes. 'You Illin' still astonishes and raises a smile even today. It's heavy and booming yet the lyrics are digestible and fun. The set closes with 'Proud To Be Black' which arguably all by itself points the way forwards to the more politicized rap Public Enemy would produce. Public Enemy started out sounding like Run DMC. Well, you had to really.

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    top of page Tougher Than Leather 7 ( 1988 )
    Run's House / Mary, Mary / They Call Us Run-D.M.C. / Beats To The Rhyme / Radio Station / Papa Crazy / Tougher Than Leather / I'm Not Going Out Like That / How'd Ya Do It Dee / Miss Elaine / Soul To Rock And Roll / Ragtime

    Is that a Monkees song the guys use during 'Mary, Mary'? Seems like it to me. Anyway, two years as they say is a long time in music and the scene Run DMC had given a huge boost to had begun to turn their backs on the group. They became a band that were viewed suspiciously by the hardcore rap fans, sneered upon, if you will. 'Licensed To Ill' sold buckletloads for the Beastie Boys, a record lapped up by white Rap fans. Black rap fans still turned 'Tougher Than Leather' platinum along with white fans who still bought it, yet it fared nowhere near as well commercially as 'Raising Hell' happened to do. Well, there's no huge crossover hit song here. 'Tougher Than Leather' still sold one million copies and this was considered a relative failure by their then record label. It's all relative, isn't it? 'Tougher Than Leather' is still considered weaker than those first three classic Run DMC records, yet there is also much to admire here. The rhymes are noticeably tougher and smarter. There's also a lot more going on during the backing tracks, Jam Master Jay excells himself throughout. 'Run's House' was never going to beat 'Walk This Way', yet this is a storm. A thrilling tune that excels and hits hard, the band relying on themselves rather than the gimmicks of other rap artists of the era. Well, Run DMC's credibility was at stake. Oh, 'Mary, Mary' sounds like a hit to me. Proves what I know.

    'Miss Elaine' is another potential hit. Why did and why does this album suffer? Well, it's neither as obvious or concise as the best RUN DMC of the past. The arrangements don't easily bring out each songs main hooks, but they are still there. It's an album to my mind that almost withstands repeated listening better than the 'King Of Rock' LP. Jam Master Jay? Well, take a listen to 'Beats To The Rhyme' next to anything from either of the first two albums and listen to not only his evolution by Rap music's evolution. The title track is one of the bands by now trademark rock/rap crossover's. You know, 'Tougher Than Leather' simply isn't as 'cuddly' as the earlier Run DMC albums, which we can now smile nostaligically about. That old-school Rap sound? When listened to years later, 'Tougher Than Leather' seems to fall between two stools. Public Enemy and Ice T were starting to realise what needed to go on. They went on and did it whilst Run DMC clung on.

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    top of page this page last updated 25/03/07

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