“The Kings of Rock, There is None Higher!”
Run (Joseph Simmons)
DMC (Darryl McDaniels)
Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell)
Label: Profile Records
“The thing that Run DMC represents is the thing that’s not gonna let people forget (us and KRS-One of course)…not forget about that time or that era when the whole culture of hip-hop was the music of hip-hop which is rap, the dance of hip-hop which was breaking, and the art of hip-hop which was graffiti. Those things all are like three-in-one, hand in hand. Once rap became a money dominated entity, those things fell off.”
Three bad motherfuckers, stripped-down and raw Run DMC changed the rules and overran the game from the outset of public awareness. Blue blood flows strong through hip-hop’s truest monarchy, the Crown Royals. A ground-breaking hip-hop group regarded as being the single-most innovative rap group ever assembled, Run DMC is credited with leaving an enormous impact in the culture’s development. A truly profound trio represented a new school breed that quietly picked up the art form but kept it on the down-low for fear of being stomped down by the South Bronx rulers. This so-called new school proudly found their rightful entrance into hip-hop behind these fresh Adidas upstart teens blazing the trail. Next branch opened in Queens, Hollis to be exact. These kids blatantly put down Hollis on the hip-hop map and the world turned heads in shock. They built a bridge crossing from rap to rock music incorporating heavy metal riff samples into their signature sound. Celebrated for their explosive success that introduced the flair and brilliance of hip-hop to the world’s mainstream market, Run DMC were the sole ambassadors of east coast rap and the exemplary product of an advanced formula established by their immediate predecessors in the game. The super-group consisted of the legendary combined talents of founder, Jason ‘Jam Master Jay’ Mizell, Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels and Joseph ‘Run’ Simmons. They braced themselves to become the incarnation of hip-hop’s second generation and thusly owned New York during the 1980’s like royalty, down with the Kings!
“Until Run-DMC I thought that hip-hop was something that was only going to be done in basements and in clubs. I went to a Run-DMC concert and they actually made me believe that hip-hop could be big. Rap was never at that level. We’d never seen it like that” - Ice-T
Joey ‘Run’ Simmons is the younger brother of hip-hop’s legendary business-mind Russell ‘Rush’ Simmons who as a young entrepreneur managed Kurtis Blow. Joey first entered the scene by DJing for Kurtis Blow going by the name of ‘Run Love - Son of Kurtis Blow’. This experience was shared by his childhood friend Darryl McDaniels and the pair soon began performing as teenagers at an underage club in their native middle-class neighbourhood Hollis, borough of New York City. After high school graduation the duo kept in contact as they split for university education. Joey attended LaGuardia Community College and Darryl went to St. John’s University. Russell encouraged Joey and Darryl to form a rap duo and pursue a recording career together. With this Run recruited his old basketball running-mate and local Hollis DJ Jason Mizell who was at the time regarded as being the best amateur DJ in the area performing as Jazzy Jase. Run convinced Darryl to develop a more solid rapping position within the group making way for Jason to be the group’s sole DJ. By 1981 Darryl had taken to being an MC and changed his name several times before settling on D.M.C. (for Darryl McDaniels or Devastating Mic Controller.) Jason took on the name Jam Master Jay and the trio was set to change the future. Run was an exceptional lyricist and he and Darryl were the MCs with Jam Master Jay as the DJ.
The trio formed the name of Run DMC and by 1983 they signed a $2,000 deal with new independent Profile Records and that same year older brother Russell Simmons signed the group to his new management company Rush Productions. First steps to creating one of the single-most influential rap acts in history were verging on the edge of high-fame. They released their first single featuring, “It’s Like That” and “Sucker MC’s” considered to be ground-breaking as both were the first to rely solely upon electronic beats. It was hard, blunt and devastatingly skilful. “It’s Like That” was compared as a grittier version of Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock” and with powerfully literate vocals it was a lyrical descendant of Melle Mel’s, “The Message” both of which were 1982’s impression of hip-hop. The collaboration between DMC and Run worked as two minds alike displayed as their vocals shouted out and overlapped finishing each other’s lines throughout their early performances not seen since the Cold Crush Brothers. They followed up with a take off of Dimple D’s existent, “Sucker DJ” with their own, “Sucker MC’s” which was constructed over a drumbeat from “Action” by Russell’s production partner Larry Smith’s band, Orange Krush and personally mixed by Kurtis Blow. The 12-inch single hit the streets distributed by indie-label Profile in the spring of ’83 it provided an unexpected boom of energy injected into the development of rap and soon became the hottest radio request on many R&B stations forcing it to be removed from late night rap mix shows to prime-time daily regular rotations. The single sold 250,000 copies becoming Profile’s biggest seller and became a Top 20 R&B hit, as would their next smash-hit single to follow. This opened hip-hop’s new generation, the Run DMC revolution representing the little-brother imitation of the old school fundamentals. A direct stripped-down influence of the first generation movement continued.
Kings of Rock
The sparse and deafening beats complimented with dope chanting rhymes made Run DMC the unmistakable new energy of hip-hop. This empowerment gave them ample force to create full-length masterpiece albums. (Another landmark of hip-hop’s history.) By the close of ’83 the group was working on their début self-titled album which was subsequently released in May 1984 by Profile. They spawned their second hit single which featured a pair of classic hooks, “Hard Times/Jam Master Jay” which joined the first single in topping the Top 20 R&B chart. Also 1984 saw the release of two more hit singles, “Rock Box” which played top-shelf rhymes under an Eddie Martinez metal guitar riff and was accompanied with “30 Days” all of which hit the streets before their eponymous début album was released. They answered a growing legion of fans and embarked on a national tour and set new trends. Early movement saw acts dressed in cowboy outfits and Furious Five in sequin Village People costumes, Fearless Four and the Treacherous Three dressed in wack matching red leather suits, Run DMC stamped onto the spotlight dressed in true b-boy uniform baggy Adidas clothing or sometimes heavy leather suits, big Cazal sunglasses, Fedora hats all in black and Adidas sneakers with the laces removed looking New York street. Such innovative and distinct new styles made them the hardest outfit in hip hop.
By 1985 their blossoming success flowered as they performed at the famous Live Aid concert gaining a mainstream identity on the world stage. Within a year Run DMC found itself trailblazing for black entertainment, becoming the first rap act to have a music video played on the music channel MTV. Their début album became the first rap album to go to number one on the R&B charts and first to break into the top ten charts for pop albums and first to go gold. Their follow-up album ‘Kings of Rock’ came at the time Run DMC were the leaders of the new school, the most popular and influential rappers in the world. As the title suggests, Run DMC broke down barriers and built bridges between the two powerhouses of the music industry rap and rock & roll. They provided hardened lyrics over heavy metal riffs and deep, resonating drum loops releasing hit singles, “Kings of Rock,” “You Talk Too Much” and “Can You Rock Like This” reformatting the blueprints of both rap and rock genres. Run DMC told their steps to success in the biographical film of Russell Simmons and Def Jam records in 1985’s, Krush Groove alongside the Fat Boys, LL Cool J and Kurtis Blow. Run, DMC and Jam acted as themselves, Russell Simmons was played by actor Blair Underwood and their father Daniel Simmons guest starred briefly.
By ’86 they finished their third album co-produced by Def Jam‘s Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, Raising Hell which became the highest-selling rap album of all-time reaching number one on the R&B charts, number three on the Billboard album charts, and sold over three million copies. This was preceded by the Top Ten R&B single “My Adidas” which set the stage for the group’s biggest hit single, continuing their revolutionary new direction of hip-hop by covering Aerosmith’s, “Walk This Way” collaborating with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to create a rap-rock phenomenon, the first hip-hop record to appeal to both hardcore rap and rock fans. This also became the first hip-hop song to ever make the Top Ten on Billboard’s singles charts hitting fourth position and sitting firm for sixteen weeks. “Peter Piper” (1986) was the first rap record in which a DJ cut the record, utilizing jazz musician Bob James’ hit, “Take Me to the Mardi Gras.” They performed at a notorious show out in Long Beach, California that summer in front of a hostile confrontation of gang members who inevitably ran riot turning the event into full-scale gang warfare before Run DMC could even step onstage. Here rap and violence became synonymous. By the end of the year they became the first rap act to hold both platinum and multi-platinum albums as well as becoming the first rappers to appear on the cover of Rolling Stones magazine, Saturday Night Live, American Bandstand and first to receive a Grammy nomination. Raising Hell also gave way to hit singles, “You Be Illin’” and “It’s Tricky.” 1987 saw Run DMC chasing the heights of their third album’s triumph with Tougher Than Leather which was accompanied by the movie of the same name, with each star acting in the ‘70s blaxploitation parody. Both the album and film dropped at a critical period in hip-hop which saw a cultural change of the tide toward a more hard-lined political ideology supporting groups they swept the floor for such as Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy and the new breed of west coast’s gangsta rap. Their afro-centricity stopped with sharp Adidas suits and boasting well-delivered rhymes, now was the era of the black-fist message with a beat.
By their releases in ’88 the movie bombed and the album went platinum without a single hit to its name. However, undeterred they continued returning with ‘Back From Hell’ which served as their first album not to go platinum. Following the release of this album both Run and DMC experienced personal problems, seeing DMC suffer a bout of alcoholism and Run being publicly accused of rape. After both had cleared their hurdles, Daniels sobered up and Run walked free dismissed of any charges, they turned to God and inherited a strong sense of religion to inspire their lives. Rappers Run and DMC were now born-again Christians. The overtones of this awakening were apparent on the 1993 album, Down With the King which featured guest appearances from Public Enemy, KRS One, EPMD, A Tribe Called Quest, Pete Rock and R&B starlet Nenah Cherry who came together to send their respects to the living legends. The album was an honourable comeback for the trio. The explosive title-track became an R&B hit and the album went gold peaking at number 21.
Although Run DMC were now known as the leaders of the old school rather than the new, the album’s success sought to place Run DMC as one of the greatest and most respected pioneers in the history of hip-hop among both peers and fans alike.
After their 10th anniversary, Run DMC had taken a long studio hiatus seeing each member partaking in individual conquests. Unfortunately by 1997 Darryl McDaniels had fallen into a deep depression finding the rigorous routine of touring and laborious performing taking a toll on his family life, being away from his wife and newborn son. He had sunk back into the solace of drug and alcohol dependency to ease the pain. Several occasions saw McDaniels arrested and dangerously intoxicated while in the public eye. While on tour he noticed his voice failing him and was subsequently diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia, a vocal disorder which causes involuntary spasms of the larynx muscles. He himself believed it was a result of his aggressive vocal performances and a lifestyle of heavy drinking.
Joseph ‘Run’ Simmons had continued his Christian life by being ordained a reverend priest in the Zoe Ministries and has been known professionally as Rev Run. His vision of the group was to continue in the same hard-rock fashion in which they are famous for unlike McDaniels who had been snapped out of depression by hearing Sarah McLachlan’s song “Angel” and felt the need for a change into a slower-paced tempo which suited his faltered voice. This difference between the two founders managed to separate the ultimate collaboration in their following album, “Crown Royal” released in early 2000. Record sales were low and DMC was only apparent on three tracks despite being credited through every track on the album’s sleeve. The album was promoted with a blockbuster concert on MTV with Aerosmith and Kid Rock.
By the summer of 2002 following the release of two greatest hits albums they toured the U.S. co-headlining with Aerosmith performing “Walk This Way” as a transition between both sets. Weeks after the tour finished the story of Run DMC took a horrific close with the untimely death of super DJ Jam Master Jay on October 30, 2002 as he was murdered in a studio session in Queens, New York at only 37 years young. News of this spread quickly throughout the industry and hip-hop luminaries who took time out to pay homage to the fallen legend on New York radio stations. Consequently the group officially retired from performing and recording as Run DMC. Prior to Jay’s passing Run DMC had filmed a television commercial spot for Dr. Pepper soft drink with their protégé LL Cool J. By the time the commercial was aired in the following winter of 2002 a dedication to Jay was appended to the initial airings. Jay’s death was the definite end of an era and senselessly became another body count in the violent cycle of politics that haunted the genre since its inception.
- 1984 Run-D.M.C. (Profile)
- 1985 King of Rock (Profile)
- 1986 Raising Hell (Profile)
- 1988 Tougher Than Leather (Profile)
- 1990 Back From Hell (Profile)
- 1991 Together Forever: Greatest Hits 1983–1991 (Profile)
- 1993 Down With The King (Profile)
- 1999 Crown Royal (Arista/Profile)
- 2002 High Profile: The Original Rhymes
- 2002 Greatest Hits
- 2003 The Best of Run DMC
- 2003 Ultimate Run-D.M.C.
- 2004 Artist Collection: Run DMC
- have a #1 R&B charting rap album
- have a Top 10 pop charting rap album
- earn RIAA gold, platinum, and multi-platinum albums
- appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine
- receive a Grammy Award nomination
- have a video added to MTV
- appear on Saturday Night Live and American Bandstand
- win crossover appeal with rock and hip-hop fans
- sign to an athletic product endorsement deal
- and only rap act to perform at Live Aid in 1985