Arts: Music/Now and Then: The Run-DMC Revolution term paper 41912

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"Run-DMC broke down the barriers. They were the first real rap stars. Everyone in the game today owes something to them."

- Eminem

From time to time, American music sees the emergence of a new music genre. And behind each rising genre is, of course, a proponent–the originator, inventor, the discoverer, the progenitor. (Biography, 2008)

For instance, the blues had a W.C. Handy during its time, while jazz had a Louis Armstrong. Also, bebop had a Charlie Parker, whereas swing had its Benny Goodman. Additionally, music history had seen the rise of Ray Charles for rhythm and blues, while it’s Elvis Presley for rock and roll. It’s worthy to cite too that disco had a Barry White, while punk rock had the Stooges. (Biography, 2008)

As for hip-hop, there is no question–Run-DMC, composed of Joseph "Run" Simmons, Darryl "DMC" McDaniel, and Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell, was and will always be considered as the king of this genre. With the group’s unique vision and attitude, the foundation for rap music that was “on top” was laid, making hip-hop last for more than two decades now. (Chuck D, 2004)

'Raising Hell'

All the media hype and worldwide interest on hip-hop wouldn’t have been possible without Run-DMC’s pioneering work in the genre.

After releasing its debut single “It’s Like That” in 1983, the flames for a revolution were fanned and it made hip-hop another front liner in mainstream music and caught the attention of television networks. It also brought the music genre to the platinum realm and into our own time’s rap and rock frontier. (Biography, 2008)

With six albums under their belts, namely Run-D.M.C. (1984), King of Rock (1985), Raising Hell (1986), Tougher than Leather (1988), Down With the King (1993) and Crown Royal (2001) (Biography, 2008), could very well be considered as the Beatles of hip-hop. According to Chuck D of the rap band Public Enemy, Run and DMC can be likened to Lennon and McCartney respectively, while Jam Master Jay was George and Ringo rolled into one. He even went as far as saying that Jay-Z, Black Star, OutKast, the Roots, and everyone else in hip-hop today can be traced back to Run-DMC. (Chuck D, 2004)

And many seem to agree. Aside from what Eminem said which was quoted at the start of this paper, Ice-T also said, "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." (Chuck D, 2004)

Run-DMC, run

Run-DMC's roots may be traced to the working class New York community of Hollis, Queens. Run Simmons started honing his “rhyming apparatus” in 1982 in the suburban neighborhood. While barely progressing on the then unfinished hit single “It's Like That,” he turned to his childhood friend Darryl McDaniels for help. Together, they were able to compose several songs, showing a promise of a very fruitful collaboration. (Biography, 2008)

Russell Simmons, also known as Russell Rush and Run's older brother, signed up the band in 1983 to his own newly founded management company, Rush Productions, after Run-DMC signed a record deal with Profile Records the very same year. (Biography, 2008)

Setting new trends by dressing in tight leather jackets and pants, fedora hats, bling-blings, and signature Adidas sneakers, the group inspired the hip-hop street image of the 1980's and most hip-hop artists still dress the same way 20 years later. (Chuck D, 2004) Not only that, the debut single “It's Like That” ruled the airwaves for more than a year, forcing several R&B stations to move the song from night-time rap shows to day-time regular shows, reflective of how much respect hip-hop was commanding then because of the rap act. (Biography, 2008)

After the group has sold a quarter of a million copies, Run decided to recruit his old basketball and DJ buddy Jason Mizell. And so the rap act was completed. (Biography, 2008)

As fate would have it, just one look at the trio and a taste of their music, the audience got hooked at once. As critics would like to say, the group's “battering-ram percussion and rough vocals,” as well as their “sparse beats and rhymes” were just some of the things that fans couldn't get enough of. With this popularity, Run-DMC made a transition from singles to full-length albums. (Biography, 2008)

Run-DMC's success in mainstream music continued as the trio became the only rap group asked to perform at the infamous US Live Aid concert in 1985, as well as have an album (particularly Raising Hell) achieve a highest-selling-rap-album-in-history status; reach number 6 on the Billboard charts; and sell millions of copies of their albums worldwide. (Biography, 2008) The trio also made a rap-rock collaboration with Aerosmith entitled “Walk This Way” that frequented Music Television, sealing their place much more in the mainstream music arena. (Lark, 1998)

Run-DMC also became the first rap performer to have platinum and multi-platinum albums. In addition, they were the first rappers to grace the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine, as well as have a Grammy nomination. The trio also appeared at World Wrestling Federation's WrestleMania V in 1989 and performed “WrestleMania Rap,” as well as in 1999 and sang “The Kings” for stable D-Generation X. Also in 1989, they sang “Ghostbusters,” which was written by Ray Parker Jr. and was a part of the original soundtrack of Ghostbusters 2. (Biography, 2008)

The group encountered some mishaps a few years after however, such as Run being accused of rape though not being formally charged. Vocal cord problems also started to appear during the late 1980's. The trio then decided to reinvent themselves as born-again Christians and released their 1990 album, Back from Hell. (Biography, 2008)

Despite the setbacks encountered by the group during the late 1980’s, they were able to enjoy success in the mainstream once again in 1993 with Down With the King, which made it to the Billboard's top 10. A series of collaborations, remixes, and greatest hits albums followed soon after until the death of Jam Master Jay on October 20, 2002, a few weeks after a major tour with Kid Rock and Aerosmith. (Chuck D, 2004)

Hip-hop the world over

No matter what critics might say, hip-hop has indeed penetrated deeply the international music scene and has already become a leading global youth culture in terms of the outfit, behavior, language, and art–thanks to rap bands such as Run-DMC. (Workneh, 2003)

All over the world, from Cambodia to Egypt, Gabon to Cuba, France to Brazil, hip-hop culture has come to define the younger generation. Emcee battles in Tokyo are frequent, hip-hop graffiti are all over Geneva, and breakdancers in China abound. Now, how did this genre travelled from its humble beginnings on the streets of the Bronx in New York to the streets of Paris, Havana, and Dakar? (Workneh, 2003)

The answer remains the same. It’s all because of Run-DMC.

But more important than hip-hop being considered as a new international youth culture is that hip-hop has become a medium for the youth to express their own opinions regarding social, political, and economic conditions in their own countries as well as the world over. Hip-hop also has made possible the communication of cross-cultural morals and similarities since the music genre is rising above class, race, and ethnic barriers more and more each day. (Workneh, 2003)

And this is all because of Run-DMC.

Sources:

Biography. Rundmcmusic.com. 22 Feb. 2008 < http://www.rundmcmusic.com>.

Chuck D. “The Immortals - The Greatest Artists of All Time: 48) Run-DMC.” On-line posting.

15 Apr. 2004. Rolling Stone 946. 22 Feb. 2008

news/story/5940042/48_rundmc>.

Workneh, Meklit. “Hip-hopping all over the world.” On-line posting. 6 Nov. 2003. Daily

Stanford. 22 Feb. 2008 < http://daily.stanford.edu/2003/11/6>.

Lark, Bryan. “Sound debut spreads the message of 80’s rap.” Ultrasound Review. 20 Feb. 1998.

University of Michigan. 22 Feb. 2008

02-20-98/arts/arts6.html>.

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