Run-DMC

  • Hip Hop group founded in 1981 from Hollis, Queens New York. Members of the group were Joseph (Run) Simmons, Darryl (D.M.C.) McDaniels, and Jason (Jam Master Jay) Mizell.
  • Simmons was recruited into hip hop music by his brother Russell (Russell ultimately was a co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, which became the most successful record label of hip hop music). Simmons initially was the lead rapper in the group The Force. He met McDaniels, who had started to DJ after buying a set of turntables, and Simmons suggested that McDaniels start to rap. McDaniels began writing rhymes, though initially he would not perform in public. In the late 70s, Simmons and McDaniels hung out at a park in Queens, looking to rap with local DJs who performed at the park. Mizell, known for his flashy dress and for break dancing, started coming to the park, and the three became friends.
  • Simmons’ brother arranged for him to record a song, called Street Kid. While the song was not successful, Simmons became more interested in hip hop recording. He asked his brother to allow him to record as a rap duo with McDaniels, but Russell did not support it. By 1982, Simmons and McDaniels convinced Russell to record them, and they recruited Mizell to DJ to their raps. Russell dubbed them Run-DMC, though they did not like the name, preferring The Dynamic Two, or The Treacherous Two.
  • The following year, they were signed to a record deal, and late that year, they released their first single, It’s Like That. It reached #15 on the R&B charts. With the success of the single, Run-DMC released their debut album, the self titled Run-D.M.C., in 1984. Two more singles – Hard Times and 30 Days – broke into the top 20 on the R&B chart. Notably, the song Rock Box contained a hard rock guitar riff which became common in their songs, and was new to hip hop. It was the first hip hop video ever shown on MTV. Rolling Stone ranks the album at #242 on their Greatest Albums list.
  • The style of the band was new to hip hop – previous artists were flashy and dressed in glam rock or disco styles. Run-DMC adopted Mizell’s street look that became the standard look of hip hop artists, and their sound was more abrasive than early hip hop.
  • Their next album was 1985’s King of Rock. It sold over 1 million records in the U.S. They expanded their rap-rock fusion with the songs Kings of Rock and Can You Rock It Like This. Their breakthrough to the mainstream happened in 1986 with the release of their third album, Raising Hell. When the album was nearly complete, they decided they needed something that would appeal to rock fans, and they collaborated with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to record a cover of Aerosmith’s Walk This Way. It propelled the album to #3 on the Billboard 200 album chart, #1 on the R&B Chart, and the single Walk This Way became their most successful song, reaching #4 on the Hot 100. Another single on the album, My Adidas, peaked at #5 on the R&B chart, and led to a $1.6 million endorsement deal with the shoe company.
  • Their fourth album, Tougher Than Leather, was released in 1988. It was a shift away from rock-rap, with Simmons and McDaniels using a different rapping style, and Mizell using more samples from other music. It was less successful than Raising Hell, though 2 singles – Run’s House and Mary, Mary – were top 30 songs on the R&B chart. They released Back From Hell in 1990 – it was poorly received, as the band attempted to become more relevant, but instead fell flat.
  • Personal problems began to surface – McDaniels was succumbing to alcoholism, Mizell survived a serious car accident as well as 2 gunshot wounds, and Simmons was charged with rape. They took a 3 year hiatus, turning to the church to steady their lives. In 1993, they released Down With The King. The title track was successful, reaching #1 on the rap chart, #9 on the R&B chart, and #21 on the Hot 100.
  • The group moved to individual activities – Mizell produced other artists, Simmons became a minister (known as Reverend Run), and McDaniels focused on family and wrestled with addiction and depression. In 2001, they released their final album, Crown Royal, a return to their rap-rock past. Much of the album excluded McDaniels, who wanted the group to take a more thoughtful approach. To support the album, they toured with Aerosmith, with McDaniels included. However, Simmons became tired of hip hop, and announced that he was leaving. In October 2002, Mizell was murdered in Queens, and subsequently, the group disbanded.
  • Run-DMC had many accomplishments in their career. They were the first rap group on the cover of Rolling Stone, the first to reach #1 on the R&B chart, the first to chart in the Top 40 more than once, the second to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (in 2009 – the first was Grandmaster Flash), the second to appear on American Bandstand. Their hip hop sound became the standard for hard core hip hop that dominated for 20 years. Watch their music video to Walk This Way. Hilarious to watch them upstage Steve Tyler and Joe Perry.

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