Back in 1982, when I first heard Run-DMC, I thought it was a joke. Really, two guys yelling over a beat box? And what exactly was this kind of music? When I heard their eponymous debut, I thought these guys were just fucking around, yelling about name-brand tennis shoes and emcees that just might suck while a tape deck thudded out a rudimentary pulse. Then I got a copy of King of Rock and discovered all these loud songs with cool guitars, with words not just about thumping your chest but about folks who wouldn't shut up and guys who talked a big game but couldn't play. Instantly relatable, the songs were insightful musings with street credibility. This was the commercial watershed point when Run-DMC became a household name. On the extraordinary Raising Hell, the rap/rock fusion not only created an entire musical sub-genre, it also traversed a seemingly insurmountable gap between black and white audiences.
By the time Tougher Than Leather hit the streets, Run-DMC was losing momentum, though "Christmas in Hollis" is still the only decent holiday rap. But in hindsight, that loss of momentum seems moot because these four pristine-sounding reissues make clear the breadth of Run-DMC's influence. Indeed, the genre's current crop, though immensely popular, has neither the trio's wit nor, dare I say, humility. Public Enemy (whose Flavor Flav writes liner notes), Eminem, Korn and even folks like Tool and a host of metal/rap poseurs owe a great debt to Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels and Jason Mizell. The artists in Run-DMC were true originals, and the genre they helped create is in desperate need of an infusion of their brand of originality. Maybe these reissues, complete with bonus cuts that are actual bonuses, are a start.
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