November 14, 2013
Run-DMC carved out such a new space in hip hop — one that was quickly occupied by like-minded converts — that it can be difficult to assess the group’s merit non-anachronistically. Listening to DJ RUN’s (Joseph Ward Simmons, born 1964) wheezing, buzzing and raspberries in “Hit it Run” compares favorably only to the earliest efforts of modern, middle-school wannabe beatboxers. But beatboxing wasn’t Run’s forte, instead he was a natural storyteller, rhymes flowing with emotional and dynamic range only rarely evident in the delivery of his co-declaimer, DMC. Among the worthy innovations of early Run-DMC: consistent lyrical praise of their mostly silent but remarkable DJ, Jam Master Jay; call and response and elaborately interleaved vocals; hard-hitting lyrical delivery over spare beats; prominent inclusion of lead guitar riffs. Run embraced the blend of rap and rock, which led to some of their biggest hits, including “Rock Box,” “King of Rock,” and “Walk this Way,” boasting “our DJ’s better than all these bands.”
Run’s rapping holds up, though he has a tendency to reuse his darlings — Run’s world is filled with “Sucka MCs” and “funky fresh” rhymes. But his influence, as well as Run-DMC’s, is vast. In Licensed to Ill, Ad-Rock, MCA and Mike D are mostly doing DJ Run and Darryl Mac with more samples and less social conscience. From “Raising Hell” and “Rock Box” one can trace lines that go to such visionaries as Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine. On the other hand, Run also bears some responsibility for Limp Bizkit and Korn. I think he would accept the blame; though Run thinks a lot of himself, he knows his limitations: “Like Martin Luther King, I will do my thing, I will say it in a rap, because I do not sing.”
HIP HOP ON HILOBROW: HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM series (25 posts about old-school hip hop) | DJ Kool Herc | Gil Scott-Heron | Slick Rick | Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels | Afrika Bambaataa | Biz Markie | U-God | Slug | Adam Yauch | Ghostface Killah | DJ Run | Flavor Flav | Scott La Rock | GZA | Schoolly D | Aesop Rock | Terminator X | Notorious B.I.G. | Melle Mel | Doug E. Fresh | Kool Keith | Rick Rubin | Rakim | Ol’ Dirty Bastard | Madlib | Talib Kweli | Danger Mouse | Kool Moe Dee | Chuck D | Dizzee Rascal | RZA | Cee-Lo Green | Best Ever Clean Hip Hop
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Sacheen Littlefeather, Constance Rourke, Louise Brooks, William Steig.
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