Let me start out by saying the graphic spelling of the group’s name (and album title) on the album cover has to be the most generic and pathetic graphic I’ve ever seen. I realize it was done in ’84, but there were several talented graffiti artist who could have lended a hand and done a quality job. Now that I got that off my chest, lets move on.
Run DMC is the self titled debut album from the Legendary trio from Queens, NY. Run-DMC consisted of lead emcee Run/DJ Run, now known as Rev Run, (also younger brother to hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, and better known to readers under the age of 21 as the dad on his reality tv series Run’s House), his microphone partner DMC (check out “Hollis Crew” for more on the acronym that makes up his alias), and the legendary DJ Jam Master Jay (RIP). This is where the collective begin their mission to become the first outright hip-hop pop superstars. A young rocker, named Rick Rubin (who along with Russell Simmons is the co-founder of the hip-hop empire known as Def Jam) would be responsible for the bulk of the production on their debut, and his rock background would influence the sound of this album (as well as their next few efforts) tremendously.
The Source magazine, which at one time was considered the hip-hop bible before the ruthless take over of the evil Benzino, would rate albums on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 meaning terrible and 5 meaning masterpiece/classic). Instead of using stars The Source staff was witty enough to substitute stars with microphones. This rating system didn’t go into effect until 1990, so in 2002 The Source went back and reviewed and rated all the albums released before 1990 that their staff considered to be masterpieces and gave them a 5 mic rating. Run DMC is the oldest album in that bunch to receive a retro 5 mic rating. I will add a short segment to each album review that received a 5 microphone rating called Did The Source Get It Right? at the end of each album review (yes, even the 5 mic ratings that were given during the evil reign of Benzino).
Did The Source Get It Right? Is Run DMC even worth a listen? Come on, you at least have to listen to it once for the historical value alone.
Hard Times – This is a song about struggle, or just an acknowledgement of the necessity of money, it’s all about perspective. By ’84 standards the instrumental is decent enough, I guess. In ’84 I’m sure Run and DMC’s rhymes were state of the art, now they simply sound dated. This was definitely recorded before it became standard for hip-hop artists to use the 16 bar verse format to shorten songs in an attempt to get more radio spins, as Run and D’s verses tend to run on forever.
Rock Box – I love this instrumental, specifically the guitar licks. Run and D both sound fresh and youthful. D’s line about someone “taking the emcee test and failing” is pretty hilarious. What kind of questions would one find on this mythical test? Even better question:what kind of questions would one find on this test in 1984?
Jam Master Jay – The duo pay homage to their deejay. Decent song for what it is.
Hollis Crew – The instrumental sounds a lot like the one used on “Jam Master Jay” with a slightly different tempo. DMC felt it necessary to let the listener know before taking on the stellar alias he currently uses, he once went by Easy D. Before you start cracking dirty jokes about the name, he quickly explains it’s because rapping came so easy to him. He also explains what DMC stands for and the meaning of the “M” in that acronym is redonkulous.
Sucker M.C.’s – Okay. Maybe I’m loosing my mind but this instrumental sounds suspiciously similar to the one used on the two previous songs. Since this was 1984 and hip-hop music was still finding it’s self, I’ll show some grace. Every time I hear this song it reminds me of the scene from Boyz N’ The Hood where Tre, Ricky, and Doughboy have a run in with the “neighborhood thugs”, who happen to be playing this song on their boombox as Doughboy gets his ass kicked. The infamous emcee test is mentioned again, this time by Run, who claims he took the test and got an “A” for amazing. Corny much. Run’s first verse will probably sound familiar to most as different segments of it have been rehashed in other hip-hop songs through the years. Even with the recycled instrumental this was an enjoyable listen.
It’s Like That – Now our Queens buddies recycle the instrumental used on “Hard Times” (give me a break). Apparently this instrumental brought out the “consciousness” in the duo since both songs deal with social ills. Not a great song by any stretch of the imagination, but not a complete waste of time either.
30 Days – The synthesizer effect at the beginning almost makes you believe this is a completely original instrumental. Then Run starts his first verse and the cats out the bag: it’s the same frickin’ drum beat that was used on “Wake Up”. DMC boats he has a 50 rating as an emcee but fails to mention on what the scale is. If we’re talking a scale of 1 to 100, 50 is not too hot, son. The song overall was average.
Jay’s Game – Back in ’84 the deejay got a lot more respect on hip-hop albums then they do now. It was nice to see the duo render center stage to the legendary deejay as he cuts it up using a few sound bites from Run and D. This was a decent way to end the album.
Back in 1984 I’m sure Run DMC was the joint, but in 2010 much of the album sounds dated. A couple of really good songs (“Rock Box” and “Sucker M.C.’s”) and a bunch of mediocre songs makes for a difficult listen in its entirety. Run shows signs of the more developed emcee he would blossom into, and DMC, is, DMC. I still want to see the results on his emcee exam.
Did The Source Get It Right? Nope. There are a few solid songs on Run DMC but the bulk of it ranges from mediocre to down right skippable. What’s your opinion? Hit me up in the comment section.