After releasing their self-titled debut album in 1984, Run-D.M.C. was praised for ushering in a new-school (that term is relative) hardcore sound when compared to their contemporaries of the time. While the majority of Run D.M.C. consisted of sparse drum beats (two to be exact: used over and over again) and aggressive rhymes, the most popular song on the album was the rock influenced “Rock Box”, which included live guitar licks from Eddie Martinez. Since “Rock Box” was so well received it was only logical the next step for the trio was to create an entire hip-hop/rock fusion album, right?
Right or wrong, it’s what they did. With the production team of Larry Smith and Russell Simmons (with a few special guests to help inject that rock-edge into the music, including Eddie Martinez and Rick Rubin), Run-D.M.C. returned in 1985 to release their sophomore effort King of Rock. Consisting of 9 tracks, the majority of the songs on King of Rock were heavily rock influenced. With the release of King of Rock, it can be said this is where Run-D.M.C. went from rap stars to legitimate pop-music sensations as the album would go on to sales over a million units.
So while it’s clear the hip-hop/rock fusion idea made dollars, did it make sense? (get it, sense vs cents? Oh well, I thought it was clever)
Rock The House – This is nothing more than an extended intro over a drum beat that sounds like a leftover from Run D.M.C.
King Of Rock – Eddie Martinez makes his first appearance of the evening, playing live guitar over Larry Smith’s drum beat. Run and D get straight to work, and though most of their rhymes sound dated (which was kind of funny to hear them mention they”never sound old school”), they still manage to sound convincing over the hard instrumental. Darryl even makes up a few more meanings for the acronym DMC (“devastating mic control” is decent, but “never dirty and most clean” is ridonkulously laughable). 25 years later, this still bangs.
You Talk Too Much – This is the answer record to Whodini’s “Big Mouth” (or the prelude to their own “You Be Illin”, you make the call. This is dedicated to that dude we all know who can’t stop running his mouth. Joseph and Darryl’s flow collectively sounds terrible, which matches the beat perfectly, but makes for a corny song that runs on way too long. Next…
Jam-Master Jammin’ – Run and D’s ode to their deejay, Jam Master Jay (RIP). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ve never been a fan of this type of song but I do appreciate the solidarity. This was just okay.
Roots, Rock, Reggae – Wow! Really? Darryl & Joe invite reggae artist Yellowman (who apparently was relevant during the eighties, I don’t remember anything from the man but I’m not the biggest reggae fan, either) to help create this train wreck of a song. From the beat to each individual involved performance: this was really bad.
Can You Rock It Like This – The instrumental actually sounds like something you might hear on pop radio today (that’s not a compliment, by the way). Over a rock guitar-tinged track Darryl & Joe spit lyrics (which range from boasts to expressing growing tired of the superstar lifestyle) that fall all over the place, and really have nothing to do with the hook. This wasn’t good.
You’re Blind – Over yet another rock-tinged instrumental (staying true to the album’s title), Run and D spit their version of “conscious” rhymes. The duo share stories of individuals who make blind decisions without considering the consequences. And while the line in the hook instructing the “walking blind” to wear glasses like DMC, was comical, the song sucked.
It’s Not Funny – This could have easily been title “It’s Like That II” as the beat (the vocal sample on the hook is beyond annoying, by the way) and Run & D’s flow sound identical to that song. The duo waste nearly 6 minutes painting different scenarios that would not be funny if you’re the individual involved, but are very amusing if you’re on the outside looking in, but more importantly: they don’t make for an entertaining song. Everything about this song is severely dated, and unlike the title suggest, this was very laughable.
Darryl And Joe (Krush-Groove 3) – With a little help from DJ Red Alert (although, I’m not sure if helped produce the track or just added the scratches) Run D.M.C. complete the Krush-Groove trilogy (the first two which are on their debut album Run-D.M.C.). Joseph and Darryl regain the chemistry that has pretty much gone MIA since “King Of Rock”, as they exchange boasts and sound really good in the process. The track, which by 1985 standards, has a futuristic feel, possesses a triumphant quality that makes for a good way to complete the Krush-Groove trilogy, and an even better way to end the album.
You know that old saying about time and fine wine? Well, time had the opposite effect on King of Rock. When you combine Larry Smith’s limited production with Run & D’s limited microphone ability (if your honest with yourself, you’ll admit neither Run or D are in your top 10 when it comes to lyricist), you get a very underwhelming album. I love “King Of Rock” and like “Darryl and Joe”, but those songs are the exception, not the rule. King of Rock is not fine wine, but more like an old-ass 40 oz of Old E. Good thing they dumped Larry and brought in Rick Rubin to handle the production for their third outing.
I remember reading in a book about the group that they rushed this album because the record label was screwing them over with the cash advance from the first album. They would only get that cash advance when they came out with their next one.
I will say this, “King of Rock” is one of the greatest songs of all-time. Not just in hip hop, but in music. I don’t think I’ve heard a rap record like it unless it was by the group themselves.
FUN FACT: LL Cool J ghostwrote “Can You Rock It Like This,” which might explain why you thought it was all over the place. I always looked at the song as a commentary on fame and what the group had to go through when dealing with the media.