It's been 37 years since the release of Run DMC's groundbreaking album, Raising Hell. The album, released on May 15, 1986, solidified the group's reputation as pioneers in the industry and set the stage for Hip Hop's soundscape. Hailing from Hollis, Queens, Run D.M.C. comprised Joseph Simmons, better known as Rev. Run; Darryl McDaniels, or D.M.C.; and the late Jason Mizell, known as Jam Master Jay. Their unique blend of Rock, Punk, and Hip Hop combined with their distinct fashion sense—wearing Adidas sneakers without laces, chunky gold chains, and black fedoras—created a lasting impression on music and style.
In 1986, Spin caught up with Run D.M.C. at the inception of Hip Hop culture and their careers. They were confident, and Jam Master Jay didn't mince words about their impact. “Before us, rap records was corny," said Jay. "Everything was soft. Nobody made no hard-beat records. Everybody just wanted to sing, but they didn’t know how to sing, so they’ll just rap on the record. There was no real meaning to a rapper. Bam[baataa] and them was getting weak. Flash was getting weak. Everybody was telling me it was a fad. And before Run-D.M.C. came along, rap music could have been a fad.”
Compared to the conflict-causing rhymes we hear in the generation of emcees that arrived after the group, calling Run D.M.C's bars hard-hitting seems far-fetched. However, at the time, Raising Hell bred a new sound that called out the newly-developed Hip Hop status quo. The trio felt iconic, and that spirit translated to a project that remains in Rap's elite. Let's revisit Raising Hell and Run D.M.C.'s relentless impact on Hip Hop.
The Making Of An Iconic Album
Russell Simmons, Rev. Run's older brother, and Rick Rubin, who later co-founded Def Jam Recordings, produced Raising Hell. The album was recorded at Chung King House of Metal in New York City. Rubin's production skills and the group's raw energy resulted in a sound that redefined Hip Hop.
Featuring collaborations with guitar legend Eddie Martinez and Rock icons Aerosmith, the album is a perfect example of Run D.M.C.'s innovative approach to music. The classic track "Walk This Way" is a cover of Aerosmith's original song. It marked the first-ever collaboration between Hip Hop and Rock artists. It's considered a milestone in music history, as it successfully bridged the gap between these two genres and paved the way for future collaborations.
Background & Success
Raising Hell became an immediate chart success. The album peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and remained on the chart for 59 weeks. The album spawned three hit singles: "My Adidas," "It's Tricky," and the aforementioned "Walk This Way." Eventually, Raising Hell earned Triple Platinum status, selling over three million copies in the United States alone.
Sonically, it seemed the inspiration behind Raising Hell was the group's desire to push the boundaries of Hip Hop while remaining authentic to their roots. Run D.M.C. was one of the first groups to use drum machines, scratching, and sampling. These techniques have since become staples in Hip Hop production.
Influencing A Culture Of Hip Hop
Run D.M.C.'s impact on music is immeasurable. The group's fusion of different musical styles and innovative approach to production influenced a whole generation of artists, from the Beastie Boys and LL Cool J to Public Enemy and Jay-Z. Their widespread appeal helped pave the way for Hip Hop's mainstream success in the late '80s and '90s.
Response to Raising Hell from both the public and critics was overwhelmingly positive. The album's seamless blend of genres and inventive production was hailed as revolutionary. Run D.M.C. quickly became one of their time's most influential and successful acts. They were the first Rap group to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, the first to have a video on MTV, and the first to be nominated for a Grammy in the Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group category.
Run D.M.C. Today
Run D.M.C. earned numerous accolades throughout their career, including two Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awards and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. Despite facing challenges, such as D.M.C.'s struggle with depression and the tragic murder of Jam Master Jay in 2002, the group's legacy continues to thrive.
Today, Rev. Run is a well-known reality TV star, author, and ordained minister, while D.M.C. continues to work in music, philanthropy, and as a comic book creator. Though Jam Master Jay's life was tragically cut short, his family and friends continue to honor his memory through the Jam Master Jay Foundation for Music, which aims to provide access to arts education for underprivileged youth.
Additionally, Rev. Run and D.M.C. reunited on the Grammy Award stage months ago. The ceremony highlighted this year's celebration of Hip Hop's 50th anniversary, and the Rap pioneers energized the crowd with a performance that made us feel like we needed to break out our Adidas Superstars and bucket hats. Take a walk down memory lane and jam out to Raising Hell above.