Review #378: Run-DMC, Run-DMC

Karla Clifton
2 min readApr 25, 2023

#378: Run-DMC, Run-DMC

Run-DMC’s debut album isn’t as heavy metal as their third, Raising Hell. Then again, this album doesn’t have Aerosmith on it.

This is in some ways considered the album that took rap mainstream. RS quotes Jam Master Jay as saying, “Before us, rap records were corny,” and I’ll confess that I did giggle a little at that. Admit it: this album cover is a little doofy. And opener “Hard Times” (a Kurtis Blow cover) has them quite literally trading off lyrics on a word-by-word basis. Come on. It’s just a tiny bit silly. But isn’t that pioneers do? They take the risk of sounding silly to break down walls for others to be taken seriously.

And they pioneered everything from street style to the marriage of rock and rap. (Machine Gun Kelly, eat your heart out.) “Rock Box,” featuring a dirty heavy metal guitar riff from session guitarist Eddie Martinez, had a massive, massive cultural impact. “Hollis Crew (Krush-Groove 2)” is the first ever instance of the iggy/iggedy style that would be lifted by groups like Das EFX. And “Sucker M.C.’s (Krush-Groove 1)” is considered a seminal diss track (though directed at no one in particular) that has been covered by Wu-Tang & the Beastie Boys (and sampled to death, including in Public Enemy’s “Night of the Living Baseheads”).

But they aren’t just pioneers of style; they have substance, too. They tackle subjects like economic disparity on “It’s Like That,” the sparsest, starkest beat on the record, frankly asking, Tell me the last time that love bought you clothes? “Wake Up” is even more bleak — though it depicts a peaceful world where there finally is a meaning to United Nations, the chorus brings you back down: It was a DREAM.

One thing that bums me out about Run-DMC: they’re a trio, but they never let DJ Jam Master Jay on the cover, at least not until their fourth album. Yeah, he gets two songs (“Jam-Master Jay” and “Jay’s Game”) but no glory. No respect for the DJ — just ask Eric B.

Ice T called the debut “the first rap album that broke big.” Ice Cube said that he was “obsessed” with the group. You know what? I rescind my allegations of doofiness. Apparently we owe Run-DMC a lot.

Favorite Reference: The “It’s Raining Men” reference on “30 Days.”

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