Run-DMC was an American hip hop group from Hollis, Queens, New York,
founded in 1981 by Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels, and Jason Mizell.
Run-DMC is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential acts in
the history of hip hop culture and one of the most famous hip-hop acts
of the 1980s. Along with LL Cool J, The Beastie Boys, and Public
Enemy, the group pioneered new school hip-hop music.
Run-DMC was the
first group in the genre to have a gold album (Run–D.M.C., 1984) and
be nominated for a Grammy Award. They were the first to earn a
platinum record (King of Rock, 1985), the first to earn a
multiplatinum certification (Raising Hell, 1986), the first to have
their videos broadcast on MTV, and the first to appear on American
Bandstand and the cover of Rolling Stone.
Run-DMC was the only hip
hop act to perform at
Live Aid in 1985.
The group was among the first to highlight the importance of the MC
and DJ relationship. In 2004,
Rolling Stone ranked them number
48 in their list of the greatest musical artists of all time. In
Run-DMC was named "The Greatest Hip Hop Group of All Time" by
MTV.com and "Greatest Hip Hop Artist of All Time" by VH1. In
Run-DMC became the second hip hop group to be inducted into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
1.1 Early career
1.2 King of Rock, Raising Hell and mainstream success
1.3 Tougher Than Leather, changing times
1.4 Later years, Mizell's murder and break-up
7 Further reading
8 External links
A poster for a Southern California concert starring the group in 1984
The three members of
Run-DMC grew up in Hollis, Queens. As a
teenager, Simmons was recruited into hip-hop by his older brother,
Russell, who was then an up-and-coming hip-hop promoter. Simmons
appeared onstage as a DJ for rapper Kurtis Blow, who was managed by
Russell. Known as "DJ Run, Son of Kurtis Blow", Simmons soon began
performing with Kurtis Blow. Previously, McDaniels had been more
focused on athletics than music, but soon began to DJ after purchasing
a set of turntables. Simmons convinced McDaniels to start rapping, and
though McDaniels would not perform in public, he soon began writing
rhymes and was known as "Easy D."
Simmons and McDaniels started hanging around Two-Fifths Park in Hollis
in late 1970s, hoping to rap for the local DJs who performed and
competed there, and the most popular one known to frequent the park
was Mizell, then known as "Jazzy Jase". Mizell was known for his
flashy wardrobe and b-boy attitude, which led to minor legal troubles
as a teen. Thereafter, he decided to pursue music fame and began
entertaining in the park soon after. Eventually, Simmons and McDaniels
rapped in front of Mizell at the park, and the three became friends.
Following Russell's success managing Kurtis Blow, he helped Run record
his first single, a song called "Street Kid." The song went unnoticed,
but despite the single's failure, Run's enthusiasm for hip-hop was
growing. Simmons soon wanted to record again—-this time with
McDaniels, but Russell refused, citing a dislike for D's rhyming
style. After they completed high school and started college in
1982, Simmons and McDaniels finally convinced Russell to let them
record as a duo, and they recruited Mizell (who now called himself
Jam-Master Jay) to be their official DJ. A year later, in 1983,
Russell agreed to help them record a new single and land a record
deal, but only after he changed McDaniels' stage name to 'DMC' and
marketed the group as "Run-D.M.C.", a name which, incidentally, the
group hated at first. DMC said later, "We wanted to be the Dynamic
Two, the Treacherous Two — when we heard that s**t we was like,
'We're gonna be ruined!' "
A ticket for a 1984 concert in Oakland, California
After signing with Profile Records,
Run-DMC released their first
single "It's Like That/Sucker MCs", in late 1983. The single was well
received, peaking at No. 15 on the R&B charts. The trio
performed the single on the
New York Hot Tracks video show in 1983.
Emboldened by their success,
Run-DMC released their eponymous debut
Run-D.M.C. in 1984. Hit singles such as "Jam-Master Jay" and "Hard
Times" proved that the group were more than a one-hit wonder, and the
landmark single "Rock Box" was a groundbreaking fusion of raw hip-hop
and hard rock that would become a cornerstone of the group's sound and
paved the way for the rap rock movement of the 1990s.
Run-DMC's swift ascension to the forefront of rap with a new sound and
style meant that old-school hip hop artists were becoming outdated.
Along with pushing rap into a new direction musically,
the entire aesthetic of hip hop music and culture. Old school rappers
Afrika Bambaataa and
Melle Mel of
Grandmaster Flash and the
Furious Five tended to dress in the flashy attire that was commonly
attributed to rock and disco acts of the era: tight leather,
chest-baring shirts, gloves and hats with rhinestones and spikes,
leather boots, etc.
Run-DMC discarded the more glam aspects of early
hip hop's look (which ironically, was later readopted in 1990 by more
MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice) and incorporated a more
'street' sense of style such as
Kangol hats, leather jackets, and
Adidas shoes. The group's look had been heavily influenced
by Mizell's own personal style. When
Russell Simmons saw Jay's flashy,
yet street b-boy style, he insisted the entire group follow suit.
Run said later:
There were guys that wore hats like those and sneakers with no
shoestrings. It was a very street thing to wear, extremely rough. They
couldn't wear shoelaces in jail and we took it as a fashion statement.
The reason they couldn't have shoelaces in jail was because they might
hang themselves. That's why DMC says 'My
Adidas only bring good news
and they are not used as felon shoes.'
That embrace of the look and style of the street would define the next
25 years of hip hop fashion.
King of Rock, Raising Hell and mainstream success
After the success of their first album,
Run-DMC looked to branch out
on their follow-up. The release of
King of Rock
King of Rock in 1985 saw the group
furthering their rap-rock fusion on songs like "Can You Rock It Like
This" and the title track; while "Roots, Rap, Reggae" was one of the
first rap/dancehall hybrids. The music video for the single "Rock Box"
was the first ever rap video to air on
MTV and received heavy rotation
from the channel. The song was the group's most popular hit at that
point and the album was certified platinum.
Run-DMC performed at the
Live Aid benefit shortly after
Rock Box was released.
In late 1985,
Run-DMC were featured in the hip hop film Krush Groove,
a fictionalized retelling of Russell Simmons' rise as a hip-hop
entrepreneur and his struggles to get his own label, Def Jam
Recordings, off the ground. The film featured a young Blair Underwood
as Russell, along with appearances by old-school legend Kurtis Blow,
The Fat Boys, teen pop act New Edition, LL Cool J, Prince protegee
Sheila E., and hip hop's first successful white rap group the Beastie
Boys, who were signed to Simmons' Def Jam label. The movie was a hit
and further proof of hip hop's continued mainstream visibility.
Returning to the studio in 1986, the group teamed with producer Rick
Rubin for their third album. Rubin had just produced LL Cool J's debut
album Radio. They later released their third album, titled Raising
Hell, which became the group's most successful album and one of the
best-selling rap albums of all-time. The album was certified
double-platinum and peaked at number three on the charts.
Album cover for the group's single "My Adidas"
They were almost done with the album, but Rubin thought that it needed
an element that would appeal to rock fans as well. This spurred the
lead single "Walk This Way", a cover of the classic hard rock song by
Aerosmith. The original intention was to just rap over a sample of the
song, but Rubin and Jay insisted on doing a complete cover version.
Steven Tyler and Joe Perry were called to join
the studio to add vocals and lead guitar, respectively. The song and
video became one of the biggest hits of the 1980s, reaching number
four on the Hot 100, and cemented Run-DMC's crossover status. It also
resurrected Aerosmith's career. The single "My Adidas" led to the
group signing a $1.6 million endorsement deal with athletic apparel
Adidas formed a long-term relationship with
The success of Raising Hell is often credited with kick-starting hip
hop's golden age, when rap music's visibility, variety, and commercial
viability exploded onto the national stage and became a global
phenomenon. Their success paved the way for acts like
LL Cool J
LL Cool J and
the Beastie Boys. The group toured in the wake of the album's success,
but the Raising Hell Tour was marred by violence, particularly fights
between rival street gangs in places like Los Angeles. Though
Run-DMC's lyrics had been angry, confrontational and aggressive, they
typically denounced crime and ignorance, but the media began to blame
the group for the incidents. In the wake of the violence, Run-DMC
would call for a day of peace between the gangs in Los Angeles.
In 1987, following on from the Raising Hell Tour, Run-D.M.C embarked
Together Forever Tour with the Beastie Boys.
Tougher Than Leather, changing times
After spending 1987 on tour supporting Raising Hell,
Tougher Than Leather
Tougher Than Leather in 1988. The album saw the group discarding much
of its rap rock leanings for a grittier, more sample-heavy sound.
Despite not selling as well as its predecessor, the album boasted
several strong singles, including "Run's House", "Beats to the Rhyme",
and "Mary Mary." Though at the time considered a disappointing
follow-up to the blockbuster Raising Hell, the album has grown in
stature. In the 2000 liner notes for the album's re-release, Chuck D.
of Public Enemy would call the album "...a spectacular performance
against all odds and expectations."
Later in 1988, the group made their second film appearance in Tougher
Than Leather, a would-be crime caper that was directed by Rick Rubin
and featured special guest performances by the
Beastie Boys and Slick
Rick. The film bombed at the box office, but strengthened the indirect
Run-DMC and the Def Jam label. Though the group
itself was never signed to the label, they were managed by Russell
Simmons, produced by
Rick Rubin (who was co-founder of Def Jam, along
with Simmons), and often shared concert tour spotlight with acts on
the label's roster.
A test pressing release for the single "Faces" from the album Back
Amidst the changing times and sliding sales,
Run-DMC released Back
from Hell in 1990. The album was the worst-reviewed of their career,
as the group tried to re-create itself musically with ill-advised
forays into new jack swing (a then-popular style of production that
sonically merged hip hop and contemporary R&B) and
sometimes-preachy lyrical content. The two singles released, the
anti-drug, anti-crime song "Pause" and street narrative "The Ave", had
little success, and the group began to look outdated. Reeling from
their first taste of failure, personal problems began to surface for
the trio. McDaniels, who had been a heavy drinker in recent years, was
losing control to alcoholism. Jay was involved in a life-threatening
car accident and survived two gunshot wounds after an incident in
1990. In 1991, Simmons was charged with raping a college student in
Ohio, though the charges were later dropped.
With so much personal chaos and professional uncertainty, the members
turned to faith to try to steady their lives. Both Simmons and
McDaniels joined the church, with Run becoming especially devoted
following his legal troubles and the toll it took on his finances.
After a three-year hiatus that seemingly saw rap music move on without
them, the rejuvenated
Run-DMC returned in 1993 with Down with the
King. Building on the gritty sound of Tougher Than Leather, and adding
some subtle religious references, the album featured guest appearances
and production by several hip hop notables (including Pete Rock &
CL Smooth and Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest). Buoyed by the title
track and first single, the album entered the charts at No. 1 and
number 7 on the pop charts.
Even though the album went platinum, the song proved to be their last
Jam Master Jay
Jam Master Jay also found success on his own; he had founded his
own label JMJ Records, and discovered and produced the group Onyx,
which had tremendous success in 1993 following the release of their
hit single, "Slam." Later that same year, Run became an ordained
minister, and in 1995 the iconic group appeared in The Show, a Def
Jam-produced documentary that featured several of hip hop's biggest
acts discussing the lifestyle and sacrifices of the industry.
Later years, Mizell's murder and break-up
Over the next few years, the group did very little recording. Mizell
produced and mentored up and coming artists, including Onyx and 50
Cent, who he eventually signed to the JMJ label. Simmons got divorced,
remarried, and began to focus on his spiritual and philanthropic
endeavors by becoming a reverend. He also wrote a book alongside his
brother Russell. McDaniels, also married, made an appearance on the
Notorious B.I.G.'s 1997 double-album Life After Death, and focused on
raising his family.
Though the group continued to tour around the world, over a decade of
living a rap superstar lifestyle was beginning to take a toll on
McDaniels. He was beginning to tire of Run-DMC, and there was
increased friction between him and Simmons, who was eager to return to
recording. (Simmons had at this time adopted the moniker Rev Run in
light of his religious conversion.) While on tour in
Europe in 1997,
McDaniels' ongoing battle with substance abuse led to a bout of severe
depression, which spurred an addiction to prescription drugs.
McDaniels' depression continued for years, so much so that he
In 1997, producer and remixer
Jason Nevins remixed "It's Tricky" and
"It's Like That". Nevins' remix of "It's Like That" hit number 1 in
the United Kingdom, Germany, and many other European countries. A
video was made for "It's Like That", although no new footage of
Run-DMC appeared in it. In 1999,
Run-DMC recorded the theme song for
WWF wrestling stable
D-Generation X entitled "The Kings," which
appeared on the
WWF Aggression album. They also made an appearance in
a rare version of the music video "Bodyrock" by Moby.
Soon after, the group finally returned to the studio, but in an
increasingly tense environment, as Simmons and McDaniels' differences
had begun to show. In the wake of the exploding popularity of rap rock
artists like Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Kid Rock, Simmons wanted to return
to the aggressive, hard rock-tinged sound that made the group famous.
McDaniels — who had become a fan of thoughtful singer-songwriters
like John Lennon, Harry Chapin, and
Sarah McLachlan — wanted to go
in a more introspective direction. Appearing on VH1's documentary
Behind the Music in early 2000, McDaniels confirmed that he was
creatively frustrated and highlighted some songs that he was recording
on his own. The continued friction led to McDaniels sitting out most
of the group's recording sessions in protest.
A single from Run-DMC's final album Crown Royal
Simmons, in defiance, recorded material anyway, inviting several guest
stars such as Kid Rock, Jermaine Dupri, Adrian Burley, Tony
Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind, Method Man, and
fellow Queens MCs
Nas and Prodigy of
Mobb Deep to contribute to the
project. The resulting album, Crown Royal, was delayed due to the
personal problems, and when it was finally released in 2001, it
featured only three appearances by DMC. Despite no major singles, the
album initially sold well. However, many critics[who?] blasted the
lack of DMC's involvement. Some positive reviews were published:
Entertainment Weekly noted that "on this hip-hop roast, new schoolers
Fat Joe pay their respects with sparkling grooves....Run's
rhymes are still limber."
After Crown Royal, the group embarked on a worldwide tour with their
"Walk This Way" compatriots, Aerosmith. The tour was a rousing
success, celebrating the collaboration between the two acts and
acknowledging the innumerable rap and rock acts that had been
influenced by their seminal hit 15 years prior. Even
though he had little to do with the album, McDaniels was relishing the
stage; he had been suffering from an inoperable vocal disorder that
had rendered his once-booming voice a strained mumble. Performing
allowed McDaniels to come out of his depression and he appeared
revitalized on the tour. There was even talk of
signing with Def Jam, which by then was no longer held by its original
founders. Simmons, however, had been growing
increasingly tired of hip-hop. His family was growing, and he was
assisting with his brother Russell's
Phat Farm clothing imprint,
Run-DMC less of a priority. Despite the success of the tour and
Aerosmith consequently discussing adding additional dates, Simmons
abruptly announced that he was quitting.
On October 30, 2002, Mizell was shot and killed at his recording
studio in Queens. Fans and friends set up a memorial outside the
Adidas sneakers, albums, and flowers. In the aftermath,
Simmons and McDaniels announced the official disbanding of the
group. Mizell's murder remains unsolved.
Run-DMC were one of the first acts honored on the first
VH1 Hip Hop Honors, alongside legends like
2Pac and The
Sugarhill Gang. The
Beastie Boys paid tribute. Simmons did not attend
the show; he was recording his first solo album, Distortion. McDaniels
also released a solo album, Checks Thugs and Rock n Roll. He had
recently discovered that he was adopted, which led him to be the
center of the
VH1 program My Adoption Journey, a documentary
chronicling his re-connection with his biological family. McDaniels
was also featured in the 2008 video game, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith,
making appearances in the songs "Walk this Way" and "King of Rock". He
frequently contributed to
VH1 programs such as the I Love The...
series, and he released the song "Rock Show" featuring singer Stephan
Jenkins. Simmons also turned to television, starring in Run's House, a
reality show that followed his life as a father and husband.
In June 2007, McDaniels appeared with
Aerosmith performing "Walk This
Way" for their encore at the Hard Rock Calling festival in London.
Simmons joined Kid Rock's 2008 Rock N Roll Revival Tour, performing
"It's Like That", "It's Tricky", "You Be Illin'", "Run's House", "Here
We Go", "King of Rock" and "Walk This Way" with Kid Rock. They also
covered "For What It's Worth" at the end of the show. In 2007,
Mizell's wife, Terry, Simmons, and McDaniels also launched the J.A.M.
Awards in Jay's memory. Jay's vision for social Justice, Arts and
Music was promoted by many recording artists, including Snoop Dogg, LL
Cool J, Raekwon, Jim Jones, M.O.P., Papoose, Everlast, DJ Muggs, Kid
Capri, De La Soul, Mobb Deep, EPMD, Dead Prez,
Biz Markie and Marley
Marl. In October 2008, Mizell's one-time protege
50 Cent announced
plans to produce a documentary about his fallen mentor. In 2008
Run-DMC was nominated for 2009 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall
On January 14, 2009, it was confirmed that
Run-DMC would be one of the
five inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On April 3,
Run-DMC became the second rap act to be awarded the honor (after
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, who were inducted in
2007). The group reunited at Jay-Z's Made In America Festival in
September 2012. Simmons and McDaniels then reunited again for Fun Fun
Fun Fest in
Austin, Texas in November 2012, and again in June 2013 and
August 2014 for a summer concerts in Atlanta, Georgia.
Following the success of Notorious, it was announced in 2009 that a
Run-DMC biopic was in the works, with the screenplay by Notorious
writer Cheo Hodari Coker. The film was rumored to depict the life and
story of the group beginning from their inception in Hollis, Queens,
and leading up to the 2002 murder of Jam Master Jay. However, the
project has yet to go into production.
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Adidas sneakers with the
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, editor of AllMusic, has written: "More than
any other hip-hop group, Run-D.M.C. are responsible for the sound and
style of the [hip-hop] music." Musically, they moved hip hop and
rap music away from the funk and disco-oriented sound of its
beginnings, into an altogether new and unique sonic imprint. Their
sound is directly responsible for intentionally transforming rap music
from dance-and club-oriented funk grooves like "Rapper's Delight" and
"The Breaks" to an aggressive, less-danceable approach. Characterized
by sparse, hard-hitting beats—as typified on hits like "It's Like
That", and "Peter Piper"—this would form the foundation of hardcore
hip hop (particularly hardcore East Coast hip hop). As such, Run-DMC
is considered the originators of the style, and hardcore hip hop would
dominate the next two decades of rap music, from the bombastic, noisy
sound of Public Enemy and stripped minimalism of Boogie Down
Productions to the thump of early
Wu-Tang Clan and Nas. Their
influence was not limited to the East Coast, however. Los Angeles'
N.W.A, on their landmark 1988 album Straight Outta Compton, showed
heavy influences from Tougher Than Leather-era Run-DMC, and Chicano
Cypress Hill were definitely influenced by Run-DMC's fusion of
rap and rock.
Early on, the group rarely sampled and rarely looped anything over
their skeletal beats, and the funky minimalism of major producers,
Timbaland and The Neptunes, is drawn from Run-DMC's
fundamental sound.
Rap rock fusion proved to be
influential among rock artists, with '80s bands like Faith No More,
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Hot Chili Peppers adding elements of rap to alternative
rock and heavy metal. Most notably, the rap rock genre became popular
in the late 1990s, with bands like Urban Dance Squad, Rage Against the
Machine, KoRn, Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park. Aesthetically, they
changed the way rappers presented themselves. Onstage, old school
rappers had previously performed in flashy attire and colorful
costumes, typically had a live band and, in the case of acts like
Whodini, had background dancers.
Run-DMC performed with only Run and
DMC out front, and Jam-Master Jay on the turntables behind them, in
what is now considered the 'classic' hip hop stage setup: two
turntables and microphones. They embraced the look and style of the
street by wearing jeans, lace-less
Adidas sneakers, and their
trademark black fedoras. The group shunned both the over-the-top
wardrobe of previous rap stars like the Furious Five and Afrika
Bambaataa, and the silk-shirted, jheri curled, ladies' man look of
Kurtis Blow and Spoonie Gee. Followers of their style
LL Cool J
LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys; seemingly overnight, rappers
were wearing jeans and sneakers instead of rhinestones and leather
Adidas tracksuits and rope chains to baggy jeans and
Timberland footwear, hip hop's look remained married to the styles of
the street. According to the
Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock &
Run-D.M.C. took hardcore hip-hop from an underground street sensation
to a pop-culture phenomenon. Although earlier artists, such as
Grandmaster Flash and The Sugarhill Gang, made rap's initial strides
on the airwaves, it was Run-D.M.C. that introduced hats, gold chains,
and untied sneakers to youth culture's most stubborn demographic
group: young white male suburban rock fans. In the process, the trio
helped change the course of popular music, paving the way for rap's
Historically, the group achieved a number of notable firsts in hip hop
music and are credited with being the act most responsible for pushing
hip hop into mainstream popular music, initiating its musical and
artistic evolution and enabling its growth as a global phenomenon.
Run-DMC is the first rap act to have reached a number of major
A No. 1 R&B charting rap album
The second rap act to appear on
American Bandstand (the Sugar Hill
Gang appeared first on the program in 1981)
The first rap act to chart in the Top 40 of the
Billboard Hot 100
Billboard Hot 100 more
The first rap artist with a Top 10 pop charting rap album
One of the first rap artists with gold, platinum, and multi-platinum
The first rap act to appear on the cover of
Rolling Stone magazine
One of the first rap acts to receive a
Grammy Award nomination
The first rap act to make a video appearance on MTV
The first rap act to perform at a major arena
Signed to a major product endorsement deal (Adidas)
The second rap act to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
King of Rock
King of Rock (1985)
Raising Hell (1986)
Tougher Than Leather
Tougher Than Leather (1988)
Back from Hell
Back from Hell (1990)
Down with the King (1993)
Crown Royal (2001)
Krush Groove (1985)
Big Fun In The Big Town (1986) (they are interviewed in this
Tougher Than Leather
Tougher Than Leather (1988)
Who's the Man?
Who's the Man? (1993)
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50 Cent Produces
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Jam Master Jay Documentary",
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Biopic Heading to the Big Screen With
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Ro, Ronin, "Raising Hell: The Reign, Ruin, and Redemption of Run-DMC
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Thigpen, David E. (2003). Jam Master Jay: The Heart of Hip-Hop. Pocket
Books. ISBN 0743476948.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Run-DMC.
Run-DMC at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
Run-DMC discography at Discogs
Jam Master Jay
King of Rock
Tougher Than Leather
Back from Hell
Down with the King
Together Forever: Greatest Hits 1983–1991
The Best of Run–DMC
High Profile: The Original Rhymes
Artist Collection: Run DMC
Live at Montreux 2001
"It's Like That"
Sucker M.C.'s (Krush-Groove 1)"
"King of Rock"
Talk Too Much"
"Can You Rock It Like This"
"Walk This Way"
You Be Illin'
You Be Illin' "
"Christmas in Hollis"
"I'm Not Going Out Like That"
"What's It All About"
"Ooh, Whatcha Gonna Do"
"Down with the King"
Checks Thugs and Rock N Roll
Russell Simmons Music Group
Together Forever Tour
Fab Five Freddy
"The 900 Number"
Who's the Man?
"Follow the Leader"
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2009
Little Anthony and the Imperials
D. J. Fontana
ISNI: 0000 0001 2157 6947
BNF: cb13927113v (data)