RUN-D.M.C.'S RAISING HELL TURNS 35
1986 brought us a glimpse of the greatness that was to come in the form of a twelve inch single called My Adidas/Peter Piper. Packaged in a jacket that contained the now iconic Run DMC logo that debuted a year or so earlier during the release of RUN DMC's sophomore album King Of Rock, this lead single from the soon to be released Raising Hell album solidified the reign of the Kings from Queens. Run D.M.C's self titled debut album continued the drum heavy sonic assault that was unleashed with Sucker Mc's, It's Like That, Hard Times and Jam Master Jay and King of Rock felt a bit more experimental with a few rock tunes, a collaboration with Reggae titan Yellow Man and the ever enduring fan favorite Daryll & Joe.
My Adidas - the Rick Rubin produced anthem and ode to the groups favorite sneaker immediately grabbed the listener from D.M.C's accapella intro (myyyyyyy aaaaaaa didas!) and doesn't let go until the duo dismisses "beat up Bally's" at the end of the nearly 3 minute opus. My Adidas and the momentum of the groups influence convincing their fans to purchase the brand would ultimately lead to Run D.M.C. becoming the first rap group to secure a clothing endorsement, effectively placing them on the level of professional athletes.
Sonically Peter Piper fit perfectly in what was about to be labeled the Golden Era of rap music. Sampling was on the horizon, but Peter Piper used a masterfully scratched interpolation of Take Me To Mardis Gras by Jazz pianist Bob James that was manually played alongside a drum machine and not digitally sampled . Peter Piper stands as one of the best examples of the dexterity and preciseness of the late great Jam Master Jay. Vocally Run & D are in top form - splitting words between each other in the playful but fierce style that they had now mastered. The vocal performance of Run & D on Peter Piper is dynamic enough that many phrases from the song are used in D.J. routines and scratched hooks of songs more than 3 decades after it's release.
What could possibly be the inspiration for the full length album that would soon rock the Hip Hop world and make Run D.M.C. constants on MTV (Rock Box by Run D.M.C. was the first rap video to air on MTV) while resurrecting the then stagnant career of Rock legends Aerosmith?
In a 1995 MTV interview D.M.C. says that Raising Hell was the culmination of every great thing that had happened in Hip Hop previously, and that they took the energy and spirit on The Cold Crush Brothers and the other great architects of Hip Hop and put them onto a record.
Raising Hell was a bridge album. It had one foot in the drum machine era and another in the soon to be Golden Era. It was the last great Run D.M.C. album and the first one not produced by the late great super producer and multi instrumentalist Larry Smith. Arriving the same year as Eric B & Rakim's debut, Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's debut and a year before Public Enemy & Big Daddy Kane Raising Hell literally and sonically closed the door to one era and opened the door to another - all in one album. The beats were big and the 808 was in effect. Def Jam records had been a force for two years and Rubin's work with L.L Cool J & The Beastie Boys had earned him the (at the time) rare distinction of being a rap producer with with a signature sound. This sound was all over Raising Hell.
The Human Beat Box which became a phenomenon on rap records in '83 had a little more than a year or so left before it would be passe' in the genre. On the first song on side 2 we are introduced to Run the Beat Box on the super energetic Hit It Run. The synergy of Run's literal spitting and Jam Master Jay's Rocket In The Pocket scratches make Hit It one of many highlights on this flawless album. D.M.C.'s Son of Byford rhyme (which also serves as a skit on the album) is the icing.
The albums title track was simply an extension of the already great rap/rock tandems like Rock Box, Can You Rock It Like This, You're Blind and King of Rock that had already solidified the group as a force in popular music. The previously mentioned Aerosmith collaboration Walk This Way along with It's Tricky received even more MTV love and helped to bring the album well beyond triple platinum sales status.
Dumb Girl was the 808 heavy bass bomb that could musically fit into the trap friendly radio programming of 2021. You Be Illin' was the light hearted , uptempo, experimental and even jazzy hit that snuck into daytime rotation on Black radio - a feat that eluded many Run D.M.C. releases. Is It Live was the Go Go surprise sandwiched between Walk This Way and the "live drum" classic Perfection. The last song on an album that was full of surprises was Proud To Be Black - an anthem that many didn't expect from a group that had achieved such crossover and mainstream success . In less than a year we would see the birth of a "conscious era" in rap with entire groups representing a message much like Proud To Be Black.
Run D.M.C. is an institution and Raising Hell is a time capsule. An album that has aged incredibly well with little if any fast forward moments. Before formulaic ideas, mumble rap and auto tune Run D.M.C. created a musical statement set in stone and it still bangs today. From Queens come Kings. Happy 35th.