Friday, September 29, 2006

Artist Profile: Run DMC


"Run-DMC broke down the barriers. They were the first real rap stars. Everyone in the game today owes something to them." - Eminem

This quote sums up why I thought my first Artist Profile should be Run DMC.
There are very few hip hop artists that can be labelled as legends; these 3 guys from Hollis, New York are in that select few.
Comprising of Joseph Simmons (Run), Darryl McDaniels (DMC) & Jason Mizell (Jam Master Jay), their first single "It's Like That" was released in 1983 but for me it was the Raising Hell album of 1986 that defined them & put them in the premier league of hip hop artists.

Run may have had the good fortune of being brother to producer Russell Simmons (of Rush Productions), partnering the already-established Kurtis Blow for a brief period, but that can't detract from the fact that he had real talent. When he linked up with school friend DMC, and later brought JMJ in to the fold, the result was dynamite. They engineered hip hop's move away from disco-based backing tracks, replacing them with raw drum beats that sounded much more "street". Their dress sense too was different from what had been before; dressed in black with fedora hats & trainers (sneakers) instead of spangly, sequined nonsense!

One of the things that made Run DMC so special for me was the lyrical partnership between the two MCs. The way the lead vocal could switch so cleanly & crisply from say Run to Dmc & then back again, often mid-sentence, was an art form they made their own. Take the 1st verse of Peter Piper for instance. I can't think of a record since (and certainly not before) where this skill has been done with such perfection.

I suppose one of the tracks that they'll be remembered by is their collaboration with Aerosmith on "Walk This Way". Although I didn't particularly like this song, it managed to bring rap music to the masses in a way that hadn't been achieved before. Overnight, they became rap's first true "superstars" & can lay claim to some groundbreaking firsts -
the first rap act to go gold (and platinum), have a video aired on MTV, receive a Grammy nomination & appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.... the list goes on.

Raising Hell was quite simply a brilliant album, delivered at the right time, and they deserved the success it brought them. They were at the pinnacle of their game but, as in all genres, you can't stay at the top forever.

Whether it was the fact that the next album (Tougher Than Leather) wasn't as good as it's predecessor or whether it was the fact that new artists (such as Public Enemy) came along with a different style/sound/direction, one thing's for sure.... by the time 1989 came about, Run DMC's popularity amongst the true hip hop fans was starting to wane.

A succession of mediocre albums followed before the 3 guys went their separate ways, pursuing solo careers of limited success. They reformed on occassion but were never to return to the heights they reached in the 80's.
Maybe they just didn't have a place in the scene because it had moved on so much? Whatever the reason, and whatever you think of them, you have to admire them and pay respect to them for their contribution to hip hop. As Chuck D said "They are our Beatles".

As sad as their fall from grace may seem to a purist like me, the worst was yet to come. On October 30th 2002, Jam Master Jay was shot & killed in a recording studio in New York. Many theories have been branded about as to why he was killed & who killed him, the case remains unsolved.

In my search for further info on this piece, I came across some interesting links. Firstly, here's a great clip of a JMJ tribute performed by DJ Premier (of Gangstarr fame), Grandmaster Flash, Kid Capri & Jazzy Jeff

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ur5oK7xpj14

A few interesting tribute sites here....

www.j-m-j.com/ - where you can leave you're own tribute

http://www.hiphop-elements.com/article/read/7/5634/1/ - a very well written piece

http://www.jayquan.com/jmj.htm - a touching, heartfelt tribute

Run DMCs first two albums (with respect to the guys at the Bust The Facts blog for uploading - one of the best on the net in my opinion)

Run DMC - "Run DMC" (1984)
http://www.megaupload.com/?d=57OAYBEC

Run DMC - "King of Rock" (1985)
http://www.megaupload.com/?d=VRL4XPDB

If anyone has a link to the Raising Hell album, please feel free to post it in the comments section.

Behold The Detonator


I noticed over at Crooklyn's Classics, they've done a great piece on 1989

http://crooklyns.blogspot.com/2006/09/1989-revisited.html

There's a fine selection of albums there, most of which I bought 1st time round. The real gem for me is Tuff Crew's "Back To Wreck Shop".

Tuff Crew were around at the time of, what i call, the Philly almost-Revolution. As we all know, NY is where rap started. It didn't really have any rivals til the West Coast got in on the act - but Philadelphia almost changed that by bringing us Schoolly D, 3x Dope & Steady B. And then came the Tuff Crew. With four fast-paced rappers mic-sharing, blowing their own trumpets & doing their best to brag about 'their part of town', they were backed up by one of the finest DJ's from this period... DJ Too Tuff. Or, to give him his full title, DJ Too Tuff The Deuce Ace Detonator.

Boy, could this guy scratch! Listen to him absolutely rip up some Public Enemy lyrics, horns & chants in "Behold The Detonator" on the Wreck Shop album, particularly the horn. It's worth downloading the album for just to hear his scratching techniques.

I tried researching the Tuff Crew on the net but there's very little about them. Probably because they never crossed over to the mainstream & they were on a small independent label. However, I did come across this video clip of "Robbin Hoods" (NB: this track is NOT on the Wreck Shop album).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yt_XN2cK8Mg

And if you're not sure about getting the Wreck Shop album, try listening to the My Part Of Town remix over at Last.fm

h**p://www.last.fm/music/tuff+crew

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Introducing The Ego Trippin Blog

Quite recently, I was scouring the net for an mp3 of Ego Trippin by the Ultramagnetic MCs.
In my search, I stumbled across some old skool hip hop blogs & my memories of the mid 80's - early 90's came flooding back... the Electro collecions by Streetsounds, the Mike Allen show on Capital FM, UK Fresh 86, Public Enemy in Brixton.... the list goes on.
My musical tastes had moved away from hip hop since those days & I'd forgotten just how good the music was back in the "old days". I've now rekindled my passion for what was such ground-breaking material at the time & this blog is my way of sharing my knowledge & experiences with everyone out there.

Although I won't be hosting any music myself, I will provide links to other sites that do (giving praise to the original link poster, wherever possible). If anyone that I've linked to objects to this then please leave a comment & I'll remove your links & respect your decision.
I'll also be providing historical content & in depth artist(s) profiles/biographies from hip-hop's "golden era".

If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment or two. I will reply as soon as I can.

Thanks for visiting. Do come again!