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June is Black Music Month and WERS at Night will recognize black musicians, composers, singers, and songwriters who have made enormous contributions to the music industry. Today, June 11th, 889@Night is highlighting Run-DMC.
Being the first to do something is always scary and risky, but for this rap group from Queens, New York, fear could never be used to describe them. Run-DMC consisted of MC’s Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, and DJ Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mize. Although they weren’t the first rappers in history, they are arguably responsible for the world-wide spread of hip-hop music. Run-DMC helped bring hip-hop across television barriers, into the RIAA platinum realm, and into the radio waves of homes in the suburbs, projects, and everything in between. It all started with the budding career of then hip-hop promoter and manager, Russell Simmons in 1980. Russell Simmons was managing rapper Kurtis Blow at the time and he knew his teenage brother, Joseph, would be a perfect fit for the job. Kurtis Blow’s Disco Son- DJ Run was born. Run got his name because he could cut between two turntables so quickly. After touring with Kurtis for a while, Run began to make a name for himself as an MC. He traded rhymes with Kurt and taped his performances. Simmons and McDaniels started hanging around Two-Fifths Park in Hollis in late 1980, hoping to rap for the local DJs that performed and competed there, and the most popular one known to frequent the park was Mizell, then known as “Jazzy Jase”. 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 but grew to love.
After signing with Profile Records, Run–D.M.C. released their first single “It’s Like That/Sucker MCs” in late 1983. Run–D.M.C. released their debut Run–D.M.C. in 1984. Run–D.M.C. incorporated a ‘street’ sense of style such as fedoras, leather jackets, and unlaced 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. This helped influence fashion not only in the urban area, but worldwide. Run-DMC is a legendary group not only for being a pioneer of rap and style but they had many musical accomplishments. These include:
- The first rap act to chart in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 more than once
- The first rap artist with a Top 10 pop charting rap album
- The first rap artist with gold, platinum, and multi-platinum albums
- 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
Run-DMC released 7 albums: Run–D.M.C. (1984), King of Rock (1985), Raising Hell (1986), Tougher Than Leather (1988), Back from Hell (1990), Down with the King (1993), and Crown Royal (2001). 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–D.M.C. and there was increased friction between him and Simmons, who was eager to return to recording. 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, making Run–D.M.C. less of a priority. On October 30, 2002, Jam-Master Jay was shot and killed at his recording studio in Queens. Outside the studio where the murder occurred, fans and friends gathered and left Adidas sneakers, albums, and flowers for the legendary DJ. Mourners respected him as a family man who stayed out of trouble. The homicide has yet to be solved. In the aftermath, Run and DMC announced that the group was officially disbanding, and they retired the Run–D.M.C. moniker. In 2004, Run-DMC were one of the first acts honored on the first annual VH1 Hip Hop Honors, alongside legends like 2Pac and the Sugarhill Gang. The Beastie Boys paid tribute. Even though Rev Run and DMC released solo albums, they would never reach the level of success they received with their work together as Run-DMC. Run-DMC will always be one of the greatest musical groups of all time. Join us in honoring them during Black Music Month on WERS 88.9FM. Tune into 88.9 at Night tonight to hear the Run-DMC tribute.