Run-D.M.C.'s 'Run D.M.C.' at 30: Classic Track-by-Track Review


It's been thirty years since the release of Run-D.M.C.'s self-titled debut LP, which made its way to record stores on March 27, 1984. The album is a cultural landmark, introducing legendary rappers Joseph "Run" Simmons and Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels, plus their DJ Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell, each of whom hailed from Hollis, Queens.

Originally calling themselves Orange Crush, the group formed in 1982. After a solo single ("Street Kid") from Run failed to garner much interest, his older brother, Russell Simmons, was swayed into taking on the group as a trio. He changed their name to Run-D.M.C. and began shopping around their demo. He got a bite from Profile Records co-founder Cory Robbins, who inked them to a deal shortly after hearing an early version of "It's Like That," which they recorded with producer Larry Smith in his home studio in Queens. Robbins gave the group $2,000 to re-record the single, and they returned with it, plus "Sucker M.C.'s." The pair of songs were released together as a twelve-inch in 1983, and while urban radio at the time was still slow to embrace hip-hop, Kiss FM in New York City took a chance on playing "It's Like That." Other urban radio stations followed suit and eventually the song rose to No. 15 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, while selling upwards of 250,000 copies.

But despite the strong sales, hip-hop, in its infancy, was still ostensibly a singles-driven business. Even the thought of selling a full-length LP was adventurous at the time. That is, of course, until another Run-D.M.C. song, "Hard Times," rose to No. 11 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The Hollis boys were hitting on something. Their sparse-but-aggressive tracks stood in stark contrast to the smooth R&B-inflected rap songs of the day, and it was hard to not be captivated by DMC's booming voice, Run's shout rap and Jay's proficiency behind the wheels of steel. What's more, while other MCs dressed in glitzy disco-inspired costumes, Run-D.M.C. wore tracksuits, Cazal glasses and Adidas. They looked like the people in the street they were making their records for. They were authentic before authenticity in hip-hop was even a thing.

Another song on their debut, "Rock Box," holds the distinction of being the first hip-hop video ever played on MTV. That exposure, paired with the group's relentless performance schedule — the 27-date "Fresh Fest" tour, for example — helped the album become a success. It also effectively made Run-D.M.C. into superstars. On the LP's 30th anniversary, we revisit its nine classic cuts.

- Album Review