Hip hop group Run-DMC is named after two of the Queens natives responsible for the group’s formation, Joseph “Run” Simmons and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, although Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell was also one of the group’s founding members when they first got together in 1981. They were highly influential in the field of hip hop, standing alongside other rappers such as Public Enemy, LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys as some of the greatest “new school” rappers of the 1980s.
When Run-DMC entered the scene, many music critics believed that hip hop was little more than a passing fad. This began to change around the time the group released their third album, Raising Hell. Celebrities such as Chuck D, leader of Public Enemy, and comedian Chris Rock have hailed the album as the first truly influential rap album ever released. It was also one of the first rap albums to ever reach a level of critical acclaim, partially through its fusion of hip hop and classic rock (most notable in the album’s cover of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way”). The Knack’s “My Sharona” is also sampled in the now-classic single “It’s Tricky.”
One of the primary influences that Run-DMC had on the world of hip hop was their simple urban style. Although more than twenty years have passed since the group was formed, rappers still tend to dress in basic street clothes as opposed to the disco-style fashion popularized by hip hop artists such as Grandmaster Flash in the 1970s. They didn’t just popularize urban fashion, but the overall sense that most rappers try to achieve of being “from the streets.”
Aside from their popularization of urban fashion, Run-DMC were the first to achieve a number of accolades in the field of hip hop. They were the first hip hop artists to ever go gold, platinum, or multiplatinum. They achieved each of these sales records one at a time, with each of their first three albums. They were also the first rappers to ever get nominated for a Grammy. In terms of sheer popularity, they were the first to appear in music videos on MTV, as well as the first to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone or on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. With every achievement, Run-DMC continued to prove that hip hop was not a fad—it was a lasting genre. In 2009, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame paid tribute to Run-DMC’s influence by making them the second hip hop group to ever receive an induction ceremony, performed by rapper Eminem.
Run-DMC did not formally break up in the 1990s, but they certainly went their separate ways. Run decided to enter the ministry, while DMC began to mentor young rappers such as 50 Cent. They still occasionally did tours, but both Run and DMC would occasionally grow weary of the recording industry over the next ten years or so. Unfortunately, this was not responsible for the group’s official breakup. They instead disbanded in 2002, following the yet-unsolved murder of Jam Master Jay.
Run and DMC still take the stage from time to time. For instance, DMC performed “Walk This Way” with Aerosmith in 2007 at a London music festival. Run starred in the reality program Run’s House in 2005. Both of them have reunited for the occasional concert or music festival. But their earliest influence is still known as their greatest period of performance. They popularized modern styles of hip hop, creating rap as it is known today rather than the disco-inspired and funk-infused hip hop of the 1970s. For this, they will always be one of the most important hip hop groups to have ever performed.
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