When rap met rock, the two raised hell

In the age of the digital download, Jeff Harford rediscovers the album ...

I wonder for how many of us the alien world of hip-hop became a less distant planet when Walk This Way, Run-DMC's collaboration with Aerosmith, became a hit.

There's no doubting it was, and still is, the single most successful marriage of rock and rap, hooking a whole new audience into what had to that point predominantly been the domain of African-American artists and fans.

The top-10 single was lifted from Run-DMC's 1986 album, Raising Hell. In what proved an inspired move, the trio - rappers Joseph "Run" Simmons and Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, and DJ Jason "Jam-Master Jay" Mizell - recruited Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, preferring to record a full cover of that band's song over lifting samples from the 1975 original.

In the made-for-MTV promotional video, the rappers spelled out their motives, bursting through a wall that separated the two acts and defiantly hogging the limelight.

Run-DMC had been moving towards a rap-rock hybrid on earlier albums, but Raising Hell saw them strike a winning balance between hip-hop's braggadocio and rock's power.

Aided and abetted by producer Rick Rubin, the trio created a tight, rhythm-focused package steeped in humour and commercial appeal, but paying the requisite dues to the godfathers of hip-hop's New York-based subculture.

Run-DMC might have been accused of selling out or of watering down the product, but that didn't happen. Instead, the band drew near-universal praise for transforming the genre, bringing hip-hop to the centre stage and paving the way for lucrative contracts and endorsements deals for its artists. (Album track My Adidas led to a very healthy windfall for Run-DMC).

Top tracks such as Peter Piper, It's Tricky and You Be Illin' became benchmarks for a new school of hip-hop that traded disco glad rags for earthier streetwear.

Raising Hell wears its 26 years well, still doing its bit to bring fans of hip-hop and rock together in the name of speaker-rattling good times.

 

 

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