Run-D.M.C.'s Debut Spearheaded The New School Movement | Reviews

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How Classic? 5 out of 6

Released: March 27, 1984

Run-DMC's self-titled debut album from 1984 was released in an era which was called the new school of hip-hop and was spearheaded by LL Cool J and Run-DMC themselves. The new school was characterized by a streamlined soundscape that consisted of mostly a drum machine with the occasional rock guitar, and visually portrayed the image of a tough, cool, street b-boy attitude. The songs were shorter and the LPs more cohesive which in turn were more likely to gain radio play. The new school contrasted sharply with the funk and disco influenced outfits, novelty hits, live bands, synthesizers and party rhymes of artists prevalent in 1984, and rendered them old school.

 Signing with Profile Records, New York City, 1983, (L-R: Manny Bella, Profile’s head of radio production: Cory Robbins, president of Profile; Russell Simmons, RUN-D.M.C.’s manager and D.M.C. and Run.)

Signing with Profile Records, New York City, 1983, (L-R: Manny Bella, Profile’s head of radio production: Cory Robbins, president of Profile; Russell Simmons, RUN-D.M.C.’s manager and D.M.C. and Run.)

The album is notable for its message of personal responsibility, hard work, and self-improvement which is illustrated on the opening track 'Hard Times' which has a deep and pulsating bass line and exemplifies the great tug and pull, dual verse structures that made Run-DMC such a dynamic duo. Next we have a rock driven track titled "Rock Box" which features Eddie Martinez both soloing furiously and delivering groovy, and heavy rhythm work. The rapping on this track is decidedly faster pace and there is much less of a message but nonetheless spirited and very entertaining with a swiftness which shows their amazing lyric skill. 

 RUN-D.M.C.’s neighbourhood of Hollis, Queens, was far more comfortable than say the South Bronx of the early 80s

RUN-D.M.C.’s neighbourhood of Hollis, Queens, was far more comfortable than say the South Bronx of the early 80s

Back in the 70s and 80s, the hip-hop DJ was an integral part of any show and every artist/group needed a skilled DJ that could cut a record with deft skill and rock a crowd, essentially functioning as the entire musical entity by themselves, which traditionally was the responsibility of an entire band. So like most 80s hip-hop records, there is an entire song dedicated to the group's DJ, simply titled "Jam Master Jay", and it's a solid track which features an ample amount of cutting and scratching behind the usual outstanding rapping. After celebrating their DJ they go on a bit of a fast-paced rapping extravaganza on "Hollis Crew (Krush-Groove 2)" which features a stripped-down, and bare-bones beat and fantastic battle rhymes which are widely overlooked because of "Sucker M.C.'s (Krush-Groove 1)" which features almost the same beat but is slightly less hard-hitting but is nonetheless the more well-known song, likely because people had already heard that same beat on the first single.

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Now we've come halfway through the record and start with side B which back in the day would have been the other side of the record or cassette tape. And they kick off the second half with another classic song about life and it's many realities in "It's Like That", which again delivers a track full of valuable messages for the youth and even the elders. The second track on side two is the magnificent "Wake Up" which delivers a message of peace and co-operation around the globe which turned out to be just a dream. "30 Days" is a nifty concept song, comparing their music as a product which can be returned after 30 days, musically the track features more instrumentation than most of the other tracks with some heavy keyboard use incorporating well known mid-80s synth sounds. The last track on the album is another DJ showcase, but this time it's a pure turntable affair with no rapping, only Jam Master Jay cutting and scratching for the entire 4 and half minutes. 

 This shows RUN-D.M.C. in 1983 before they all started rocking Adidas sneakers

This shows RUN-D.M.C. in 1983 before they all started rocking Adidas sneakers

This is a fantastic album which only has one weakness and that's the fact that half the songs borrow their beats from another track on the album but with different instrumentation, making half the tracks seem like an alternate version that didn't make the cut. And on all occasions it's the more well-known version which packs the most punch, making the other tracks although good sound superfluous in the context of the album. If the extra tracks would have been left off this would have been one of the greatest EP's ever made, It's Like That, and that's the way it is!

 The CD backcover of RUN-D.M.C.’s debut album from 1984, showing off their Adidas tracksuits and Adidas Superstars

The CD backcover of RUN-D.M.C.’s debut album from 1984, showing off their Adidas tracksuits and Adidas Superstars

How classic is Run-DMC's debut album?

CLASSIC: Hard Times, Rock Box, Sucker MC's, It's Like That - DOPE: Hollis Crew - GOOD: Jam-Master Jay, Wake Up, 30 Days, Jay's Game WACK: None
  • Each track receives either a: classic, dope, good, a'aight, subpar, or wack score

  • A classic song = 6 pts - A dope song = 5 pts - A good song = 4 pts etc.

  • The points are added up and divided by the number of songs

  • The score is then rounded to the nearest whole number

  • The most classic rating for an album is 6 and the most wack rating is 1

Alexander RamalhoComment