RUN-D.M.C. Were Trailblazing On Their Sophmore Album King Of Rock | Review

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How Classic? 4 out of 6

"King Of Rock" was released (February 5, 1985) less than a year after their debut record, and has slicker production and more rock-oriented tracks than their 1984 debut. Continuing in the vain of new school hip-hop it contains shorter songs with a lot of rock guitars in an attempt to gain more radio play. Indeed, all the singles from the album charted fairly well, but ironically none of them charted as well as 'Hard Times' which was a single off their debut album and was a track that had a simple and powerful, yet traditional hip-hop sound, proving that they didn't need to cater to a rock audience to make it big.

'Rock The House' is the first track on the record and is an interesting mix of vocal samples, bells, and Latin percussion instruments which could work as good intro tape for their live shows but is not captivating enough for repeated listens. 

I'm the king of rock, there is none higher
Sucker MC's should call me sire
To burn my kingdom, you must use fire
I won't stop rockin' till I retire

'King Of Rock' is the title track and the standout track along with 'Can You Rock It Like This' and features Eddie Martinez once again (he played on their debut LP) and he delivers a great guitar riff which is catchy and funky, while the constant soloing during the verses is not excessive as it subdued and transitions beautifully to the real solo at the end of the track. The track went to #14 on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks and was this album's highest charting single.

 Run D.M.C. New York City 1985 image courtesy of artist

Run D.M.C. New York City 1985 image courtesy of artist

'You Talk Too Much' has some entertaining lyrics about how certain people talk way too much and don't listen enough (social media's number one users). The track features some cool, subtle melodies and some excellent keyboard work, but ultimately it's a bit repetitive and slow going. 'Jam-Master Jammin' is the requisite mid-80s DJ track, and it has a funky beat and lyrics praising Jam Master Jay's importance within the group. It's always cool to hear the DJ tracks from this era as they usually feature great turntable skills and lyrics which illustrate that early hip-hop DJ ethic. 'Roots, Rap, Reggae' is a collaboration with Jamaican reggae entertainer Yellowman and features a stiff, mechanical reggae beat, while Yellowman delivers some okay vocals about music, machoism and being anti-drug/alcohol, but musically it doesn't sound good.

Around the time LL was getting ready to drop his Def Jam debut album, Radio, he was called upon by Russell Simmons and Run-D.M.C. to assist them with lyrics and he actually penned the lyrics to 'Can You Rock It Like This'. It's danceable and has an excellent combination of rock guitar and keyboard sounds, with Run-DMC delivering LL's lyrics with aggression and plenty of attitude. Topics include the various trappings of fame such as fans, groupies, and journalists.

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Off the bat 'You're Blind' sounds like a rock song, but Segways to a standard drum machine hip-hop beat during for the verses, while the chorus sounds like hip-hop-a-fied Lynyrd Skynyrd song. Lyrically it delivers a warning to street-hustlers and criminals and is pessimistic but realistic in its assessments. 'It's Not Funny' has pretty entertaining lyrics about a variety of unfortunate situations one might end up in that are certainly not funny! 'Daryll and Joe (Krush-Groove 3)', this title references Darryl (DMC's) and Joe (Run's) real names and follows in the Krush Groove series, this track actually charted as a single despite being pretty unknown in their discography, which is understandable considering the song is slightly messy sounding, jumping from beat to beat while mixing basslines
and keyboard lines left and right. 

In terms of how classic this album is, it's not even close to their debut record which despite being less consistent was far more hard-hitting and memorable, although "King of Rock" should receive credit for pushing the hip-hop/rock sound forward into new territories and in this aspect they were trailblazing on this album.

 The back cover of Run-DMC's "King of Rock" album

The back cover of Run-DMC's "King of Rock" album

How Classic Is King of Rock?

CLASSIC: King of Rock DOPE: Can You Rock It Like This GOOD: Rock The House, You Talk Too Much, Jam-Master Jammin, Roots, Rap, Reggae, You're Blind, It's Not Funny, Darryl and Joe - WACK: None
  • Each track receives either a: classic, dope, good, a'aight, subpar or wack rating.

  • 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