Run-D.M.C. Return To Basics On Their Third Album Raising Hell | Review

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How Classic? 5 out of 6

Released: May 15, 1986

Raising Hell was released on May 15, 1986, and is Run-DMC's third album and their third album in as many years, since dropping their debut back in '84. It marks a return to the more stripped-down sound of their debut. While it does feature rock guitars on two tracks they are less prevalent than on their previous album (King of Rock) and the overall production is rawer and with more focus on the beat and not so much the melody. And together with the sound comes the tunes and there are some good ones on Raising Hell. 

The album kicks off with 'Peter Piper' which features a classic break and some punchy lyrics from the boys. The beat is pretty fast and very rhythmical and is a good way to start off the album while showcasing their new stripped down sound. The next track is the hard-hitting 'It's Tricky' which is slower and funkier and gives Jam Master Jay a chance to show off his cutting skills. On the vocal side, we have the boys engaging in some great back and forth lyrics throughout the track while they really lock in well together on the chorus. Next is 'My Adidas' which is the song that helped them get their endorsement deal with Adidas. The track itself is far from just a cheap attempt at gaining a quick buck and actually features some of their best lyrics which are both funny and deliver a positive message. 

 From the Raising Hell photoshoot

From the Raising Hell photoshoot

These first three tracks make a strong impact and score high in hip-hop aesthetics and lyrical dexterity, but now it's time for a rock-based track. This time it's an actual classic rock tune from Aerosmith titled 'Walk This Way', which provides the beat, the guitar riff and the chorus for the song, essentially making it a new version of the track but with rap vocals on the verses while Steven Tyler joins in on the chorus and Joe Perry provides the guitar riff and rips the solos towards the end of the song. The track is notable for being the first «hip-hop» song to make the top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

 Run-DMC & Aerosmith 'Walk This Way'

Run-DMC & Aerosmith 'Walk This Way'

After the ripping solos end on the previous track it's back to bare bones with 'Is It Live' which features various syncopated drum beats during the chorus making for a rhythmic track. If it was possible to be any more bare bones than that, they actually take it to the next level on 'Perfection' which only has a live in-studio drummer doing a funky mid-tempo beat while the boys rap over the top of it. It's actually pretty cool and the simple 'Perfection' chorus is nice also. Next, the boys speed it up on 'Hit It Run' and utilize some dope beatboxing on the choruses.

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The title track is another rock-infused beat but it actually sounds like a hip-hop guitarist is playing the guitar riffs and solos. It's as if Jam Master Jay just strapped on an electric guitar and started playing while one of the boys laid down a slow and funky beat on the drumset. This works really well in creating a vibe that is laid back and groovy, while on the flipside it's a bit slow going and this prevents it from being as memorable as some of their other rock-infused tracks. 

 Various magazine covers as well the covers to two of their singles

Various magazine covers as well the covers to two of their singles

From this point on the album is straight hip-hop and 'You Be Illin' is a great track which features some really entertaining lyrics about various people who happen to be  illin'. The beat features a piano and horns and is a perfect balance of musicality and rhythm while not going overboard on the melodies like some of the tracks on their previous albums. Next, they keep it simple on 'Dumb Girl' with some nice bassy kick drums while the lyrics address girls who «don't have a brain and when it comes to sense they have none».

On 'Son of Byford' DMC runs down his family tree over some solid beatboxing by Run, and while the track is only twenty-seven seconds long, it serves as a nice interlude. Next, they deal with some African-American history on 'Proud To Be Black' over a beat that is fine but not overly exciting, but that is secondary to the lyrics which are at the forefront of the song and deliver a message which is empowering and references many black historical figures. It's a great way to end the album and it caps off a very strong performance indeed. Raising Hell was a much-needed return to their roots and showed them a direction that they could take on their next few albums. 

 The back cover of Run-DMC's Raising Hell showing the tracklist for the album

The back cover of Run-DMC's Raising Hell showing the tracklist for the album

How Classic Is Run-DMC's Raising Hell Album?

CLASSIC: It's Tricky, Walk This Way GREAT: Peter Piper, My Adidas, Is It Live, You Be Illin' SOLID: Hit It Run, Raising Hell, Dumb Girl, Proud To Be Black
ReviewAlexander Ramalho