RUN-D.M.C. – RAISING HELL
Released May 15, 1986 – 30 years ago
Run-D.M.C.’s third release was the group’s greatest commercial success, and reflects a massive sea change in pop-culture and music. Unlike most earlier rap releases focused on rhythm, it offered layered drum loops, guitars, scratching, and other sounds to create incredibly hooky melodies and riffs. Raising Hell almost single-handedly helped to establish rap as a mainstream genre.
The Classic Pick is a weekly feature at 4 p.m. Monday-Friday on The Home Stretch, sponsored by the Good Oak Bar and curated by Kris Kerry. Each Monday at 4 p.m. Kris stops by KXCI’s studio to give us insight on this classic album at 91.3FM and kxci.org.
Run-D.M.C. was founded in Queens, New York, in 1981 by high school students Joseph Simmons and Darryl McDaniels upon encouragement from Joseph’s older brother, Russell Simmons, who ran a rap management company called Rush Productions, and later formed Def Jam with Rick Rubin in the mid 1980s. Joseph Simons and Darryl McDaniels adopted the stage names “Run” and “D.M.C.,” and after graduating high school in 1982 enlisted their good friend Jason Mizell to back them up on the turntable. He adopted the name Jam Master Jay.
Run-D.MC. is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential rap acts of the 1980s who, along with LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and The Beastie Boys, signified the “new school” of mid-80s hip hop. New School hip hop was characterized by drum machine led minimalism tinged with elements of rock, taunts and boasts about rapping prowess, and socio-political commentary delivered in street-tough and aggressive style. This contrasted sharply with the funk and disco influenced party rhyming style of the “old school” (e.g., The Sugarhill Gang, Glandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa).
Run-D.MC. helped move rap from a singles-oriented genre to an album-oriented one. They are often considered to be the first hip-hop artist to construct full-fledged albums, not just collections of a single or two and a bunch of filler. The group was also the first rap artist to have an album certified gold (Run-D.M.C., 1984), a platinum album (King Of Rock, 1985), and multiplatinum album (Raising Hell).
Raising Hell, featuring the well-known Aerosmith cover “Walk This Way,” which included Steven Tyler and Joe Perry on the recording, was hugely successful. While this isn’t the group’s first fusion of rock and rap, it was the first time it made an impact on the charts. “Walk This Way” was the first rock-rap song to crack the top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 single chart, helping the album to peak at no. 1 on the Billboard R&B album chart and no. 6 on the Billboard top 200 chart.
Raising Hell was a huge critical success as well. Not only did it find it’s way onto most “best of” lists of 1986, it is also on numerous “best of all time” lists as well. It ranks as number 123 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Time magazine named it no. 41 on the 100 best albums of the past fifty years, calling it “rap’s first masterpiece.”
Raising Hell was recorded at several different studios around New York City in late 1985 and early 1986. It was co-produced by Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin, who both co-founded Def Jam records in 1983. Rubin’s production style, a “stripped-down” with minimal production elements, no backup vocals or reverb, and bare instrumentation, was combined with Simmons hip hop aesthetic (who had also co-produced Run-D.M.C.s first two albums).
Public Enemy’s Chuck D considers Raising Hell to be the greatest hip-hop album of all-time.
Run-D.M.C were the first group to be nominated for a Grammy Award (for Raising Hell), the first rap act to chart in the Billboard Top 40, the first rap artists to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone, the first rap act to have a video on MTV, the second rap act to appear on American Bandstand,(Sugar Hill Gang appeared in 1981), and the second act to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (inducted in 2009, Grandmaster Flash was inducted in 2007).