By Noah Lopez and Jason Fierstein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
It's been 10 years since Joseph Simmons and Darryl McDaniels changed their names to Run and DMC, tagged up with DJ Jam Master Jay and burst into popular culture with a unique rap style, attitude and fashion sense ─ the black fedoras, DMC's crazy eyeglasses, thick gold chains, and those Adidas. All are just as memorable as the one-two punch of the duo's hard rhymes about Hollis Queens, Sucker MCs and Kentucky Fried Chicken. They were the first rappers to earn a gold album, the first to earn a platinum album, and the first go multi-platinum. They introduced the rap video to MTV, they were the first rap act to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone, they were the first non-athletes to have an endorsement contract with Adidas shoes. In short, they've been there from the beginning of rap history as we know it, and ─ with the release of last year's Down With the King and their appearance at the largest college carnival in the country, Spring Fling ─ seem assured as a place in rap's ever-growing future. The Wildcat talked to DMC this week as he prepared for this Saturday's concert here on campus.
Wildcat: Uh, what?
DMC: How's it goin'?
WC: All right, I guess.
WC: What's goin' on with the new album?
DMC: Right now we're putting together some awesome and set tracks that will last this whole decade. We're gonna come back real hard and real old-school. When I say old-school, I mean the feeling of the early rap. The cold crushers! Run DMC and all that.
WC: Any chance that the Adidas will make a comeback?
DMC: Most definitely! We got a song on the new album about the Adidas. We got the Adidas back on our feet, and we're back to make some noise. That was God's message to us.
WC: What was the reaction to your last album, Down With the King?
DMC: Incredible. It was received very well. We came back and showed all those people that had been slagging us for the last few years, and we also introduced ourselves to the new kids on the block ...
WC: Meaning who?
DMC: The kids that grew up listening to A Tribe Called Quest, Pete Rock ... then we had those guys on the album, producing and stuff. Those kids didn't know that we stomped all throughout the '80s. We opened a lot of doors. We represent what rap is all about. We don't use DAT (digital audio tape format), we use turntables. We represent the true rap style. There's nothing wrong with the new forms, but we try to keep it constant.
A lot of these people would come to us and ask, "where do you think you'll be in five years?" Then five years later they'll be like "oh, you're still around. Where do you think you'll be in two years?" We're still here, we're still strong.
WC: Who opened the doors for you in the beginning?
DMC: Groups like the Cold Crush Brothers, Funky Four plus One, Grandmaster Flash, Grand Wizard Theodore. You would just buy tapes on the street corner for five or six bucks. Run DMC came up listening to Afrika Bambaata and we try to keep that alive now. Keep up the art forms for the style. We're giving props to God for giving us the career, the longevity.
WC: What do you think about the whole pot revival that happened last year in rap?
DMC: That was all cool. It brought a different flavor to the scene. It brought the party back to rap. It also sold a lot of records.
WC: What about all the South Central L.A. gangsta stuff? Do you relate to that?
DMC: I can relate with them, because all my homeboys are in jail, all of them are dead. The drugs, the girlfriends ─ we just didn't want to come out with that side of life. We wanted to say you could be cool and go to school, drugs are for thugs. We're from the street, but we're still smart.
WC: What makes you stay in music?
DMC: We're hoping to go out like Michael Jackson, or the Temptations. Hopefully, you can see Run DMC in Vegas, three times a week, we want to be around for a long time. I'm the king of rock/there is no higher/ sucker mc's/should call me sire/to burn my kingdom/you must use fire/I won't stop rocking 'til I retire. That's what we said! All the things we rapped were like prophecies coming true.
WC: You've been credited with bringing rock and rap together, with "Rockbox" and then later with "Walk This Way." What's up with that?
DMC: We brought rap to MTV. We brought it into people's living rooms. In the beginning, we used to just find records to rap over. A lot of times it was James Brown, "Funky Drummer" and stuff. But a lot of times it was rock records. Then when we started recording, we just made our beats like we would have "found" them on the records we rapped to. We're not trying to do it. That's just what we felt. If it happened, and if it happened to have guitar, then it happened. It's what's in your heart, what's in your head.
WC: How did you guys come together?
DMC: We all grew up in Hollis, Queens. Run used to do shows with Kurtis Blow ─they used to call him Little Kurtis ─and Russell Simmons [Run's brother and head of DefJam Records] used to have parties and Run would play. Run always wanted to cut a record, and Russell wasn't going to let him do it until Run graduated from high school. When it came down to recording the album, we got Jam Master Jay, simply because we was the best DJ in the neighborhood.
WC: What changes have you seen in rap in the 10 years that you've been performing?
DMC: Rap is expanding, but its going back to its raw form. You've gotta have a dope beat. It's we got the rhymes that you ain't got/we got the rhymes that hit the spot. It's getting away from gangsta rap too. Look at [Notorius B.I.G.'s] Biggie Smalls. He's hard, he raps about the street and what's going on, but he's not labeled a gangsta. To me, rap is any words put to melody. That's a big part of the essence of rap. We're into that and being socially conscious ─making it be an art form. Rap is culture. It has its own art, graffiti. It has its own fashion.
WC: With the death of Eazy-E in the last couple of weeks, how has it affected you as a rapper?
DMC: It fazes me and it was a big wake-up call. You know how rock stars are. AIDS is not strictly passed through drug abusers and homosexuals, but it's in the hood. I think it's God passing judgment on rap music. If you are a rapper and you want to shoot people and be with women, there's a price to pay. As long as crime and drugs are happening, the records will be there.
WC: Are there any fake rappers in your mind?
DMC: I don't think that anyone's fake. I know that we're real and we're just good at rapping. I don't consider Hammer a rapper; I consider him a showman. Gangsta rap kept the rap feel real.
WC: What do you think helps you guys stay on the scene? I mean rap is such a fickle music genre.
DMC: We're real. We still live in the 'hood. We love what we're doing and we're good at it. There's a lot of these rappers that were just people sitting at home that aren't connected that want to put out stuff. It's not their fault that they're so bad. It's the record companies fault for putting this crap out. We're there though. We still come out on the weekends and play, you know, "C'mon Run we're having a party at homeboy's cookout!" The only thing you gotta do is change your rhymes for the times, and we've done that. We always did wild stuff. We played with the Eurythmics, we did Live Aid. We're born-again Christians, we've been born again for four years.
WC: What do you think about the white kids growing up listening to gangsta rap. Do they really know what they're listening to?
DMC: Yes, you know why? 'Cause they go to school with it. Parents are the ones who are pretending like that's not going on. Even in the private schools, there's definitely drugs, sex, pistols, firearms ─ they can relate to the black kids who are rapping about it and saying what's going on.
WC: What do you foresee happening in rap in the next few years?
DMC: I don't see a major change. I see growth and I see expansion, God willing. Rappers will always change up the message in the music. Keep it funky and dope and all. Kids are looking for what sounds good. If you come out with gangsta rap and your beats are weak and you rhymes are weak ─ well, you know what I'm saying.
WC: Word up!
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