AboutThis pioneering New York, USA-based rap crew was formed by Joseph "Run" Simmons (b. 24 November 1966, Queens, New York City, New York, USA; the brother of Russell Simmons, their Rush Management boss), Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels (b. 31 May 1964, Queens, New York City, New York, USA) and DJ "Jam Master Jay"(b. Jason Mizell, 21 January 1965, Queens, New York City, New York, USA, d. 30 October 2002, Queens, New York City, New York, USA). The trio originally came together as Orange Crush in the early 80s, becoming Run-DMC in 1982 after graduating from St. Pascal's Catholic School. They had known each other as children in the Hollis district of New York City, Mizell and McDaniels even attending the same kindergarten.
After circulating demos the trio signed to Profile Records for an advance of $2,500, immediately scoring a US underground hit with "It's Like That". However, it was the single's b-side, "Sucker M.C.'s", which created the stir. It single-handedly gave birth to one of rap's most prevalent terms, and almost became a genre in its own right. Many critics signpost the single as the birth of modern hip-hop, with its stripped down sound (no instruments apart from a drum machine and scratching from a turntable, plus the fashion image of the B-boy: street clothing, chiefly sportswear, and street language). In the wake of the single's success, their debut album went gold in 1984, the first time the honour had been bestowed upon a rap act. They cemented their position as hip-hop's men of the moment with furious touring, and appearances on the Krush Groove movie, a fictionalised account of the life of Russell Simmons, who was now joint-head of Def Jam Records with Rick Rubin. They also took a hand at the prestigious King Holliday (a Martin Luther King tribute) and Sun City (Artists Against Apartheid) events.
Run-DMC broke further into the mainstream on both sides of the Atlantic in 1986 when, via Rubin's auspices, they released the heavy metal/rap collision "Walk This Way"(featuring Steve Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith). Its distinctive video caught the imagination of audiences on both sides of the Atlantic, and the single rocketed into the US Top 5. The partnership had been predicted by earlier singles, "Rock Box" and "King Of Rock", both of which fused rap with rock. By 1987, Raising Hell had sold three million copies in the US, becoming the first rap album to hit the R&B number 1 mark, the first to enter the US Top 10, and the first to go platinum. Run-DMC also became the first rap act to have a video screened by MTV, the first to feature on the cover of Rolling Stone, and the first non-athletes to endorse Adidas products (a sponsorship deal which followed rather than preceded their "My Adidas" track). Sadly, a projected collaboration with Michael Jackson never took place, though they did duet with Joan Rivers on her television show, and held street seminars to discuss inter-gang violence.
Subsequent efforts failed to maintain their position at the forefront of rap, as their audience flocked to the hardcore political sounds of Public Enemy and N.W.A. Both Tougher Than Leather and Back From Hell contained a few tough-like-the-old-times tracks ("Beats To The Ryhme", "Pause") among the fillers. The former album was tied to a disastrous film project of similar title. In the 90s, Daniels and Simmons experienced religious conversion, after the former succumbed to alcoholism and the latter was falsely accused of rape in Cleveland. Singles continued to emerge sporadically, notably "What's It All About", which even sampled the Stone Roses' "Fool's Gold'. Despite an obvious effort to make 1993"s Down With The King their major comeback album, with production assistance offered by Pete Rock, EPMD, the Bomb Squad, Naughty By Nature, A Tribe Called Quest, even Rage Against The Machine, and guest appearances from KRS-One and Neneh Cherry, it was hard to shake the view of Run-DMC as a once potent, now spent force. Unsurprisingly, this was not their own outlook, as Simmons was keen to point out: "The Run-DMC story is an exciting story. It's a true legend, its the sort of life you want to read about". The album also enjoyed a respectable commercial run and, true to form, the trio enjoyed an unexpected UK chart-topper five years later with a Jason Nevins remix of "It's Like That". Their extended studio hiatus was ended in April 2001 with the release of the star-studded Crown Royal. The following October, Mizell was shot dead at a recording studio in the Queens district of New York.