Despite their undoubted impact on hip-hop and global culture, Run-DMC are not shy about giving props to those that paved the way for them. So much so that for special new vinyl release ’12on12 RUN-DMC’, they’ve handpicked 12 songs that have inspired their music over the years. Dedicated to the late Jam Master Jay, it features everything from Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five and The Sugarhill Gang to Kraftwerk, Kenny G and Chic.
“All of the things that Run-DMC represented was already being done but nobody was bold enough to put it on MTV,” one of the group’s founding members Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels says when NME caught up with the rap icon for the latest edition of our In Conversation video series.
“It was Run-DMC being the first hip-hop video on MTV that made people think it was new. But we just let people know, ‘No – it was always there’.”
You can watch the full interview above and below are five things we learned from our chat with the Run-DMC star.
Kraftwerk “created” hip-hop
To the layman listener, Kraftwerk might seem like an odd choice on a record of classic-era rap influences, but as DMC puts it: “Kraftwerk created hip-hop.” DMC may be adding a bit of hyperbole, but it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t have a point. After all, as he notes, Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force’s ‘Planet Rock’ sampled the German electronic pioneers’ ‘Trans Europe Express’ – with both tracks featuring on the vinyl tracklisting.
“Kraftwerk were a foundation of hip-hop not just because of their music, but they built their own machines and computers,” DMC says. “They were doing the same thing as young boys and girls in the Bronx were doing at the beginning of hip-hop. We didn’t have studios but we heard their music and there was something in their music that connected us. If you listen to the early years of hip-hop… we followed the blueprint of a group from Germany.”
‘Trans Europe Express’, in particular, was a huge favourite among hip-hop DJs in New York City at the time: “It was one of those songs that played in every park and block party. The DJ would throw it on and everyone within a 10 mile radius, when they heard Kraftwerk, they would go to the park.”
“The culture that Kraftwerk came out of was the exact same feeling that the hip-hop culture was beginning to give birth to… White German people and black people from the Bronx are not different, is what I’m trying to say.”
It’s only natural to like both Run-DMC and Kenny G
Kenny G’s sax serenades? The perfect source for sampling, DMC says. After all, the famed musician did recently appear on a Kanye West track (‘Use This Gospel’, from last year’s divisive ‘Jesus Is King’).
“It’s music – it’s the vibration,” DMC tells us. “Kenny G is music and hip-hop is nothing without music. People are so caught up with race that they wouldn’t give a black kid the benefit of the doubt that he listens to Kenny G. The bottom line is: it’s music. Kenny G makes great music that we can sample.
“You might just think you’re listening to a Kenny G serenade, but I’m listening and thinking about throwing a beat up under it. It’s an example of the walls of separation and racism being knocked down”
Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler is “that kid that would come over your house all day and your parents would have to kick out”
Obviously ‘Walk This Way’, the group’s cross-genre collab with classic-rockers Aerosmith has a firm place on the new release – it one of the first hip-hop music videos to be played heavily on television.
DMC remembers of working with the band: “Steven Tyler is that kid that would come over your house and play with you all day that your mother and father have to kick out of the house. That’s his spirit – very energetic, very enthusiastic, very inquisitive… very outgoing. He’s the guy who did country music and blues – he’s Kraftwerk, Kenny G, Run DMC and James Brown all rolled up into one.”
“When we were in the studio recording ‘Walk This Way’, Steven was asking Jay to teach him how to DJ. I believe there’s some footage out there of Jay teaching Steven how to DJ. Steven was like, ‘I’m going to rap with y’all’… Steven Tyler is the little kid in all of us.”
Joe Perry, on the other hand, was far more subdued, but suddenly came into his own in the booth: “He was playing the guitar behind his head… then he just goes and sits down. They’re such a ying and yang of energy. Beautiful souls.”
Run-DMC and Aerosmith reunited to perform ‘Walk This Way’ at the Grammys back in January, what DMC jokes as being “the last great thing to happen this year”. He says of the reunion: “It was amazing. I’ve done shows with Aerosmith with my own band. But that was the first time since the Run-DMC, Kid Rock and Aerosmith tour in 2001 that me, Run and the band had been on stage together. That was 19 years ago but feels like it was yesterday.”
DMC can’t go anywhere without hearing ‘Christmas In Hollis’
Just imagine it – you’re queuing for some mince pies at the supermarket, or picking up last minute presents at a frenzied shopping centre and you hear the song you created some 33 years ago. Well, that’s exactly what happens to DMC every single year thanks to Run-DMC’s festive classic ‘Christmas In Hollis’.
“I can’t go to the mall [without hearing the song],” DMC says. “I have to order online because if I go to the mall, every 10 steps [I get someone] rapping the lyrics to ‘Christmas In Hollis’ at me. And I’m not just talking about hip-hop people – mothers, kids…”
He adds: “Somebody recently told me that before Run DMC came along, Christmas songs were just traditional records – either Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole… [But] it helps the world know that hip-hop is a legitimate form of music. You can have Bing Crosby, you can have Nat King Cole, Dolly Parton doing her Christmas thing, Mariah Carey – and you can damn sure have some hip-hop doing its Christmas thing. I’m definitely proud.”
Funnily enough, Run-DMC hated the idea of recording a Christmas songs at first. “At first we didn’t want to do it because we thought they were trying to diss rap and make it corny,” DMC admits. “We had no idea we would have a breakout song that would be part of this world until it ends.”
Run-DMC want you to remix their classic album
‘Raising Hell’, Run-DMC’s landmark third album – which spawned hits such as ‘My Adidas’, ‘It’s Tricky’ and, of course, the aforementioned ‘Walk This Way’ – turns 35 next year. But with live shows seemingly not coming back any time soon, how will the group mark the milestone?
“It’s kind of perfect timing because people are gonna want to be happy next year, because this year was so crazy,” DMC says, before adding: “What I think should happen is that DJs should do remixes of their favourite ‘Raising Hell’ songs, or everyone who was influenced by us should do a remake of a Run-DMC song. You’re talking Naughty by Nature, Salt N Pepa, A Tribe Called Quest, Cypress Hill, NWA, De La Soul, the Geto Boys, Public Enemy… all of those groups should pick one of those songs and do it over.
“That would be a sick album – that would be crazy.”
12on12 x RUN DMC limited edition vinyl is available now