Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 27: Run-D.M.C., "Run's House"

Artist: Run-D.M.C.
Song: "Run's House"
Album: Tougher Than Leather
Year: 1988

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While songs of boasting and self-promotion are nothing new to any musical genre, they are perhaps no more common than in the hip hop industry.  Whether bragging about their individual talents, the prowess of their group, how tough their hometown is, or simply how superior rap music is, it is nearly impossible to find any group or individual that has not recorded at least one song with such a theme.  While in a majority of cases, songs such as these are "throw out" tracks, and perhaps nothing more than "filler" for the record, there are a few instances in which these boasting songs are not only as good as the rest of the album, but true classics of the hip-hop genre.  Many of these rare occurrences happened during the so-called "golden age" of hip-hop, before emcees took the luxury of using a curse word every third word in their rhymes.  Taking all of this into account, whenever one is looking for an example of brilliant execution during the "golden age" of hip-hop, one rarely needs to look any further than the Kings Of Rock themselves, Run-D.M.C.  Their name alone remains one of the most highly respected across any genre in music history, and it goes without saying that without their massive contributions, the entire hip-hop genre likely would have never achieved the mainstream success that it enjoys to this day.  Having already taken over the world with their monumental 1986 record, Raising Hell, the group unleashed another powerful array of hip-hop classics two years later on Tougher Than Leather,  Addressing their own skills as well as the fact that hip-hop was "here to stay," Run-D.M.C. rarely sounds better than they do on their iconic 1988 single, "Run's House."

Without question, one of the biggest things that Run-D.M.C. had working in their favor on "Run's House" is the fact that the song was created before all of the royalty lawsuits began, and Jam Master Jay's sampling of James Brown's "Funky Drummer" remains one of the most memorable hooks in the history of the genre.  It is this looped horn hook that drives the song, and yet "Run's House" also stands as one of the earliest "heavy bass" tunes of the genre.  When the bass hits during the choruses, one can see it as a turning point in the genre, as before "Run's House," it is far more difficult to find the bass with the same tone and resonance.  Furthermore, Jam Master Jay uses this song to once again showcase his brilliant scratching skills, and the flawless execution that he displays in every aspect of DJing serves as a testament as to why he was as essential a member of the group as either of its emcees.  While in the overall picture of Run-D.M.C.'s catalog, "Run's House" might take a "backseat" to tracks like "It's Tricky" and "You Be Illin'," the fact of the matter is, "Run's House" found great chart success, as well as achieving an unpredictable cult-like status over the years.  When it was first released, the song climbed into the top ten on the singles charts, making it the highest charting song off of Tougher Than Leather and clearly making it the driving force behind the albums' overall sales success.  In more recent years, the song was used as the theme to the reality show of the same name, as well as making a hilarious, yet unexpected cameo in Kevin Smith's 1999 Dogma.

While the song itself is as catchy as anything else in the Run-D.M.C. catalog, when one looks over the entire history of hip-hop music, there is simply no other group that sounds quite like Run-D.M.C., and there are few groups that can hand off rhymes as perfectly as they do.  This, in many ways, has always been the aspect that made their records so fantastic, as Run and D.M.C. clearly have a chemistry unlike any other hip-hop pairing, and their lyrical interchanges remain unrivaled to this day.  Both emcees can flip a phrase with the best of all time, and the fact that they execute every rhyme without any need for curse words or other distractions serves as a testament to their uncanny talent as writers as well as rappers.  On "Run's House," one can argue that the primary theme is a brilliant commentary on the fact that, as a genre, hip-hop was not a "passing trend" as many were claiming it to be.  In the first lines, Run rhymes, "...once again my friend, not a trend for then, they said rap was crap but never had this band..."  He later drives the point home, destroying the myth that rapping took no talent or planning when he delivers the lines, "...another time I take, for the rhymes I make, makes me mad and sad because the fad is fake..."  Clearly taking up the case for the rest of the hip-hop world, the group makes it quite clear that rap music is not going anywhere, and such arguments are finally a "waste of breath."  On the flip-side, D.M.C. takes his verse on the song to bring a traditional boasting verse, yet in the process, he delivered what is now a truly iconic rhyme when he spoke, "...my name is D.M.C., the all time great, I bust the most rhymes in New York State.  While it may seem "old school" in comparison to modern sounds, the fact of the matter is, one can find the entire foundation of quality hip-hop music within the rhymes on "Run's House."

Across every genre of music, there is some clear point when the biggest trends and most commonly used musical phrasings originated, and in the case of the hip-hop world, a great number of these things came from the recordings of Run-D.M.C.  Unquestionably one of the most influential and important musical acts in the history of recorded music, the trio pioneered countless approaches and sounds, as well as gifting onto the world some of the most memorable and commonly quoted rhymes ever.  By the time 1988 rolled around, Run-D.M.C. were already the kings of the hip-hop world, and their legend had already been cemented with their 1986 record, Raising Hell.  Facing a massive amount of hype and pressure for the follow-up recording, the group delivered the brilliant album, Tougher Than Leather, and it was powered by the fantastic single, "Run's House."  With a far more aggressive and confrontational approach than on their previous records, the group addresses the media and fans, and any others who were hoping that rap music would be nothing more than a "passing trend."  Clearly, history shows that the genre not only survived, but quickly became a force on a world-wide level.  From the uniquely toned bass to the superb use of samples to the perfectly executed scratching, Jam Master Jay is in top form throughout "Run's House," and the song remains one of the groups' greatest musical moments.  As they are on every track, Run and D.M.C. are completely in sync with one another, and their dual rhymes have rarely sounded better than on this song.  While the song does perhaps live in the shadows of some of the groups bigger hits, one cannot deny the overall greatness and massive influence found within Run-D.M.C.'s 1988 classic, "Run's House."

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