Often heralded as one of the greatest and most influential hip hop albums ever made, Run-D.M.C. was notable as the first hip hop album to be released on CD and the first hip hop album to feature live guitars. It’s often acclaimed as one of the seminal albums of its genre, spawning hits ‘Sucker M.C.’s’ and ‘It’s Like That’, and launching the careers of Run, D.M.C. and the late Jam-Master Jay.
But decades later, this material from the first wave of hip hop sounds painfully dated; while Run and D.M.C.’s MC skills are without question, often they’re restricted to rapping over paper thin backing. It’s regarded as important, as it’s the first album to capture the sound of street hip hop, with just a drum machine and a DJ to support our two Adidas wearing heroes. It’s dominated by simple drum machines and the occasional tinny keyboard; it might have sounded revolutionary in 1983, but in the time that’s elapsed, hip hop’s textures sound collages have become more sophisticated, all for the better.
Even if the thinness of the sound is ignored, the quality of the compositions is uneven. ‘Rock Box’ sounds less dated than anything on the disc, because it features a live guitarist, Eddie Martinez. ‘Sucker M.C.’s’ is also decent, a boast of Run-D.M.C.’s origins and credentials. But the rest of these songs are hard to take. The lyrics are often clever, and often positive and affirmative, but they’re hard to listen to with such bare bones backing. Some of this material would also sound better if they picked up the tempo; the duo’s skill at trading lines becomes more impressive at breakneck speed, while ’30 Days’ and ‘Hard Times’ both drag.
Run-D.M.C. may be an excellent document of the hip hop school of 1983, but 20 years later it doesn’t impress. If you’re interested in checking out this talented and influential group, a compilation is the way to go.