Run–D.M.C. was an American hip hop group from Hollis, Queens, New York, founded in 1981 by Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels, and Jam Master Jay. The group is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential acts in the history of hip hop culture. Run–D.M.C. is one of the best-known hip hop acts in the 1980s who, along with LL Cool J, The Beastie Boys, and Public Enemy, signified the advent of the new school of hip hop music. They were the first group in the genre to have a gold album (Run–D.M.C., 1984) and be nominated for a Grammy Award. They were the first to earn a platinum record (King of Rock, 1985), the first to earn a multiplatinum certification (Raising Hell, 1986), the first to have videos on MTV, and the first to appear on American Bandstand and the cover of Rolling Stone. Run–D.M.C. was the only hip hop act to perform at Live Aid in 1985.
The group was among the first to highlight the importance of the MC and DJ relationship. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked them number 48 in their list of the greatest musical artists of all time. In 2007, Run–D.M.C. was named “The Greatest Hip Hop Group of All Time” by MTV.com and “Greatest Hip Hop Artist of All Time” by VH1. On April 4, 2009, rapper Eminem inducted them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In doing so, Run–D.M.C. became only the second hip hop group in history to be inducted, after Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.
Early years: The three members of Run–D.M.C. grew up in Hollis, Queens. As a teenager, Simmons was recruited into hip-hop by his older brother, Russell, who was then an up-and-coming hip-hop promoter. Simmons appeared onstage as a DJ for rapper Kurtis Blow, who was managed by Russell. Known as “DJ Run, Son of Kurtis Blow”, Simmons soon began performing with Kurtis Blow. Previously, McDaniels had been more focused on athletics than music, but soon began to DJ after purchasing a set of turntables. Simmons convinced McDaniels to start rapping, and though McDaniels would not perform in public, he soon began writing rhymes and was known as “Easy D.”
Simmons and McDaniels started hanging around Two-Fifths Park in Hollis in late 1980, hoping to rap for the local DJs who performed and competed there, and the most popular one known to frequent the park was Mizell, then known as “Jazzy Jase”. Mizell was known for his flashy wardrobe and b-boy attitude, which led to minor legal troubles as a teen. Thereafter, he decided to pursue music fame and began entertaining in the park soon after. Eventually, Simmons and McDaniels rapped in front of Mizell at the park, and the three became friends. Following Russell’s success managing Kurtis Blow, he helped Run record his first single, a song called “Street Kid.” The song went unnoticed, but despite the single’s failure, Run’s enthusiasm for hip-hop was growing. Simmons soon wanted to record again—-this time with McDaniels, but Russell refused, citing a dislike for D’s rhyming style. After they completed high school and started college in 1982, Simmons and McDaniels finally convinced Russell to let them record as a duo, and they recruited Mizell (who now called himself Jam-Master Jay) to be their official DJ. A year later, in 1983, Russell agreed to help them record a new single and land a record deal, but only after he changed McDaniels’ stage name to ‘DMC’ and marketed the group as “Run–D.M.C.”, a name which, incidentally, the group hated at first. DMC said later, “We wanted to be the Dynamic Two, the Treacherous Two — when we heard that s**t we was like, ‘We’re gonna be ruined!’ ”
After signing with Profile Records, Run–D.M.C. released their first single “It’s Like That/Sucker MCs”, in late 1983. The single was well received, peaking at No. 15 on the R&B charts. The trio performed the single on the New York Hot Tracks video show in 1983. Emboldened by their success, Run–D.M.C. released their eponymous debut Run–D.M.C. in 1984. Hit singles such as “Jam-Master Jay” and “Hard Times” proved that the group were more than a one-hit wonder, and the landmark single “Rock Box” was a groundbreaking fusion of raw hip-hop and hard rock that would become a cornerstone of the group’s sound and paved the way for the rap rock movement of the 1990s.
Run–D.M.C.’s swift ascension to the forefront of rap with a new sound and style meant that old-school hip hop artists were becoming outdated. Along with pushing rap into a new direction musically, Run–D.M.C. changed the entire aesthetic of hip hop music and culture. Old school rappers like Afrika Bambaataa and Melle Mel of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five tended to dress in the flashy attire that was commonly attributed to rock and disco acts of the era: tight leather, chest-baring shirts, gloves and hats with rhinestones and spikes, leather boots, etc. Run–D.M.C. discarded the more glam aspects of early hip hop’s look (which ironically, was later readopted in 1990 by more “pop” rappers MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice) and incorporated a more ‘street’ sense of style such as Kangol hats, leather jackets, and unlaced Adidas shoes. The group’s look had been heavily influenced by Mizell’s own personal style. When Russell Simmons saw Jay’s flashy, yet street b-boy style, he insisted the entire group follow suit.