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Rap Biographies: Run-DMC

Run-DMC
Run-DMC made rap music at its finest: "hard-rock, hard hitting, hip-hop hardcore" with a style that eschewed commonplace, James Brown-pilfered, break-beats and instead delved into the rich, gritty, sounds of rock. The unique and inspired beats forged by Jay, coupled with the gifted lyricism of DJ Run and DMC, made for a new brand of hip-hop that was unyielding, uncompromising, and utterly relentless. Hip-hop could no longer be ignored. It would be hard to overstate Run-DMC's influence on the evolving hip-hopification of pop culture and DMC's contribution to that legacy is profound.

They were the first rap group to win a Grammy, the first to be certified, Gold (Run DMC, 1984), Platinum (King of Rock, 1985) and Multi-Platinum (the 3X platinum opus, Raising Hell, 1986). They were the first rap group to make the cover of Rolling Stone and the first to appear on Saturday Night Live and American Bandstand. By decades end, the Kings from Queens had sealed their place in music history and twenty years later, their influence is tagged all over American music.

Run-DMC helped transform the musical landscape as trailblazing, multi-platinum rap group that sold more than 30 million album and singles worldwide. They are recognized as a pioneer in stoking the popularity of rap and hip-hop into the best-selling and most influential musical genre that it is today.

More than any other group Run-D.M.C. is responsible for the sound and style of hip-hop music. Their backgrounds are not those of the stereotypical MC: all three members - Run (Joseph Simmons), D.M.C. (Darryl McDaniels), and Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell) - are products of solidly middle-class upbringings in the Hollis neighborhood of Queens, N.Y.

Simmons is the youngest of the three sons of educator growing up in the '70s with brothers Russell (the legendary co-founder of the Def Jam empire) and Daniel Jr. in Hollis, he learned to adopt a streetwise posture without abandoning his virtues. DMC, along with Run-DMC bandmates Run and Jam Master Jay, grew up in Hollis, Queens, New York, a relatively stable, comfortable black community not unlike many others across America. He attended Catholic schools in the city and enrolled at St. John's University in Queens in 1982.

While Joe attended school, the older Russell began establishing a reputation throughout New York, first as a promoter of rap shows and then as a manager. When Russell brought his first major artist, to his parents' house he nicknamed brother Run for "running at the mouth". Soon, Run began DJing at area rap shows in the early '80s. Run shared tapes of his concert appearances with childhood friend Darryl McDaniels who later coerced to perform onstage with him. Later they pulled in another friend, DJ Jam Master Jay, to complement them. In 1983, the three released their first single, "It's Like That," on indie label Profile. The 12-inch garnered enormous acclaim from local B-boys and became a national hit.

After two other hit singles in 1984 "Rock Box" and "30 Days" their debut album "Run-D.M.C." was released and went gold. With the second album "King Of Rock" in 1985 they had become the most influential and most popular rap group in America. Run-D.M.C. released two more singles: "Hard Times" and "Rock Box." The video for the latter, a hard rock number with buzzing guitar riffs, earned the group airplay on MTV, a rare feat for black entertainers, in rap or otherwise, at the time.

Despite the subsequent negative publicity surrounding the group, Run-D.M.C. recorded and released Raising Hell in 1986. It marked a watershed moment in hip-hop history and signaled rap's final evolution from electro- and hi-NRG-dance music to tough drum machine beats and scratching effects. Raising Hell quickly became the biggest-selling album in rap history.

However, by the time the trio released its fourth LP, Tougher Than Leather, in 1988, rap music had changed considerably. Rock chords and chanted vocals were no longer in fashion and the group's 1990 album, Back From Hell (titled in part as a reference to the group's spiritual awakening after personal bouts with drugs and alcohol), also attracted little interest.

Following the release of "Back From Hell" both, Run and Darryl, suffered personal problems. Darryl had alcohol problems and Joseph was accused of rape. But DMC sobered up, charges against Run were dismissed and they became born-again Christian.

The members of Run-D.M.C. put their troubles behind them and made a surprising comeback in 1993 with their single and top 10 gold album Down With the King that became the group's biggest-selling single to date and a triumphant reminder of hip-hop's lasting appeal.

As if inter-band squabbling weren't troublesome enough, the highly anticipated album ran into problems on the way to its release in the spring of 1999 on the group's seventh album, Crown Royal.

The group's three members began pursuing separate careers after the 1993 comeback, but continued to perform and tour together, including a 2002 summer tour co-headlining with Aerosmith.

When in October 2002 when bandmate Jam Master Jay was suddenly shot and died from a gunshot wound to the head, he was only 37 years old. McDaniels and Simmons retired Run-DMC.

Having lost his friend and the band that was his livelihood, McDaniels decided to rededicate his talents. DMC will release the first singles, "Machine Gun" and "Watchtower," from his much anticipated, forthcoming solo album, Checks, Thugs and Rock 'n Roll. Checks Thugs and Rock 'n Roll show how DMC the "B-Boy" is capable of growing up into the "B-Man." He knows his place in time, he's embraced his heritage and he's made a recording that is sincere, true and real.

Rev Run recently completed his first solo album, titled Distortion. Rev Run also starred, along with his family, in the MTV reality-sitcom Run's House starting in the fall of 2005.

Their distinctive style put them in high regard with fans and fellow artists alike: Jam Master Jay sets the pace with raw, in-your-face drum beats and fierce scratching, while Run and D.M.C. unleashed aggressive and boastful tag-team rhymes destined to become classic.

Run-DMC will always be renowned for breaking ground in rap music. "It's Like That" and "Sucker MC's" (1983) were the first hip hop tracks that relied on electronic beats and nothing else. Run-DMC became the first rap act with a platinum album and multi-platinum album, as well as the first rappers to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, to receive a Grammy nomination and to appear on Saturday Night Live and American Bandstand.
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