Top 10 Run-DMC Songs
Top 10 Run DMC Songs -Jamie Robinson @The_Mr_TBT
1983 was the year that hip hop changed. At 10 years old, hip hop (as we know it) went through musical puberty. Gone were the days of “bawitdabaw” and boots and furs. There was a new era coming, and it was black Lee jeans, shell toe Adidas, and a sound like we had never heard before. This was a sound that would put Queens on the map, and forever change hip hop history.
Darryl McDaniels, Joseph Simmons, and Jason Mizell crashed through walls, cut through floors, bust through ceilings and knocked down doors. They brought us seven studio albums, one live album, six compilations, and over 30 singles. They sold over 15 million albums in the United Sates, alone. I am going to dig through all those albums, and bring you the 10 greatest Run DMC tracks of all time.
The debut album, the debut single, carrying possibly the greatest “B side” ever, It’s Like That told you, “That’s the way it is.” better than anyone ever had. This single set the tone for a back and forth style that would often be imitated, but could never be duplicated. When Run and D rhymed, you would have thought they had mental telepathy and were reading each other’s thoughts.
“One thing I know is that life is short’
So listen up homeboy, give this a thought,
The next time someone’s teaching why don’t you get taught?
It’s like that (what?) and that’s the way it is”
In a time where hip hop was changing, yet again, Run DMC dropped the album Tougher Than Leather. The first track on the album let the emcees of the world know that Run DMC was not going anywhere. They were the Kings from Queens, and no one was going to come in and take their title.
“Causing casualties and catastrophes,
And tragedies for the sucker emcees,
Using strategies to get the best of me,
You dirty rat emcees, whoever you may be,
You need to go down south,
You need to shut your mouth,
It’s all about, no doubt, just shout, cause we turn it out!”
Reverend Run? Deacon DMC? What in the hell is going on here? From an album that is (at best) listenable, this track stands out like no other. The famous trio pictured on the cover looking like Hammer in the “Pumps in a Bump” video should have been a sign. But when you bring in Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth, the record immediately gets better. For an album that is lacking, this track is a welcome anomaly.
“I’m takin’ the tours, I’m wreckin’ the land,
I keep it hardcore because it’s dope man,
These are the roughest toughest words I ever wrote down,
Not mean for a ho like a slow jam, check it”
One of the greatest DJ feature tracks out there. This established Jay as a full-fledged member of the group, not just the guy spinning the records. In this new era, where the emcee was the feature, it was easy to forget who the DJ was. Run DMC wasn’t going to let that happen to their DJ, they put him front and center and shouted his name to the world.
“J-A-Y are the letters of his name,
Cutting and scratching are the aspects of his game,
So check out the Master as he cuts these jams,
and look at us with the mics in our hands,
Then take a count, 1-2-3,
Jam Master Jay, Run DMC”
- Slow and Low (1985)
Yes, you know it as a Beastie Boys track, but in 1985 it was a Run DMC song. One of my favorite lines from the Run DMC original (I see real well, cause I have four eyes) had to be changed so the Beasties could cover it. The Run DMC version is stripped down to a simple beat and the power of Run and D’s voices. It’s proof that all they needed was a stage, a crowd, and 2 rhyme sayers.
“We won’t only rock the house, but we’ll house the rock,
We won’t stroll but we’ll roll straight to the top,
We’re Run DMC, and Jay makes three,
The baddest b-boys in history”
You have never heard anyone except Chuck D say that Tougher Than Leather was their favorite hip hop album, but there are some quality tracks on it. Beats to the Rhyme is one of the best. From the introduction of Jay by DMC to the Sam Kinison sample, this one keeps you moving the whole time.
“Beats to the rhyme the name of this jam,
D, that’s me, and that’s who I am,
Rocking on the mic cause you know I can,
You gotta understand I don’t give a damn!”
They stepped on stage at Live Aid! Heavy D rapped about Nike, Flash was repping his Pumas, but no one did it like Run DMC and those three stripes. Those shell toes became part of the official b-boy uniform! You know you had them, and probably the track suit, too. Run and D shouted out their favorite brand, and the brand came to them! With this song, rap’s first endorsement deal came to be.
“Now the Adidas I possess for on man is rare,
Myself, homeboy, got 50 pair,
Got blue and black cause I likes to chill,
And yellow and green when it’s time to get ill”
The title track from their sophomore effort is possibly one of the most well-known Run DMC tracks of all time. It brought a new crossover appeal to anyone who listened to it. Rock and rap together, who would ever think of such a thing? The Kings, of course. The three guys who would revolutionize rap music with every album they released, planted the seed of rap/rock.
“I’m the King of Rock, there is none higher,
Sucker MC’s should call me sire,
To burn my kingdom, you must use fire,
I won’t stop rockin’ till I retire”
As stated earlier, this is the greatest B-side of all time. Possibly the most recognizable beat in all of hip hop kicks this track off. This song “IS” Run DMC. If you were going to pick one song to try to define Run DMC, this would be the one. Why isn’t it on the top of this list, then? Because there is only one song that can reign as Run DMC’s greatest song of all time.
“I’m DMC in the place to be,
I go to St. John’s University,
And since kindergarten I acquired the knowledge,
And after 12th grade, I went straight to college”
While this track is subtitled “Krush Groove 3” (Sucker MCs being 1 and Hollis Crew being 2), this track lands at number 1 on our list. It is always difficult to defend this track as number 1. What I always end up doing is just playing it, and letting Run, D, and Jay do all the work. There is nothing you can do to convince me that there is a greater song in all of hip hop history than this one, let alone a better Run DMC song. It IS hip hop….just two MCs and one DJ, and the greatest track you’ve ever heard. Don’t believe me? Go listen.
“Well I’m the rapper with the mic,
drive a Caddy not a bike,
Drop a rhyme in your face,
and you’ll damn sure like.”
There are so many great tracks that can go on this list. I could probably do a Top 50 Run DMC Songs without missing a beat. Having to narrow down to 10 did leave out some popular favorites like Peter Piper, Walk This Way, and Rock Box. But the great thing about a list like this is that it will get you out listening to those classic Run DMC albums just to give you something to argue with me about. So if I got you to break out your old vinyl, or run over to Spotify and spin some Run DMC, my mission here is complete. So until next time, keep it classic and always remember……New School Stale, Old School Fresh.