Run–D.M.C. - Career - Early Years

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 that 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 full-time 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 shit, 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 late 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 fedoras, 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. Run said later:

There were guys that wore hats like those and sneakers with no shoestrings. It was a very street thing to wear, extremely rough. They couldn’t wear shoelaces in jail and we took it as a fashion statement. The reason they couldn’t have shoelaces in jail was because they might hang themselves. That’s why DMC says ‘My Adidas only bring good news and they are not used as felon shoes.'

That embrace of the look and style of the street would define the next 25 years of hip hop fashion.

Read more about this topic:  Run–D.M.C., Career

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