Friday, August 24, 2007

No. 120: Raising Hell

Band: Run-D.M.C.
Album: Raising Hell
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Run-D.M.C. was one of the first rap albums to show that rap had arrived. While it's not "The Message" or "Rapper's Delight," it had the Aerosmith/Run-D.M.C. collaboration that was the first rap song to crack the top five. Imagine life without that?
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Run-D.M.C. are pretty silly, looking back. There's a real back-and-forth in the rapping, which sounds extremely dated.
Best song: "It's Tricky" will always make me smile, if only for the Beavis and Butthead clip wherein Beavis screams "It's hard to rock a rhyme! It's hard to rock a rhyme!"
Worst song: "Dumb Girl" is dumb.
Is it awesome?: Yes.

In the same way that things like The Zombies record sound dated forty years out, it's tough to disagree that "Raising Hell" also hasn't aged well.

While some of the production has come back -- the heavy guitar in Rick Rubin's knob-twiddling, for example -- most of the flow of the record is quite loudly '80s. The back-and-forth of DJ Run (now Reverend Run) and D.M.C. sounds anything but modern. It's such a staccato version of rap music; It's hard to really compare.

of course, "Walk This Way" is what "Raising Hell" will always be known for. The song's normal version -- the one without Run-D.M.C. -- was considered a classic before the rappers ever asked to collaborate with Aerosmith. Still, in Rubin's want to combine his two greatest loves -- metal and rap -- the world now, basically, changed. It wasn't the first time rap had gone mainstream or a rapper had collaborated with a rock act (Blondie's "Rapture" predated it by a few years), but it was the first rap song to hit the top five.

"Raising Hell" isn't just "Walk This Way," though. "My Adidas" is dated in its content, but it's still a lot of fun. "It's Tricky" samples the well-known one-hit-wonder "My Sharona" nearly perfectly and "Peter Piper" makes nursery rhymes sound mildly cool.

Still, it's old-school hip hop. It's the preamble before the greatness that was the 1990s. You hear similar scratching on stuff like Prefuse 73, but much more modernized. You sometimes hear rapping like this on things like Jurassic Five, but that's about it. It's old-school. And old-school is old.

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