Why Rolling Stone gets it right: On the group's first record, the rap genre was largely defined in spare music and call-and-response rapping.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: The record sounds horribly dated; Rap music hasn't sounded like this in years. Even groups that take a cue from the old school (Jurassic 5, for example) sound much more modern.
Best song: "Rock Box," "It's Like That (That's Just The Way It Is)" and "Sucker M.C.s (Krush-Groove 1)" are all classics.
Worst song: "30 Days" isn't all that good.
Is it awesome?: It's not as good as "Raising Hell" and it does sound dated, but it is highly influential.
One of the overwhelming themes with this list and my analysis (Ha! Analysis!) is that I use the word "important" a fair amount. That's probably foolish, as music isn't something easy to quantify in any way other than "I like it" or "I don't like it." It's art. Save for record sales (not a great indicator) or Grammys (a very crappy indicator), there isn't a number to fall back on. It's not like analyzing the stock market or baseball players. Those are black and white.
Still, I'm a journalist by trade (not for this project necessarily, I work for a news magazine and have worked in print/online journalism my whole career), So I understand that Rolling Stone is something of an opinion maker/recorder of history. I deride this list for a a lot of reasons -- it's baby boomer-centric, it ignores rap, etc. -- but it's still Rolling fucking Stone. People read Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone's account of which albums are the greatest is not only a cool argument-starter (as this whole project shows), but the list is taken, at the very least, as a suggestion as to which albums are the best.
Obviously, "greatest" is even more nebulous. RS calls it the "greatest" albums of all time, and I have absolutely no fucking idea what that means. So, I try to couch it in "Well, was this album influential or not? Did other people hear it and start a band? Did it sell a lot?" All those factors come into play when I call a record "important."
If I had to make a list of what I consider the best albums ("Revolver," "Dark Side," etc.) of all time, I don't know if I could do it. I imagine it would be pretty different from a list of my favorite albums ("Either/Or," "Animals," "Spiderland," Isis' "Panopticon," etc.), though there'd certainly be some overlap.
But, I'm just a dude on the Web. I'm not Rolling Stone, the former voice of the counter culture, the supposedly most important music magazine in the United States. When Rolling Stone puts out a list, again, it's taken with a certain amount of levity.
So, I hope RS gets it right. Of course, it's just my opinion, but I think there are serious problem with important records on the list.
Which brings us to Run-D.M.C.'s first record. It was something of a revelation in its time; Hip hop was in its infancy and the group did something totally different to frame the genre. Not until the 90s did rap music sound considerably different; Every rapper in the 80s took what Run-D.M.C.'s style and appropriated it. Even Eric B and Rakim took the group's production style and spun a slightly different flow on it.
Pitchfork sums it up well:
It's hard to hear Run-DMC's music as music in 2005. For 20 years, their singles have been dorm-room staples like Hendrix and Marley; they danced with Steven Tyler on a hundred VH-1 video countdowns, their fedora-clad images have fossilized into pop consciousness. The group hasn't been relevant to rap in nearly 20 years; most of the music played on urban stations' old-school mixes comes from years after the group's peak...But musically, it's spare and hard and densely compelling, and it probably sounded terrifying in 1984.
On some level, that's what makes Run D.M.C. important. They're one of the genre's biggest titans, a group whose work has been copied and co-opted a million times.