Run-D.M.C. are one of the most influential Rap groups of all time, as well as one of the first to truly bring Hip Hop music to global audiences. As a group, they achieved numerous firsts and helped pave the way for many other talented rappers after them.
So it’s particularly disgraceful that The New York Times still knows so little about them. New York is, after all, the birthplace of Hip Hop.
Imagine if the leading newspaper of Toronto had no knowledge of Drake, or if a paper from New Jersey in the 80’s had no clue about Bruce Springsteen.
Run-D.M.C.’s first hit “Sucker M.C.s” ruled the airwaves in New York City in 1983 and 84, ushering in a new era of possibilities for Rap.
On the strength of their first album, they were one of the first Hip Hop groups to achieve radio play during the day time* and brought a new direction to the emerging sound in the 80’s.
‘Calvin Klein’s no friend of mine…’
Instead of dressing in designer clothing, Run-D.M.C. preferred to wear the around-the-way street style of the time: Lee jeans, Kangol hats, and shell-toe Adidas sneakers. (Apparently Jam Master Jay was the style leader of the crew.)
Similarly, their raps were also approachable, talking about everyday topics in a way that departed from previous formulas.
It’s Black History Month, what could possibly go wrong?*
You’d think that for Black History Month, the New York Times could have come up with something a little more positive and on point. Instead, they offered the jumbled recollection of a retired staff photographer who appears to have Run-D.M.C. confused with someone like N.W.A. But it’s the headline “Run-D.M.C. – A Cry for Justice” though, that is particularly insulting.
Characterizing Run-D.M.C.’s music as a “Cry for Justice” miscasts their art and demeans their achievements and legacy. It’s wrong to insinuate that every black artist always makes protest music. No one who knows their music would pigeon-hole it under that term, and it’s doubtful that anyone would find Run-D.M.C.’s music “horrifying.”
“The wordplay structure was mesmerizing, delivered as a diatribe that delineated the injustices experienced by this generation of young black people living in a society that held them in contempt. It resonated as a cry for justice giving voice to frustrations. The music’s relentless tempo, driving earnestness and poetic structure had become a new creation with its own energy that spoke to these young people, but I found some of the lyrics horrifying, especially the use of the word “nigger.”
It’s sad that journalists in London often have a better grasp on Run-D.M.C.’s significance than those in their hometown. They deserve better, and so does New York City.
**I’ll talk more about this subject in an upcoming post
*Yeah, this happened in February, and I’m still mad about it!