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Run-D.M.C.: History of the Hip Hop Group

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Formed in Hollis, Queens, New York in the early 1980s, Run-D.M.C. made a name for themselves with their mix of rap and rock and fashion choices. Their popularity continued to grow with the release of "Raising Hell," an album which saw them collaborate with rockers Aerosmith. However, personal problems began to affect the group's members and they also began to pursue other interests. The death of Jam Master Jay in 2002 eventually led to the band's demise but their legacy remains. In this video, we take a look at the history of Run-D.M.C.

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It may be tricky to rock a rhyme that’s right on time but not for this trio of rappers. Welcome to and today we're taking a look at the history of Run-D.M.C.


Run-D.M.C. was formed in Hollis, Queens, New York in the early 1980’s and consisted of rappers Joseph “Run” Simmons, Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels and DJ Jason “Jam-Master Jay” Mizell. Childhood friends Simmons and McDaniels connected with Mizell while rapping in a New York park. They soon enlisted Simmons’ older brother, Russell Simmons, to manage them.

Early Success

The group then signed with Profile Records under the name Run-D.M.C., which was a moniker they initially disliked. They released their first single “It’s Like That/Sucker MCs” in 1983. The song was a success and hit the fifteenth position on the R&B charts. Their self-titled debut dropped the next year and helped turn Run-D.M.C. into a force to be reckoned with. It also contained three hit singles, including “Rock Box,” which featured a rap/rock mix that eventually became emblematic of the group’s sound.

Fashion and Hip Hop

As the rap world’s sound changed along with the rise of Run-D.M.C., so did the look and style of hip hop culture. The trio cast aside flashy rhinestones and leather boots in favor of more street style-inspired fedoras and Adidas sneakers.


Run-D.M.C. released their next record, King Of Rock, in 1985. The rock/rap album spawned the popular title track, and this was accompanied by the first rap music video to be broadcast on MTV.

“Raising Hell” and Aerosmith

Following an appearance in the hip hop movie “Krush Groove,” Run-D.M.C. enlisted the help of producer Rick Rubin for their next album. Raising Hell became one of the best-selling rap records in history on the strength of such tracks as “Walk This Way.” This partnership between Run-D.M.C. and Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith reached the fourth spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and was later considered one of music’s most iconic collaborations.


Following the rougher sounding Tougher than Leather album in 1988, Run-D.M.C. came out with the poorly-received record Back from Hell two years later. During this time, cracks were beginning to show within Run-D.M.C.: the members were facing various personal, substance and legal issues and they turned to religion to find solace.

Return to Hip Hop

After a three-year break from music, a refreshed Run-D.M.C released Down with the King in 1993. The album topped the R&B charts and signaled the group’s return to hip hop. Unfortunately, the disc’s title cut was the group’s last hit.


Even though they continued to tour, things began to change. Jam-Master Jay started JMJ Records, and this label discovered artists like Onyx and 50 Cent. Run became an ordained minister and D.M.C. focused more on raising his family.

<4>Musical Direction
More cracks began to surface within the group, especially when it came to deciding upon their next musical direction. Rev. Run wanted to return to the rap/rock sound they had pioneered, while D.M.C. wanted to focus on self-observation.

“Crown Royal”

Crown Royal was at last released in 2001, with D.M.C. noticeably missing from most of the album. In fact, he only appeared on three songs and this led to much discontent on the part of fans and critics alike.


Up next was a successful world tour with Aerosmith, during which tensions between the rappers seemed to be eased. However, Rev. Run cut the tour short to concentrate on personal and business interests outside of Run-D.M.C.

Death of Jam-Master Jay

Tragedy struck on October 30th, 2002 when Jam-Master Jay was shot inside his Queens recording studio. The group broke up shortly after his death. Rev. Run and D.M.C. then pursued other projects, which included launching solo careers and appearing on reality TV.

The J.A.M. Awards

In 2007, the J.A.M. Awards were unveiled as a tribute to Jam-Master Jay. Sadly, his murder remains unsolved to this day.


Run-D.M.C. took hip-hop to new heights with their edgier “rock sound” and street fashion. They also inspired many artists with their DJ/MC relationship. As one of the most influential rap groups of all time, they will always be remembered as leaders of new school hip hop because it’s like that and that’s the way it is.

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