As I mentioned in yesterday’s first post of Hip Hop Week, I’ve always had a passion for Hip Hop and Rap but I know I have had some gaping holes in my knowledge. One of those holes has always been Run-DMC. I’ve known about the band of course and I’ve known their big chart hits very well but I’ve never really known much more of their back catalogues. I’ve always loved their style though. I’ve loved their rap style, with their family friendly lyrics but always just how they weave everything together in their tracks, and I also love their look, the very 80s East Coast look with the black hats, DMC’s big glasses, and rocking the Adidas. I always used to think DMC was my favourite as he was maybe a more colourful character but after immersing myself more into their music recently I think Run is an outstanding rapper. I prefer Run’s verses and then I enjoy when DMC comes in with the power moments. They’re just a very cool group and I’ve always wanted to explore a bit more.

The main three songs I knew were obviously Walk This Way, It’s Like That and It’s Tricky. They have been played to death over the years and massively commercialised. I’ve always liked them and knew there must be more like that from the band but for some reason I’ve just never gone back to explore their back catalogue. I really don’t know why, but hey, it’s never too late, and I was really spurred on by the excellent Extra Helping Episode of the Nerd Lunch podcast where Paxton Holley, Matt Ringler and Tim Lybarger drilled down into Run-DMC.

So, after listening to the podcast I sat down and immersed myself in all the Run-DMC albums. I listened to them all straight, in order. Then I did it again. And again. In Spotify I then made a playlist called ‘Run DMC Good’ where I narrowed it down to the main 24 or so songs that I liked after a few plays. Then I listened to that playlist many times and I narrowed it down to a new playlist called ‘Run DMC Best’ which had about 15 songs. And I then did the same to end up with a ‘Run DMC Very Best’ playlist which had 7 songs which are the ones that I absolutely loved listening to again and again. Although I do have a lot of nostalgia for the image of the band I’m not bringing a whole bunch of nostalgia to the table here in terms of individual tracks.

I was intrigued as to which album would come out on top. Basically the majority of tracks that I liked were from two albums, Raising Hell and Tougher Than Leather. Interestingly in the Best playlist, which consists of 15 tracks, Raising Hell has 5 tracks and Tougher Than Leather has 8 but in the Very Best playlist out of a total of 7 tracks those two albums are neck and neck at 3 each!

One thing I found hard (or tricky) was trying to listen to ‘Walk This Way’ and ‘It’s Tricky’ with new ears. I particularly think that ‘Walk This Way’ has been overplayed and I tend not to listen to it too much these days, even though it is a great track. ‘It’s Tricky’ is an awesome track but I just think it’s slightly lost its edge for me because of the number of times it’s been remixed, sampled or used in games and commercials. Perhaps these reasons pushed them further down my list than you might expect.

So here is my list. I’d love to hear how this compares with people who are die-hard Run-DMC fans. Did I cover the main songs? Or have I missed any real gems in your eyes?

Honourable mentions
The following are tracks that nearly made it into my Top Ten but just narrowly missed out for one reason or another.
Radio Station
The King of Rock
How’d Ya Do It Dee

10. Mary, Mary (Tougher Than Leather)
An example of one of the more experimental sample mixes they’ve done. It gives the song a very cool vibe.

9. My Adidas (Raising Hell)
I love the whole relationship that they had with Adidas. They made a cool brand even cooler and it’s pretty brash and bold to write a song about the brand in a very direct way.

8. Peter Piper (Raising Hell)
I really love the intro for this song. Goes a bit downhill after that but it’s still a great song and it’s one of the ones I do remember from a tape I got hold of back in the 80s.

7. It’s Like That (Run DMC)
This is one of the main tracks that you think of when you think of Run DMC. One of the ‘Big 3’ I would say. It’s been remixed and re-released at least once and to be honest I do prefer the later version. This original version is a bit slow, but still a classic.

6. I’m Not Going Out Like That (Tougher Than Leather)
One of those tracks that has everything. Cool samples, old school scratching, tons of rhyming and it’s very well put together. Run at his best, although I don’t think DMC is shown in his element in this kind of track. I don’t think he compares to Run when doing normal full verses of intricate rapping. In my mind DMC’s better at dropping bombs as is evident in later tracks on this list.

5. Walk This Way (Raising Hell)
I’ve got mixed emotions about this track. It’s the one that I know the best because of it’s appearance on MTV of course. It’s a classic song for that alone, and for the cross between Rock and Hip Hop. And it’s a great track to boot. But it’s just been so overplayed. And I’m sure many Run DMC fans maybe think they were kind of selling out and going too mainstream with this whole song maybe? The fact that it is a great song definitely keeps it in the Top 5 but I do have other songs that I listen to more today.

4. Tougher Than Leather (Tougher Than Leather)
Now we’re hitting the big guns. Great intro, great use of guitars and it’s one of their songs that makes great use of rhyming the middle of each word rather than just the last word of each line (I know there will be a term for that but I don’t know it). If anything it’s maybe a little bit repetitive but you can’t have too much of a good thing. Great guitar pieces too. DMC certainly holds his own against Run here too on the main verses.

3. It’s Tricky (Raising Hell)
This has always been my favourite Run DMC song over the years (when I only knew about 3 or 4 songs). It has also been quite overplayed over the years but still not as much as Walk This Way. And it’s such a good track that I don’t think I could ever go off it. Great examples of different vocal styles in the one song. Verses, choruses, bombs on beats etc.

2. Raising Hell (Raising Hell)
I was so close to having this track as my no.1. I just swapped it at the last minute. It is such a good song. I love the intro. I love the play between Run and D. They swap seamlessly and it’s a great example of Run doing some main lines with D dropping bombs. I do think the guitar solo bit is way underplayed and if they had made this song a few years later it would be even better. Brilliant track though. I could play it all day.
“I cut the head off the devil and I throw it at you”.

1. Run’s House (Tougher Than Leather)
This track is so well produced. I love every element of it. Great samples, perfect use of the echo feature they used in a few previous tracks and I love the main punctuation noise that they use throughout the track at the end of every other line. And just the basic element of the actual rapping is awesome. Run at his best. It certainly is his house.

So, what do you think? Did I miss out any key tracks? Hit me up in the comments below.

And check out the other posts from Hip Hop Week here…

Day 1 – My Introduction to Rap
Day 2 – My Run-DMC Top Ten
Day 3 – My Hip Hop Top Ten
Day 4 – Hip Hop in Other Media
Day 5 – Straight Outta Compton Review