Unidentified Man #1: You ain't going to believe this place.

Unidentified Man #2: Word.

Unidentified Man #1: I'm telling you, come on, you're going to bug.


In 1984, MTV played a video that showed Run-DMC, two rappers and a DJ, entering hallowed ground.

(Soundbite of video)

Unidentified Man #3: Hey, this is a rock and roll museum. You guys don't belong in here.

(Soundbite of song)

Run-DMC: (Rapping) I'm the king of rock, there is none higher. Sucker MCs should call me sire.

MONTAGNE: Twenty-five years later, Run-DMC is being welcomed onto that hallowed ground. Tomorrow the group will enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Journalist Ashley Kahn looks at the trio that laid the groundwork for the golden age of rap.

(Soundbite of song)

Run-DMC: (Rapping) Hard times spreading just like the flu. Watch out, homeboy, don't let it catch you.

ASHLEY KAHN: Run-DMC is not the first rap group to make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That was Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.

(Soundbite of song)

Run-DMC: (Rapping) When you got short money you're stuck on the ground. Turn around…

KAHN: But Run-DMC achieved a number of historic firsts during their heyday in the 1980s. They were the first rappers to have a top ten album, the first nominated for a Grammy.

Mr. DARRYL McDANIELS (Musician): First to go gold, first to go platinum, you know, first on MTV, first on the cover of Rolling Stone.

KAHN: Darryl McDaniels is the DMC of Run-DMC.

(Soundbite of song)

Run-DMC: (Singing) I'm DMC, in the place to be. I go to St. John's University.

KAHN: To a majority of Americans, Run-DMC was also the first rap group they had ever seen or heard.

Mr. McDANIELS: They heard the name Run-DMC. But it wasn't like, who is this, and you know, is this a band? It was like, what is this?

(Soundbite of song)

Run-DMC: (Rapping) Two years ago, a friend of mine asked me to say some MC rhymes.

Mr. McDANIELS: When we came onto the music scene, a lot of the other rappers were using what - funk, R&B.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Group: (Rapping) Get funky, get funky, get funky, funky-funk-funk-da-funky…

Mr. McDANIELS: So we said, if we use the rock guitar edge, it's a little harder than disco. If we could put that hard sound with this rough attitude, our whole thing was, we're bound to get some attention.

(Soundbite of song)

Run-DMC: (Rapping) We're rising, surprising, and often hypnotizing. We always tell the truth and then we never slip no lies in. No curls, no braids, peasy-head and still get paid. Jam Master cut the record up and down and cross-fade.

Mr. McDANIELS: So the rock and roll guitar was kind of the icebreaker to say we're familiar, we have something in common.

(Soundbite of song)

Run-DMC: (Rapping) …never wear the pants they call the Calvin Klein's. 'Cause Calvin Klein's no friend of mine, don't want nobody's name on my behind.

KAHN: Run-DMC started in the late '70s when three childhood friends — Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels and Jason Mizell — came together in New York City.

(Soundbite of song)

Run-DMC: (Rapping) In case you wonder what all this means, we're funky fresh from Hollis, Queens.

Mr. McDANIELS: Hollis, Queens was a lower-middle-class suburban neighborhood in Queens. It wasn't Brooklyn, it wasn't the Bronx, it wasn't Harlem. It was like tree-lined streets, fences around the houses, you know.

KAHN: Simmons and McDaniels developed a distinctive style that was sparse, heavily rhythmic, and often had a sly sense of humor. And with jugglers' precision, they tossed words back and forth, never dropping the beats.

(Soundbite of song)

Run-DMC: (Rapping) When we're on the mic, we're in charge. It's like that y'all, that y'all. It's like that y'all, that y'all. It's like that-a-tha-that, a-like that y'all, that y'all.

KAHN: Run-DMC's debut single appeared in 1983.

(Soundbite of song)

Run-DMC: (Rapping) One thing I know is that life is short. So listen up, homeboy, give this a thought. The next time someone's teaching why don't you get taught? It's like that and that's the way it is.

KAHN: A couple of years later, Run-DMC hooked up with a half-forgotten rock band: Aerosmith.

(Soundbite of song, "Walk This Way")

KAHN: Their collaboration bridged the worlds of rock and rap and put the careers of both groups into overdrive.

(Soundbite of song, "Walk This Way")

Run-DMC/Aerosmith: There's a backseat lover, that's always undercover and I talked till my daddy say, said ya ain't seen nothin' till your down on a muffin, and there's sure to be a change in way…

Mr. McDANIELS: Eighty percent was like, Oh my God, this "Walk This Way" record is incredible. But you had your 20 percent of loyal rock and roll fans: This is a blasphemy. Who does Run-DMC think they are?

(Soundbite of song, "Walk This Way")

Run-DMC/Aerosmith: (Rapping) She told me to walk this way, talk this way, walk this way, talk this way. She told me to…

KAHN: What many consider Run-DMC's title track came out in 1986.

Mr. McDANIELS: Our signature tune? It would probably be "It's Tricky." It's trick to rock a rhyme, to rock a rhyme that's right on time…

(Soundbite of song, "It's Tricky")

Run-DMC: (Rapping) …it's tricky. Tricky, tricky, tricky. In New York the people talk and try to make us rhyme. They really hawk but we just walk because we have no time. And in the city it's a pity…

Mr. McDANIELS: We was able to communicate a powerful, rough image without profanity, without degrading women, and without glorifying violence.

(Soundbite of song, "It's Tricky")

Run-DMC: (Rapping) It's tricky to rock a rhyme, to rock a rhyme that's right on time. It's tricky. How is it D? Tricky, tricky, tricky, tricky. It's tricky…

KAHN: Tomorrow, when Run-DMC accepts their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, their DJ will not be there. Jam Master Jay was shot in 2002. His murder is still unsolved.

Mr. McDANIELS: For Jay, this would be a crowning achievement of what a culture and an art form was able to accomplish.

(Soundbite of song)

Run-DMC: (Rapping) J-a-y are the letters of his name. Cutting and scratching are the aspects of his game. So check out the Master as he cuts these jams. And look at us with the mics in our hands. Then take a count, one, two, three, Jam Master Jay, Run-D.M.C.

KAHN: Run-DMC called it quits after Jay was killed. Joseph Simmons now goes by the handle Reverend Run and appears on a reality show on MTV. Darryl McDaniels travels, speaking on the history of hip-hop, telling the story of how the street culture of a few New York neighborhoods struggled for — and won — respect.

Mr. McDANIELS: We showed up one day for sound check. We went to the backstage door, bang on the door, boom, boom, boom, boom. Security would come. They would look at us and shut the door. Boom, boom, boom, boom. Yo, we're Run-DMC. And Jay would be standing there with the turntables and the records around his neck. And the promoter would go, You mean to tell me I'm paying you all my money just to play records? And Jay would go, Yup, and put his hat backwards and gallop past the guy.

(Soundbite of song)

Run-DMC: (Rapping) Three men riot, you can't deny it. Will so ill, that you can't defy it. Gonna live, positive, forever and ever. Run-DMC, and we're tougher than leather.

MONTAGNE: Ashley Kahn is the author of "Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece." To hear more of Ashley's interview with Darryl McDaniels, hip-hop your way to npr.org. This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

(Soundbite of music)

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