More than any other hip-hop group, Run DMC is responsible for the sound and style of the music. As the first hardcore rap outfit, the trio set the sound and style for the next decade of rap. At the same time, Run-D.M.C. helped move rap from a singles-oriented genre to an album-oriented one - they were the first hip-hop artist to construct full-fledged albums, not just collections with two singles and a bunch of filler.
All three members of Run-D.M.C. were natives of the middle-class New York borough Hollis, Queens. Run (born Joseph Simmons, November 14, 1964) was the brother of Russell Simmons, who formed the hip-hop management company Rush Productions in the early '80s; by the mid-'80s, Russell had formed the pioneering record label Def Jam with Rick Rubin. Russell encouraged his brother Joey and his friend Darryl McDaniels (born May 31, 1964) to form a rap duo. The pair of friends did just that, adopting the names Run and D.M.C., respectively. After they graduated from high school in 1982, the pair enlisted their friend Jason Mizell (born January 21, 1965) to scratch turntables; Mizell adopted the stage name Jam Master Jay.
In 1983, Run-D.M.C. released their first single, 'It's Like That'/'Sucker M.C.'s,' on Profile Records. The single sounded like no other rap at the time -- it was spare, blunt, and skillful, with hard beats and powerful, literate, daring vocals, where Run and D.M.C.'s vocals overlapped, as they finished each other's lines. It was the first "new school" hip-hop recording. 'It's Like That' became a Top 20 R&B hit, as did the group's second single, 'Hard Times'/'Jam Master Jay.' Two other hit R&B singles followed in early 1984 -- 'Rock Box' and '30 Days' -- before the group's eponymous debut appeared.
Run-D.M.C.'s fusion of rock and rap broke into the mainstream with their third album, 1986's Raising Hell. The album was preceded by the Top Ten R&B single 'My Adidas.' Raising Hell became the first rap album to reach number one on the R&B charts, to chart in the pop Top Ten, and to go platinum, and Run-D.M.C. were the first rap act to received airplay on MTV -- they were the first rappers to cross over into the pop mainstream. Raising Hell also spawned the hit singles 'You Be Illin'' and 'It's Tricky.'
After a long studio hiatus, the trio returned in early 2000 with Crown Royal. By 2002, the release of two greatest-hits albums prompted a tour in the U.S. Sadly, only weeks after the end of the tour, Jam Master Jay was senselessly murdered in a studio session in Queens. Only 37 years old, the news of his passing spread quick and hip-hop luminaries like Big Daddy Kane and Funkmaster Flex took the time to pay tribute to him on New York radio stations. Possibly the most visible DJ in the history of hip-hop, his death was truly the end of an era. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide