RUNNING ON FULL
“RAISING HELL.” Run-D.M.C. Profile. “In case you forgot, I’m the king of rock!” Run-D.M.C. shouts in the echoing grandeur of “Hit It Run.”
Yes, the reigning trio of rap is back to tell you who they are (Run, D.M.C. and Jam Master Jay), where they’re from (Queens), who’s No. 1 (guess), how hard they work to be No. 1 (real hard), how tough it is to be No. 1 (real tough, with girls after them all the time and people tearing at their clothes and trying to give them drugs), what they do (lots), what they wear on their feet (Adidas), and in case you forgot, who’s No. 1 again.
These guys are so full of themselves and the intoxicating street beat that they don’t seem worried about repetition creeping in or the rap style coming up against its formal limitations. They just slap an exclamation point on every word, grab a drum riff you could build a fortress on and let it fly. (Things should really be cooking Friday at the Sports Arena, where Run-D.M.C. headlines a four-act rap bill.)
If the same old boasts are wearing thin and the misogyny gets grating, the beats are infectious and varied and the vocal trade-offs can be dazzling. There’s less instrumentation on Run-D.M.C.'s third album, and its spare, austere sound relies on a percussive artillery that ranges from Jay’s turntable scratching to pinging metal to elemental mouth sounds.
In these minimalist surroundings, the three tracks with guitar stand out all the more, and one stands above the rest: “Walk This Way,” the old Aerosmith song that rides Joe Perry’s mean, slippery, Skynyrd-style riff into rock-radio glory. This track could be that elusive missing link between black rock and hard-rock, and if the guys in Run-D.M.C. want to stay as hot as they think they are, they’ll do more branching out like this.
They could also use more humor, along the lines of the off-center vignettes in “You Be Illin,” whose piano and sax give it the feel of un updated Coasters song. And they could find more ways to expand the focus of their ample pride. They do just that in “Proud to Be Black,” which closes the album on a note that’s a bit more important and uplifting than how dumb girls are.