Run-D.M.C.

Most Rap's just a beat and a boast, but Run and D.M.C., a pair of New York rappers, let the beat run wild and turn the boasts into messages that self-improvement is the only ticket out. Trading off lines or even the words within a line, they get into a vocal tug of war that's completely different from the straightforward delivery of the Furious Five's Melle Mel or the every-body-takes-a-verse approach of groups like Sequence. And the music, by Orange Krush, that backs these tracks is surprisingly varied, for all its bare bones. In their adventurous "Rock Box," Run and D.M.C. set their clipped, back-and-forth exchanges to a crying hard-rock guitar solo, melting rap into rock like it's never been done before. And the dramatic, dark sound of "It's like That," with an organ pouncing in at the beginning of the lines, sets up the scolding rap: "You should have gone to school/You could have learned a trade/But you laid in the bed with the bunk half-made/Now all the time you're crying that you're underpaid/It's like that."

Still, the bulk of the words are hilariously self-promoting. Their big dance hit, "Sucker M.C.'s (Krush-Groove 1)," is included here, its story the rise of the duo from auditions to success. They rag on the lowly suckers who haven't bothered to pull themselves up, sneering, "You're a five-dollar boy and I'm a million-dollar man/You the sucker M.C. and you're my fan." You'd think the poor jerks had been stealing welfare checks, but what they've done is even more contemptible to Run-D.M.C.: "You don't even know your English/Your verb or noun."