Considering some of the press his group has received recently, it's not very surprising that Run seems defensive, even nervous, about talking with reporters. At a morning press conference to discuss the next day's KDAY event, he looks away as we shake hands, and he bitterly asks, "What type of article is this going to be, anyway?" Further irritated by the photographers buzzing around him, he snaps, "I talk from the heart, but no matter what I try to say, people always dis [criticize] us. They sensationalize everything . . . They have to stereotype us."
His temper cools once the conference begins. Wearing green pants, a matching work shirt, characteristically unlaced white Adidas low tops and a porkpie hat, he grins at the TV cameras as Barry White compliments the group for its social concern. After various community activists pay their own tributes to Run-D.M.C, White describes the L.A. gang problem – 268 gang killings last year – as "the coming Armageddon at your front door."
White's intensity brings a look of anguish to Jay's face. Run nervously fondles a miniature gold sneaker dangling from his neck and tells the crowd, "Life is hard enough without drugs or joining gangs. We have great positive messages for kids. We're in touch with all the kids. They'll listen to us before they'll listen to their teachers or mothers and fathers. We're cooler than them as far as the kids are concerned, and being cool is staying in school."
The follow-up questioning is rather timid. Only one reporter challenges Run's sincerity, suggesting the group's L.A. visit was a necessary act of public relations after the Long Beach riot. Dismissing that implication, Run reiterates the group's positive message. "We offer kids alternatives. We tell them they can go play ball, go to school. There are lots of other things you can do besides taking drugs or joining gangs . . . We're positive."
The conference unceremoniously ends on that note, and in keeping with their pure-boy image, America's hottest rappers want to go to a national landmark for lunch: McDonald's.
Run-D.M.C.'s common-man approach to dining is also in sync with other aspects of their lives. All three guys continue to live in Hollis, either in houses they grew up in or close by. Run insists that the trappings of success – platinum and gold albums, offers from Adidas and Technics to do commercials, a forthcoming line of B-boy clothes – haven't spoiled them. "Move?" Run says. "What for? Beverly Hills? That's corny and fake, man. If Michael Jackson is happy out here, more power to him. I just need two dollars in my pocket and a basketball game."
Unlike Jay and D.M.C., who stud their fingers with diamond rings, Run wears little jewelry. "I don't want money," he says. "I've made money. Right now I don't need ten cars, but I have enough money for fifty cars. I don't want anything. I'm so happy. I look at my daughter sleeping. I kiss her while she's asleep. I sit with a pen and see if I can write something. If not, I go shine up my '66 Oldsmobile [he also has an '86 Riviera], gas it up and drive my wife to work. She works at a doctor's office. Then I go call Jay."
Run punctuates that self-portrait with a rhyme: "People always saying/'Yo, Run, you made a killing/Where's your car, where's your gold?'/Yo, man, I'm just chilling/I'm not rhyming for the money/This is straight from the heart/People think my car is funny/But I get it to start."
But now that Run-D.M.C. hats and T-shirts have supplanted Michael Jackson items in American households, Run is not your ordinary two-cheeseburger man at McDonald's. Even before he could ride to the Golden Arches in the group's gold Mercedes and before he had a troop of P.R. agents to pamper him, he never knew the crippling destitution of many black lives. So how can he really talk to a fourteen-year-old who sees selling drugs as the only way out of the ghetto? This philosophical discussion with Run must be shelved; he doesn't want any company during the group's jaunt to McDonald's. When he finally appears back at the hotel, he gives me a long, hard stare. He sits sullenly near a window, twirling his hat and staring at the bleak airport environs.
Jay said earlier, "I don't think nobody's after me; I forgive those reporters who fucked us." Now he takes the lead. "Bad lyrics? Bullshit! We're not talking about laying the girl down or doing this drug . . . We're the only people who can talk to kids. Besides Bruce Springsteen, Born in the U.S.A., I haven't heard a decent record."
"Yeah, I love Bruce Springsteen," Run quickly interjects. "Like us, he has a positive message. We're gonna sell as much as him, if not more, 'cause we feel the same way. I hang with Bruce. I know him. I did a record with Bruce Springsteen, we made 'Sun City' because we would never play there [in South Africa] . . . I'm making lots of money now. I'm going to go over there with suitcases filled with money and build things . . . We're also going to open drug rehabilitation centers. I'm not going to call them the Run-D.M.C. House, I'll just open them."
"Yeah, we're bigger and better than any bullshit bands," yells D. The usually quiet, six-foot-plus McDaniels takes off his thick, black-rimmed shades and continues. "The reason why they are listening to us is because we are the Michael Jackson of now. Prince was it when Purple Rain came out. But we are what's going on right now. We are the music. We are what's hot."
"We are the world, we are the children," sings Run. Jerking himself up in his chair, he says he doesn't want to be known as the man who ended crack in America. "But, oh, my God," he says, "my mission is so big. We just left New York. We did a big thing with Mayor Koch, Cuomo [an anticrack rally for New York City schoolchildren], and the kids didn't care about them. We came onstage, and we all did it . . . Kids listened.
"I'd just like to ask Tipper Gore if she ever listened to my records," continues Run. Then he launches into the autobiographical "Here We Go" rap: "Cool chief rocker, I don't drink vodka/I keep a microphone inside my locker/Go to school every day/On the side make them pay/The things I do make me a star/And you can be too if you know who you are/Just put your mind to it, you'll go real far/Like the pedal to the metal when you're driving a car."
Grimacing and disgustedly shaking his head, Run expands on this beat to talk about the Aerosmith collaboration. "Nag, nag, nag, everybody is nagging me because of 'Walk This Way.' Everyone's talking about crossovers. 'Hey, son, didn't you do this to get more radio play?' . . . I hope nobody wants to talk to me next year. I'm ready for a flop. You know why? If everybody is nagging me about 'Walk This Way,' they can get my dick head." Run bangs his fist on the table before continuing. "You know why? Because I made that record because I used to rap over it when I was twelve. There were lots of hip-hoppers rapping over rock when I was a kid. Now I made it and everyone wants to nag me. As for my trying to get more radio play, I'll never . . . I always say what I feel."
Run doesn't advise other rappers to move into rock, saying, "You have to do what's real. It's like how my ideas come to me, naturally. That's how I came up with the idea for 'My Adidas.' I thought one day of all the incredible things I've done with these sneakers on. Live Aid and all the concerts."
Talk then turns to the group's next movie. Run wants Tougher Than Leather, which is about to go into production, to be more "real" than Krush Groove. "Krush Groove was nothing but a Walt Disney movie," Run says. "The Fat Boys [another rap group that appeared in the film] were just being funny, and I didn't do nothing. This next one is going to be action filled, a real mystery."
All three guys start screaming at once. Jay keeps saying, "Leather's going to be much more violent, a lot more violent." And this prompts D to chime in: "That's right, it's gonna be like a good John Wayne flick. The violence is there, but you don't mind if the good guys are doing it."
Run says that the film will revolve around the group's search for the killers of their beloved real-life roadie, Runny Ray. Since the murderers plant drugs on Ray, the cops view the case as "just another dead nigger." So the boys must become detective-avengers, or a cross between Eddie Murphy in 48 HRS. and Sylvester Stallone in Rambo.
Run says it will be "the best movie in the world. At the end, we're all heroes. You're happy we're kicking their butts. It has to be violent because it has to be violent. Sometimes violence is needed."
Playing the diplomat, Jay insists, "We don't promote violence to the kids." As for the violence at the Long Beach concert, he says, "I wanted to bang some bangers' heads out there. Whoever I see fucking up in my concert, I want to be the big motherfucking Bruce Lee and kick the gang's ass, throw them all in fucking jail and do my concert."
"We're positive," says Run. "We've played so many beautiful gigs. We're not a threat. I want to be happy every day. I'm fighting to help things . . . I've got a movement of happiness. We are not thugs. We don't use drugs. People try to stereotype us . . . "
"Yeah, we look like young black kids that are going to rob you," says Darryl, laughing.
But they all say that it wouldn't be happening if they were a white band. "Some people just want to stop rap," says Run. "The politicians blame it on us. Other people are hoping we'll mess up . . . But we're investing our money wisely, we have good accountants, and the three of us are so close we think the same. We're not gonna do anything to hurt ourselves, nothing."
Russell Simmons is worried – not about the public-relations problem caused by violence at Run-D.M.C.'s shows but about the group's current do-good attitude. The cochairman of Def Jam Recordings and the manager of Whodini, the Beastie Boys and Run-D.M.C, Simmons worries that the group is becoming too "straight," that its edge will be dulled by too many anticrack, antigang campaigns. He wants to make them "harder" but is worried that Run is on a "mission" that could undermine their commercial clout. "I look at them and say, 'Stop being a pussy.' But Joey really thinks he owes these kids something. This crack thing is a serious concern . . . Let's hope a year from now people don't think they're suckers."
Simmons admits that he sees how his little brother's lyrics could lead to antisocial behavior. Still, he calls his brother's group "one of the most positive teenage bands there is. These lyrics are done with kids in mind that should be able to understand them. If they can't, that's not even a tragedy . . . The guys sing about staying in school, going to church, respecting your mother, don't take drugs . . . They're positive; that's the bottom line."
But Russell Simmons feels the "preachy" lecturing of the group's civic-minded projects, like the Jackson collaboration, will sabotage Run's promise of "not doing anything to hurt ourselves."
"This preaching scares me," he says. "It gets on people's nerves . . . They [Run-D.M.C.] spend so much time wanting to do shit like this Michael Jackson thing . . . I said, 'Yeah, but fuck that. You have a career to worry about.' The idea of Michael and Run is kinda soft . . . This is something that's certainly not going to make Run-D.M.C. bigger or better; it could kill them. It could kill their careers in front of their first audience."
Kday has called its call-in show Day of Peace, but outside the studio, dozens of husky security guards expect trouble. It's rumored the Rollin' Sixties branch of the Crips gang will disrupt Run-D.M.C.'s appearance. And when a youth in a passing car shouts, "Those Bloods shot my momma and brother," a nervous worker at the event says, "This whole thing is a farce. Kids with Uzis and sawed-off shotguns are not going to stop their shit because of a radio program."
Exuding far more optimism, Barry White arrives in an ivory Rolls, and once again he effusively praises Run-D.M.C. The hefty, stringy-haired White has lost a brother in the gang wars, but he's upbeat today. "This day's a beginning," he says. "We can put a stop to drugs and gangs . . . The young people, blacks, white, Hispanic, all colors, love Run-D.M.C. They have reached the nerve of the people through their young grooves, their rapping genius."
Excited by the prospect of doing an antidrug song with Run-D.M.C., White gives each of the three a bear hug upon their arrival. But as the boys enter the studio, they all but forget White. Now the talk is only of Michael Jackson.
"He's the best man in the world," says Run, making sure the depth of his new feelings is understood. "He's an incredible human being. We ate soul food at Michael's studio last night, and it seemed like he was in touch with God. He's so calm, so content, and I'm going to go into the studio to do a tape with him. It'll be an anticrack song. The guy who did Mean Streets and Taxi Driver [director Martin Scorsese] is going to make the video. The whole thing was just great. Michael kept asking me, about rap. I asked him about record sales. And when the fried chicken came, I knew he was cool."
Smiling beatifically as a KDAY worker adjusts his headset, Run keeps raving about Michael. "He's just a normal, nice man. He's just as D described him. Have you ever seen Bambi? Well, he's just like that. If he went outside and saw a flower, he'd probably say, "That's beautiful.' People say he's gay and stuff. I don't believe that . . . In the middle of the evening I was just thinking, 'Gee, I'm sitting next to Michael Jackson, a superstar,' and then I realized he's just normal, sitting there eating his rice and playing with my gold sneaker."
This story is from the December 4th, 1986 issue of Rolling Stone.
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