Run-D.M.C. Is Beating the Rap

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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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