The guys in Run-D.M.C. are so full of themselves, they’d be completely obnoxious if they weren’t right. Kings of Rock? Run and D.M.C. don’t just rap rings around each other on their third LP; they grab Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” and drag guest stars Steven Tyler and Joe Perry into the Eighties, kicking and screaming. For every outrageous boast and randy pun, these MCs have an angry insight and a wicked rhyme, while DJ Jam Master Jay works the turntables like a brain surgeon turned mad scientist. This is one rap group that defiantly “don’t need no band.”
Run-D.M.C. sustains a mighty ruckus while covering a lot of ground; this may be the first truly consistent rap album. Listening to “Peter Piper,” the opening cut, is like climbing on an uptown A train. Jay lays down a classic hip-hop mix of beats, bells, scratches, squeals and static while the MCs apply their twisted tongues to Mother Goose.
This warped wordplay is not as casual as it sounds, as the guys themselves are quick to point out. “It’s Tricky” is a singsong send up of Toni Basil’s “Mickey,” seasoned by a fat guitar hook that echoes “My Sharona.” D.C.’s go-go beat is appropriated on “Is It Live,” adding a festive note to the ego celebration. Run and D.M.C. simultaneously brag and bitch about their fame and fortune: a mere brand name becomes elevated because it’s “on my feet” (“My Adidas”), while wearing glasses is just another manifestation of their quest for “Perfection.”
It’s when Run and D.M.C. focus those perfected eyes on the world around them that they transcend the limitations of their genre. Over a saucy sax-and-piano riff reminiscent of the Coasters, the hilarious “You Be Illin’ ” follows an out-of-it “home boy” on his appointed rounds (botching his lines to a “fly girl” and devouring a can of dog food). “Dumb Girl” puts down a female peer for succumbing to the quick pleasures of drugs and promiscuity (“du-du-dumb-du-dumb girl”) — not quite the expected sexist “dis” (-missal).
Though they’ve been more specifically political in the past, here Run and D.M.C. close with a pounding slogan. “Proud to Be Black” captures their declamatory rhythm at its fiercest. “Like Martin Luther King, I will do my thing/I’ll say it in a rap ’cause i do not sing!” Raising Hell, hell, yeah.