In late 1986, it was hard to turn on the radio or MTV without hearing Run-D.M.C.’s version of “Walk This Way.” The groundbreaking rap/rock collaboration appeared on the group’s LP Raising Hell, and producer Rick Rubin had the bright idea to actually invite Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to play on it. Not only did it help Aerosmith get back into the limelight after years of obscurity, but it finally got suburban kids all over the country to appreciate hip-hop. It’s influence on the culture cannot be overstated.
But the song was a studio collaboration. Aerosmith were booked at a huge Boston rock radio show not long after the song hit, and they invited Run-D.M.C. to join them for the song. In this animated video, DMC remembers the anxiety of that moment. “I remember looking at the faces of the audience,” he says. “Everybody was walking on their tippy toes, waiting for something to go wrong with the rappers and the rock guys.”
They pulled it off without a hitch, though, and when they teamed up again at the 1987 Video Music Awards, where they closed out the night, they had the collaboration down to a science. They revived the big moment at the 1999 VMAs, only this time Kid Rock got in on the fun, as well. That lead to a 2002 summer tour with Aerosmith, Kid Rock and Run-DMC. Every night wrapped up with “Walk This Way.” Tragically, Jam Master Jay was murdered just weeks after the tour ended. Darryl “DMC” McDaniels and Joseph “Run” Simmons still play the occasional show together, but DMC insists it’s not Run-D.M.C. without Jam Master Jay. “It’s no different than Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr playing together,” he says. “That’s not the Beatles.”