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Flashback: Run-D.M.C. Step on Stage at Live Aid

Before hip-hop had a Gold record to its name, the lone rap group at Live Aid represented the genre for a global audience

“As it’s plain to see,” DMC explained to an audience of tens of thousands in 1985, “we have no band, just Jam Master Jay.”

Broadcast to a potential audience of nearly two billion people the world over, Run-D.M.C.’s performance at the 1985 Live Aid concerts was probably hip-hop’s most-witnessed seven minutes in the years before the genre had a single platinum record.

“For us it was a lot of pressure ’cause [concert promoter] Bill Graham personally requested that we be there,” DMC told Rolling Stone in 2016. “At first, from what I hear, when Bill Graham brought our names up, people was like, ‘What? Why would you want them here? They’re not even gonna be around in three or four years.’ But Bill Graham — rest in peace — personally said, “I will not participate if you don’t have Run-D.M.C. here.”

Although they were America’s most famous rap group at the time, they were still an anomaly on bill off mostly rock bands, including Mick Jagger teaming with Tina Turner, a reunion of Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Duran Duran and more playing to an estimated 100,000 people at Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium. Their set was around 10:12 a.m., playing between a reunited Black Sabbath and Rick Springfield. DMC reckons that 70 percent of the crowd was into the still-emerging music, while 30 percent responded with boos

“We reluctantly went [to Live Aid] ’cause we kinda thought it was like a setup,” said DMC. “Y’all settin’ us up so we can get mocked and teased. We got there, and then the only thing that we knew was that old block party confidence. … You know, when they say our names, let’s just go out there and do what we do. When you hear the boos, you got two options: You either keep going or you curse the crowd off and walk off stage. We decided to keep going.”

In This Article: Hip Hop, Live Aid, Run-D.M.C.

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