RUN-DMC: RAISING HELL (1986)
Rappers Joseph Simmons and Darryl McDaniels, along with their DJ Jason Mizell, were in the first wave of artists who made hip hop the dominant cultural force it eventually became. By the time of their third album, the music world was ready for an explosion. Run-DMC lit the match.
They did it in part because they didn’t really see themselves as something radical. They had proclaimed themselves as the kings of rock on their previous album. They were merely using the rhythms and practices of New York rappers to revitalize rock n roll. Could they have possibly known that this style of music they were helping invent would conquer rock n roll in short order?
The obvious rock crossover of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” opened the door. Inside, mainstream Americans found anthems like “My Adidas,” “It’s Tricky,” and “Proud to Be Black.” This was just before De La Soul would revolutionize/ruin a lot of rap albums by launching the concept of the skit onto the world.
Raising Hell is not bogged down by skits the way so many great hip-hop albums would be over the next few decades. It’s just filled with pounding drums, pulsing bass, and stripped-down scratching that allows the individual voices to shine. Within a few more years, crews like NWA and Public Enemy would raise the bar with hugely important albums. They were more ambitious and arguably greater albums than what Run-DMC had done, but they were not more perfect.