King of Rock (Expanded Edition)
Released less than a year after Run-D.M.C.'s tide-shifting, self-titled debut masterpiece, 1985's King of Rock reaffirmed and expanded the group's role as hip-hop's genre-crossing ambassadors to the world. Tracks like "King of Rock," "Can You Rock It Like This," and "You're Blind" all mix the group's pavement-hard rhymes with Eddie Martinez's metal guitar-shredding, a savvy crossover move that would anticipate and influence music for decades. The gambit paid off immediately with the success of the title track, which features chugging riffs alongside some of the most timeless boasts in history, with D.M.C. shouting, "I'm the king of rock, there is none higher/Sucker MCs should call me 'sire.'" The cheeky video had the trio bum-rushing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one year before it inducted its first class—and the song's success helped ensure that Run-D.M.C. would themselves become inductees nearly a quarter-century later. Still, King of Rock didn’t just establish Run-D.M.C. as rap's first rock stars. It also helped push hip-hop into new territories and sounds. "Roots, Rap, Reggae" is a team-up between the reggae-loving band members and Jamaican superstar Yellowman, who was on tour when Run-D.M.C. was recording, and stopped by to freestyle his lines. It's one of the first tracks to meld hip-hop with dancehall, laying the groundwork for future genre-blending artists like Beenie Man, Sean Paul, and Shinehead. Meanwhile, producer Larry Smith's cinematic synth work on "Darryl and Joe" makes it sound like he's inventing Run the Jewels. And the track "Can You Rock It Like This" was written for the group by a teenage upstart named LL Cool J—a guy who'd soon be creating his own landmark rap albums. Everything about King of Rock was groundbreaking—even its release. The album was the first rap record to be issued on CD, and Run-D.M.C. would promote King of Rock nonstop in 1985. The group appeared in the hit rapsploitation flick Krush Groove, performed on American Bandstand, and undertook an arena-filling tour. That summer, Run-D.M.C. would become the lone hip-hop act to perform at the massive Live Aid festival, bringing seven historic minutes of live hip-hop music to tens of thousands of rock fans (and millions of TV viewers). Included on the album’s reissue, the Live Aid segment includes D.M.C. dutifully explaining to viewers that "we have no band, just Jam Master Jay." It's a goosebump-inducing snapshot of rap taking over the world.