Raising Hell (Expanded Edition)
Run-D.M.C.'s landmark third album, 1986's Raising Hell, marks the moment hip-hop truly became pop culture firmament: Suddenly, rappers were the new rock stars, DJs were the new bands, and an underground phenomenon was officially part of the mainstream. A fabled Golden Era was upon us, and the undeniable appeal of Raising Hell made it a pioneer in multiple ways: It was the first rap album to go multi-platinum—and the first to be nominated for a Grammy. And the crossover sensation "Walk This Way," recorded with Aerosmith, would result in Run-D.M.C. becoming the first rap artists to land the cover of Rolling Stone. A landmark moment both culturally and creatively, it's no exaggeration to say Raising Hell changed the world. The first taste of the album came in the form of a 12-inch featuring both "My Adidas" and "Peter Piper." To this day, it’s one of the best double-sided singles in hip-hop history: "My Adidas" was a victorious celebration of the group’s recent world-dominating feats, framed as an ode to their laceless fashion choice (the song famously got Run-D.M.C. a major endorsement deal—another hip-hop first). And "Peter Piper" features classic back-and-forth rhyme-spitting, as well as an ace sample of Bob James' "Take Me to the Mardi Gras" (listen closely, and you can actually hear the crackles and pops from Jam Master Jay's vinyl). Both songs feature the group at their absolute fiercest, with Run—who’d been watching a young upstart named LL Cool J nipping at his heels—sounding especially galvanized. Elsewhere on the album, the playful "It's Tricky" turned some fame-weary rhymes and a scratched sample of The Knack's "My Sharona" into one of the group's most enduring songs, a staple of movie soundtracks and video games to come. But the watershed moment on Raising Hell turned out be its outlier. "Walk this Way" was a collaboration with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, who by the mid-1980s were hard-rock lifers. Producer Rick Rubin had suggested Run-D.M.C. cover Aerosmith's 1975 hit "Walk This Way" toward the end of the recording of Raising Hell, and pushed the members to learn the lyrics. While Jam Master Jay loved the idea, his bandmates were skeptical. It wasn’t until Aerosmith came by the studio, and they all became fast friends, that it seemed like the idea might work. A high-octane session got underway—and a few months later, hip-hop was taking over rock radio. And while "Walk This Way" became Raising Hell's signature track, there are gems among all 12 tracks. Recorded in one take, "Perfection" features the crew doing an especially jovial routine over the live drums of 15-year-old Queens drummer Courtney "Sticks" Williams. "Hit It Run" and "Son Of Byford," meanwhile, feature the multitalented Run on beatboxing duties. Elsewhere on the album, "Raising Hell" is a piece of searing rap-metal, "Dumb Girl" features some especially vicious bass, and "Proud to Be Black" is a three-minute Black history lesson cowritten with Run's father Daniel Simmons and future Yo! MTV Raps host Doctor Dre. As a whole, Raising Hell is the moment where America truly woke up to hip-hop music writ large, with Run-D.M.C. serving as gifted, gate-crashing, unignorable diplomats. And it inspired the next generation of hell-raising rappers. As Eminem noted when he inducted the group into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, "Run-D.M.C.'s effect on popular culture can not be overstated. Whether you know it or not, you encounter them every day: in the music you hear on the radio, in the sneakers you wear, in the videos you see, in the attitudes of the people you meet."