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The music world was buzzing last week after the announcement that Run-D.M.C. was reuniting to perform at Austin-based music festival Fun Fun Fun Fest, but it’s an announcement that’s left many younger music fans scratching their heads. In a world where rap music is pop music, it’s hard to understand the importance of the group if you were too young to remember the ’80s. Not sure what the big deal is? Don’t worry; we’ll get you up to speed.
1. So who are these guys? Run-D.M.C. are Joseph Simmons, a.k.a. Run, and Darryl McDaniels, aka D.M.C.; their third member was Jason Mizell, a.k.a. Jam-Master Jay.
2. Why are they important? There is a lot of hyperbole when it comes to music writing, but in this case it’s absolutely warranted: Run-D.M.C. were The Beatles of rap music. They weren’t the first rap group and they didn’t invent the sound, but they were the first to make it cool and the first to bring it to the masses.
They were the first rap group to ever have a video on MTV, which meant that many people first experienced rap music by seeing the video for “Rock Box.” They were the first rap group to ever go platinum with King Of Rock. They were the first rap group to do a major arena tour.
These three men from Hollis, Queens, New York changed music forever. They broke down the door and helped acts like LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys find success. They helped rap spread across the country, which eventually lead to the West Coast and Southern branches of rap. Without Run-D.M.C., there is no Jay-Z, no Kanye West, no Lil Wayne, and no Eminem.
3. Why is their reunion important? In 2002, Jam-Master Jay was shot and killed in Queens, New York, a murder which remains unsolved to this day. Jay was such an important part of the group and its success that the surviving members decided to retire the name and go their separate ways.
While we expect bands to get back together regularly now, Run-D.M.C. stuck to their decision for 10 years, and most fans gave up on ever having the chance to see them again. They were so committed to the breakup that they didn’t perform at their Rock and Roll of Fame Induction. For fans of the group and music in general, this may be the last chance we have to see them on stage together.
Want to know more about the group? You can pick up the book Tougher Than Leather: The Rise of Run-D.M.C. for a more in-depth history, and they have a reasonably priced Greatest Hits collection available so you can learn the songs that changed the world.