Many claim the accolade but the truth is that there are few bands that truly changed the course of popular music.
But Run DMC is, without a doubt, one of them; the trio took hip hop from a rather more funk-oriented style toward an entirely more confrontational delivery, best showcased in the breakout hit It’s Like That and the significantly culturally-embedded Walk This Way, where the rappers duelled memorably with Aerosmith in one of the most-played videos of all time.
Frontman Rev Run these days is as passionate about the genre as ever, telling the Observer that hip hop is now everywhere.
“It’s great; what can I tell you? Eminem, Jay-Z, Black Eyed Peas – it’s at the heart of everything now. Even when you’re singing R&B you want to have a hip hop artist rapping on it. Even J-Lo has Pitbull on her record. It never ends, it’s on commercials – we are very blessed in the hip hop nation. It’s amazing.
“It’s getting bigger and bigger and bigger. I was playing Madison Square Garden and now you have Eminem and Jay-Z playing stadiums. It’s big, it’s corporate, it’s mindblowing.”
The rap legend pauses a while to gaze out of his hotel window at a vista of the palm-fringed Seven Mile Beach and muses that now he is much in demand as a DJ he’s finding it amazing to see how big that discipline has become. “You’ve got Will.I.Am DJing in Brazil and Vegas, Nick Cannon, Jermaine Dupree – one of the biggest producers of all time – DJing. I love it, man – I can’t believe how big of a market there is.”
A lively exchange between the Rev and his cohort Mel DeBarge ensues to the effect that hip hop has become such a part of culture that many hip hop bands are now considered as pop acts despite their obvious credentials, the Black Eyed Peas being a case in point.
And sometimes, hip hop artists become reality television stars – the Rev’s even had his own MTV show Run’s House. He’s also a successful author and, yes, he is a practicing Pentecostal minister, if you were wondering.
Rev Run was born Joseph Simmons in 1964 and is very aware that his phenomenal success enables him to raise awareness of worthy projects. Prime example of that is his link with the non-profit organisation KaBOOM!, which is tasked with building playgrounds in under-served communities.
“It started when [founder Darrell Hammond] read a story about a kid who had to play in a car but got locked in that car and died. So Hammond came up with the concept that every neighbourhood should have a playground and created the charity. [The intent is that by] 2020 every neighbourhood has a playground within walking distance.
“I think it is very important that there are places like that for all children. Kids these days are on the computer playing video games and their health is deteriorating when they should be out in the playground playing basketball, football, doing exercise. It’s something I believe strongly in. You can’t be athletic [staying in]. We have to get back to some of the basics; let kids go outside instead of sitting in the house all day. There’s nothing the matter with computers, but kids also have to go to the playground. That’s what I did, I’d wake up and go out,” says the Rev.
He made his Cayman debut with an appearance alongside Mel deBarge at Royal Palms, wowing the 1,100-strong crowd with his DJing and MCing and clearly enjoying the experience immensely. He’s keen to acknowledge the part played by his representatives in the process.
“For me, DGI management enhanced my life. On my birthday I worked on Hawaii, now on my [wedding] anniversary I am here in the Cayman Islands; the waters are so warm. I DJ; it’s not that much pressure on me. Last week I was in Croatia looking at the water; a couple of months ago I was in Paris. I got residencies at the Palms and Palazzo in Vegas. I don’t think every management company can do what they do.
“I’m 46 years old – this is the coolest job… it’s bananas. It is an amazing thing; me and Mel are DJing the rooftop of the Hudson Hotel on 4th July with all the fireworks. For some reason everybody left New York City for New Year’s Eve and we took over the Renaissance Hotel with Bruno Mars. Everyone left home base and I’m writing Tweets to everybody, Puffy and them all, writing, ‘I’m home, but y’all left homebase so let’s start fronting.’ Bruno Mars at that time was the number one in the charts.
“It’s the coolest job in the world and here I am sitting here looking out the window [at the Caribbean sea] on my anniversary. It’s nuts.”
It’s hard to resist noting that if the world made sense, there’d be no need for music. Long may such craziness reign.