When they formed in their native Queens back in 1981, Joseph "Run” Simmons, Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels and Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell - AKA Run-DMC – took the first step towards irrevocably altering the landscape of modern music and culture forever.
As well as trailblazing in the genre, in the 1980s they became the masters of hip-hop firsts: the first to have gold, platinum, and multi-platinum albums; to commercially stress the importance of MC and DJ; to have their videos broadcast on MTV; to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone; to sign a major product endorsement deal; to perform at a major arena; to have a Top 10 pop charting album…the list goes on and on and on. That the likes of MTV and VH1 would later hail the threesome as the greatest hip-hop act of all time can be contested by no one.
Ahead of a handful of Run-DMC dates this Summer, including a show at London’s Hammersmith Apollo on July 5, Rev Run talks to us about his love of modern-day hip-hop, giving the fans what they want, the tragic passing of Jam Master Jay in 2002, his hopes for creating a huge Las Vegas production, his forthcoming Netflix original series, why it's important to stay in one's own lane, and Run-DMC’s untouchable legacy.
DiS: Hey, Rev. How and where are you?
Rev. Run: I’m doing good, man. I’m in L.A. right now. I’ve just finished my television show in Hollywood. It’ll be on Netflix. It’s reminiscent of Run’s House but it’s a sitcom. I came up with the concept a while ago. It’s a family show. Me and my wife are starring in it, but we also have some actors because it’s a sitcom. The concept is about a retired rapper but his wife is not having it - she doesn’t want him retiring because she’s ready to go and do her inventions. As she’s doing all these inventions, that’s where the funny comes in because my character is trying to retire, and she’s trying to go faster. So, that creates the funny inside my household. It’ll be on Netflix, starting on August 10th.
You’ve always kept busy and that’s clearly not stopping now. Since the murder of Jam Master Jay in 2002, Run-DMC has taken a bit of a back seat. Shows have been sporadic.
Yeah, I do lots of shows. This is going to be the most unique, as everything has been reality up until this moment. I wasn't looking forward to doing a sitcom until a gentleman called Richard White talked to me about it, and it was very interesting to me and my wife. We connected with Steven Spielberg’s company, Amblin, and we put it together with ABC television in conjunction with Netflix as an original programme.
From Run’s House to this new project, television is obviously a big part of your career, and you dedicate a lot of your time to your faith and family. But what’s it like gearing up for some new Run-DMC activity at the moment?
Over the last couple of years we have done nine or ten shows a year – maybe less some years. We tend to do festivals. The first one we did after the passing of Jam Master Jay was Made In America with Jay-Z, which was phenomenal. We did Isle of Wight last year. We have a few shows coming up in Europe, and some festivals. We have a big show with Slick Rick, who is a fantastic rapper. He is one of the most unique and incredible rappers ever. I’m proud of some of the things that we’ve chosen. We don’t do many, but the ones we do, we give it our all and it’s always fantastic together as Run-DMC.
Yourself and Darryl will be backed by DJs Charlie Chan and Ruckus on these upcoming shows. Tell me more about their involvement.
DJ Ruckus is somebody that I work with daily. D.M.C., when he’s running around and doing different things, takes Charlie Chan with him. When we decided to get back together after the passing of Jam Master Jay, we made it simple: you bring your DJ, I bring my DJ, let’s have a little rehearsal. So it’s almost like, if you see me and Darryl switching off lyrics, try and imagine two DJs switching off DJing.
Jam Master Jay passed 16 years ago this October. Did you have a conversation with Darryl about making new music or pulling the brakes after that tragic event?
Well, we have a massive catalogue. There’s no reason for us to make more music. We have enough music to last us forever. People are coming to see the classic hits. They don’t want to see us do new ideas. We have so many things that went so well. We’re not the same kids we once were, so when you hear ‘Down With the King’, ‘My Adidas’, ‘Peter Piper’, ‘It’s Like That’, and the remix with Jason Nevins, you’ll be happy to see that rather than us shove down your throats some new stuff that doesn’t have that youthful spirit on it.
Has there been any temptation to do any new music or is it definitely over?
I did a little bit of music work for the television show to put in between changes, but it’s nothing that I plan on putting out. I don’t have thoughts about putting out something as big as ‘Walk This Way’ or ‘Peter Piper’. I’m happy with my place as the Reverend, Rev Run. I’m happy with Netflix. I’m happy with being who I am at this point in my life. I have no regrets and I’m very proud of my catalogue.
You dedicate a lot of your social media presence to speaking about your faith and family. A lot of other musicians and artists – perhaps more notably recently, Kanye West – use it almost exclusively for self-promotion. How do you view that?
I like it. I don’t mind people using Twitter and Instagram and different platforms to promote their message. Everybody uses it in different ways. I happen to be a Reverend, so I use it mainly to talk about health issues, family, marriage and children. I’m using it as well as anyone else to promote my idea about what I’m supposed to do with my life. Kanye uses it for one thing, Puff promotes products, as does 50 Cent and many others. Everybody does it. It’s a wonderful tool to be able to get your message out. It’s media of your own, and you can control your imagery and what you’re trying to promote, rather than having somebody misconstrue what you’re trying to say. It can come straight from quote-unquote the horse’s mouth.
Ego is a business. If you want to say, here, I have this new record - my name’s 50 Cent. Here, I have this new tequila. Here, I have this joke that I want to make, if you’re a comedian. Here, I have this message I want to preach, I’m this Reverend. I have this issue about telling people about diabetes in the community. It’s just a case of: what do you want to say? I don’t judge anyone for what they’re trying to promote. I love the new rap music – I love Drake, I love Kendrick Lamar, I love the Jay-Z album. I’m not one to pick apart someone’s thing. It adds up to nothing for me to talk about someone’s preference of promotion of what they’re doing.
There has been some ongoing talk over the years about a Run-DMC biopic. Has there been any progression on that front recently?
I’m not very interested in that right now. I mean, if it happens, it happens. It’s very complicated with the music – there are so many different entities and things. So no one has been pounding my door down about it. But I’m hoping that one day I can take my show on the road and perhaps connect with the people who do Cirque du Soleil, and create something like Beatlemania that’s in Las Vegas. That would be fun for me - to create a hip-hop show in Vegas that people can come visit from around the world and catch Run-DMC at different parts of hip-hop. It would be something very, very big and very pop, and very entertaining for people who love hip-hop. So I’m hoping my management can pull that together for me.
I’m dead serious about that. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately – that I think I could have something as big as Beatlemania in Vegas. I think Darryl would like it, too. It would be super easy. It would be right there in Vegas, we would get it down and people would come from around the world. I can see it as a be a big, big production. That would be fun for me. I would like to be the first to do that. I have a couple of ideas like that that we’ve been talking about it that we’ll probably do after the Netflix show launches.
Even today, Run-DMC obviously occupy a few special places for a lot of people. Are you getting that same kind of sense of excitement about any artists at the minute?
Drake is my favourite. He’s the most creative right now, for me. That’s just my truth. I’m a massive Drake fan. I think what he does is pretty cool. I love Jay-Z and the change he made on 4:44. Speaking his truth at that age, saying “Here’s where I’m at, here’s what I am talking about.” I love Kendrick Lamar for what he does. The younger rappers from Atlanta and down south. Hip-Hop is critically acclaimed as the number one type of music right now and I’m very proud of all of it.
Needless to say, Run-DMC played a huge part in paving the way for those artists. What’s particularly inspiring is that you’re not looking back – you’re looking forward in your own projects and your own life. Do you think it’s important to always look forward?
I think it’s important to stay in your own lane, to know what you’re supposed to be doing. I don’t think criticising what’s going on now or saying, “It was better in the 80s” or something stupid like that is helpful for anyone. Especially for me, at 53 years old, who am I to criticise? Because I was criticised a little bit when Run-DMC was first coming along, because it means something else was going out. I don’t see it helpful. I am very proud of what’s going on for many reasons. I try to understand the youth, rather than try to tear them down.
Even as much as the music, the Run-DMC image has really penetrated contemporary culture and fashion over the last couple of decades. How do you feel about that?
I’m very happy that we have a logo that has stood the test of time. We’re very blessed to have it. It’s said that it’s the number one logo around. I’m very blessed. It’s like, “Wow, that’s great. People like wearing the logo as much as they would like to wear the Rolling Stones tongue.” The Run-DMC logo with the red bars and the block letters is so big and it says a lot. It says I’m blessed. The only credit that I can take for it is the fact we made some great music and somebody thought that the shirt that we made and the logo was good. If people think it’s good, then I’m blessed enough just to say thank you, Jesus, and keep it moving. I can’t take too much credit for it. I can just be grateful for it.
You play London’s Hammersmith Apollo on July 5. You’ve mentioned before how it’s going to be all killer, but can you tell us more about what fans can expect from the show?
Run-DMC and London have had a very good relationship over the years. We have a massive catalogue full of great records. You can really expect the energy to come from these smash hits that have been a big part of people’s childhoods and have made people happy. My promise to London is to bring it with all my might and to bring the records that they love. No fillers, no frills, just straight hardcore Run-DMC hip-hop that’s filled with the records that you remember. We will bring it with the best of our abilities, so that when you leave there you’ll say, “Wow, that was a great performance and I loved seeing it.” We’re going to bring you the classic hits, man.
Run-DMC are playing London's Eventim Apollo on Thursday 5 July. For more information about the one-ff show and to buy tickets, please click here. For more information about Run-DMC, please visit their official website.