How Rap Got Popular – Part 2: Whodini & Run-DMC

We just played a track called “Friends” by Whodini that gets classified as an old-school track.

However, it is important to note that when that track was released, old-school as a genre or a term didn’t even exist.

Now we define old-school hip-hop as containing a simple drum pattern, a bass-line, and a few sparse sounds.

Hip-hop started with a DJ taking a drum solo from a record and looping it up to play again and again. This would form the entire basis of the song. The first rap records ever released featured MCs rapping over a disco breaks. Simple as that.

Hip-hop evolved and built upon that humble beginning. 

The Whodini track that we just played did change the music around. We heard different synthesizers and drum patterns in there and it was not just a simple loop.

Run-DMC took things a bit further.

Their first three records fused together the street sounds of rap with the hard guitar sounds of rock. It was a unique sound that could not be ignored. They release several more records over the years but it was these three records that were instrumental in the spread of hip-hop culture throughout the country and the world.

The Biggest Rap Record of the time.

Jam Master Jay liked to loop up records for the two MCs in the group to rap over. One of their favourite records was called “Toys in the Attic.” Run-DMC wanted to rap over the break of one of the songs on that record and put it on their third album, Raising Hell.

Run-DMC just wanted to sample that Aerosmith record. They wanted to use the sounds from it to create something new. But the producers saw something. They thought it would be a good idea to redo the song. The song in question was “Walk This Way.”

The record execs wanted Run-DMC to cover the record and to rap the original lyrics to it. Run-DMC were very reluctant to do it. But they did. Aerosmith came in to re-record the song. Steven Tyler resang the hook and what they created was nothing short of magic.

The song blew the original pretty much right out of the water. Most people prefer the updated song to the original. I know that I sure do.

The video is really amazing too. Both bands are practicing their songs in adjacent studios. Run-DMC turns up their music so loud that Aerosmith can’t practice at all. Steven Tyler uses his mike stand to smash through the wall and then starts singing the chorus because both groups had been singing the same song.

This is the biggest hit Run-DMC ever had. It also rejuvenated the career to Aerosmith.

This is hip-hop right here. Anyone who argues that this is just commercial music or that it is rock is completely wrong because this song built upon the foundation that hip-hop had already laid.

It’s really cool that Run-DMC had the guts to put this song out and to listen to their producers (Rick Rubin is an amazing producer) It’s just classic.

That was from my favourite album EVER from any genre. Run-DMC’s Raising Hell has to be one of the best records ever made, in my humble opinion. There is just something about it. The sound was unique and it was able to crossover and bring hip-hop to a wider audience.

The sound of that record was more accessible to a wider variety of fans. It was still hip-hop. It still used record samples  but they were replayed with a live band to give it an extra kick.

Another thing that made hip-hop become popular was a group that Run-DMC took under their wing. This group also used rock guitars and hard-hitting samples. They traded off vocals and pretty much did the exact same things that Run-DMC did on their records. The only difference was that these kids were white.

I’m talking about The Beastie Boys. License to Ill, their amazing debut album also hit a wide audience and helped bring hip-hop to a brand new audience.

Hip-hop really exploded in popularity because of groups like Whodini, The Fat Boys, Run-DMC, and The Beastie Boys. Their contributions to hip-hop should never be forgotten.

I truly believe that it is important to Know Your History! 

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