1985, Music

King of Rock (1985) by Run-D.M.C.

As I said when I reviewed my first Run-D.M.C. record, I know nothing about the history of hip hop. Given that, it’s pretty easy to just think “well I’m ignorant and sop I’ll just go with the consensus.”

But there doesn’t seem to be as much of a consensus on this record as there was with the debut. And I think I know why: there is a definite sense of deja vu here. Now, I have no idea whether or not the idea of “artistic progress” had made it into mainstream hip hop yet – it really hadn’t made it into much R&B yet even though the genre was decades old at this point – but I can see how this record can be viewed as a bit of retread.

As others have noted, the title is hilariously outrageous and I bet it made a lot of white people really angry. Given rock’s decline 35 years later, it’s kind of hard to imagine a world in which a hip hop group claiming they were the kings of rock could be offensive, but I know that world existed. (It probably still exists in a few places.) So kudos to them.

And they do try to follow through on it on a few tracks, which feature electric guitar. But the production is pretty similar to the first record, with basic drum machine beats, the odd keyboard and the vocals mixed so far forward it’s kind of ridiculous. (And very little in the way of scratching, except for that one track.) This kind of lean production really is my thing in certain genres – including hip hop sometimes – but here I’m not sure it works as well as I would like it to. That has so much to do with the rapping.
Because though Run-D.M.C. are clearly pioneers and were, I assume, the biggest hip hop group in the world for a little while, well there rapping has dated kind of horribly. That is true of the debut too, but the debut was the first record, right? To the tiny extent that I know hip hop, I know that rapping has become so much more sophisticated in the ensuing decades. The emphasis on the last syllable, the trading of lines, the simple rhymes, these have all become cliche. That’s not on Run or D.M.C, obviously, as they couldn’t have possibly anticipated how things would go, but it makes it difficult to assess, because the whole thing sounds so dated.

Still, this record is a big deal, as far as I know. And occasionally a line or two elicited a laugh. But as someone who already isn’t a hip hop fan, it’s a bit of a trying listen given how relatively unsophisticated the rapping is.

7/10 I guess

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