Time Span Between First Five Albums: Six Years
This goes way beyond being artistically superb. The importance of Run-DMC’s lead five LP’s cannot be overstated. Run, DMC and Jam Master Jay changed music and opened the door for hip-hop to be the worldwide phenomenon it is today. Run-DMC were our first superstars, ushering in hip-hop from 'hood sub-genre to major mainstream pop star levels in the '80s. Although the trio peaked just three albums into this five album span with the defining Raising Hell LP, the Kings from Queens cannot be denied as arguably the greatest hip-hop group in history.
_________________________With apologies to De La Soul, five is the magic number. It’s usually the amount of albums in a standard record deal, but few MCs ever fulfill their contractual obligations with as much aplomb as they started. Whether an artist peaks early or late, staying consistent over the duration of five albums has proven challenging no matter the era in hip-hop. XXLmag.com decided to rank the best first-five album runs in hip-hop history (First 5). A new act and their ranking will be revealed each day of the week throughout the month of October and the Top 5 will be revealed on November 5th. Get in on the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #XXLFirst5.
Release Date: March 27, 1984
1984 was one of the most declarative and groundbreaking years in pop culture, especially in music. Pop, Rock 'n' Roll and R&B would have seminal albums on the charts such as Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Prince’s Purple Rain, Madonna’s Like a Virgin, Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA and Sade’s Diamond Life soared on the charts. Meanwhile, Run-DMC emerged with their self-titled debut, leading the charge for rap music. With fly inner-city swagger, home-honed showmanship, relentless lyrics and distinct vocal-tones, Run-DMC rode their vivacious thumps to forefront of hip-hop. “Rock Box,” “It’s Like That,” and “Sucker MCs” went on to not just be staples in their careers but in hip-hop history.
Kings of Rock (1985)
Release Date: January 21, 1985
Run-DMC began to put it all together on this album from the imaging (leather, all black, Adidas) to the focus of their music. Harder than heavy metal but street credible, the entire LP is one bold declaration. Just look at the title. Not only did they tell the world they were going to rule in hip-hop, but they warned they would reign supreme in the Rock world as well. Only a year later, their career would culminate with the magnum opus Raising Hell.
Raising Hell (1986)
Release Date: June 18, 1986
This album alone would garner Run-DMC mention on this list. Without exaggeration, Raising Hell is one of the greatest, most important and most bought LPs in hip-hop history. With the assistance of fellow legend, music mogul and producer, Rick Rubin, the Kings from Queens would disintegrate music genres, once again incorporating Rock 'n' Roll into their brash boom bap rap. This time, however, they would deliver a record that would become one of the top pop smash’s of the decade, “Walk This Way” with Aeromsith. Run-DMC didn’t just go mainstream, they went global, becoming the multi-platinum poster men for rap. This album still stands as the most successful and artistically strong of their catalog.
Thougher Than Leather (1988)
Release Date: September 16, 1988
Following up a LP (Raising Hell) that literally changed the face of hip-hop, pop and rock at the same time was no easy task, but the Hollis thoroughbreds came through with extra ammunition. Not only did they drop their lauded fourth LP,Tougher Than Leather—replete with such hits as “Mary Mary,” “Beats To The Rhymes” and “Run’s House” (a record Run would later name his hit television show after), they also provided a theatrical release by the same name to feed into the group’s hype. Although TTL wouldn’t be as universally embraced as their previous effort, it did keep the group’s momentum going and hold their names at the top of rap’s food chain.
Back from Hell (1990)
Release Date: October 16, 1990
It was literally a hellacious road for RUN-DMC around the time this LP dropped. Run and DMC battled drug addiction and alcoholism, respectively, during the late '90s and leading up to the LP. Shortly after the album dropped, Jam Master Jay miraculously, and narrowly, escaped death in a car accident and Run had his name seriously sullied in a 1991 rape case, which he was later exonerated of all charges. With Rick Rubin no longer helming their hard edge and rock tinged beats, the legendary trio were panned by critics and fans for what was regarded as the weakest LP in their catalog. With the emergence of new acts such as EPMD and A Tribe Called Quest, some wrote the Queens collective off. However, they would rebound three years later with their acclaimed Down with The King effort.