Lord Have Mercy: Make ‘Em Stop
They are the two hip-hop albums no one's talking about—and for good reason. One dropped Sept 13, 2005 and has sold a whopping 32,694 units to date. The other dropped last Tuesday and it's 2,498 sales weren't good enough to crack Billboard's Top 200 albums chart. These commercial flops are notable for only one reason and one reason only: these are the solo debuts from the two members of hip-hop's undisputed greatest group Run-DMC.
I wish I could tell you that these albums have been unfairly ignored. But, in fact, the reason it's taken me 9 days (sorry Bfred) to deliver my third blog entry (shout-out to the sexy ladies at Jane!) is because it's taken that long to gather the intestinal fortitude to listen to these crappy CDs. They're two painful listens I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy or the biggest YN hater on the internet. I know y'all love me—you just don't know how to tell me.
Let's start with DMC's Checks, Thugs and Rock Roll. The best performance found here isn't by Darrryl "Le Coq Sportif Spokesman" McDaniels but forgotten female MC Ms Jade. On the sped-up soul stutter stup of "Cold," Timbo's former babe gets her best Evey-Eve impression on before D Mac's rap attack brings things to a halt. Gang Starr's Guru once professed "It's mostly the voice," and DMC's, as has been widely reported, has drastically changed. It's a tragedy on par with the D.O.C. car crash from way back. The once commanding flow reduced to a cracking uneven whisper. It's the reason why Joseph "Mr. Sensitivity" Simmons didn't want to include him on the recording of the group's final failed comeback, 1999's Crown Royal.
Sadly, God's favorite Reverend (Sorry Murder Mase!) doesn't fair much better. Run's Distortion is disturbing. Clocking in at less than 40 minutes, it sounds like a home demo that got in the wrong hands. It's basically Mr. Reality TV's same old "scream on your ass like your dad" rhyme style over loud drums meshed with familiar breakbeats. The over-the-top opening "I Use To Think I Was Run" says it all here. It's Run reminiscing passionately about past glories (he even includes the lyrics in the album sleeve so you can follow along). It was great being the King and Run sure does miss it.
I miss the purity of being a teenaged rap fan. I grew up in Woodside, Queeens. Not Hollis—but close enough. My idols were Howard Cossell, Ali, Reggie Jackson, Run and LL Cool J. (Not a humble one in the bunch, huh? Are you starting to understand where my ego trip comes from?) I wore hats 'cause LL did (we also share same born day) and Adidas suits like Run (wished I could grow them sideburns too but to no avail). Being from Q borough and witnessing the emergence of Run-DMC was indefinable. Rap groups came before them, but they proved that hip-hop music and its culture were real. We believed in them and they validated us. We weren't a fuckin' fad. As the old saying goes, if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be where I'm at today. Still I am where I am and I have to say it because it has to be said—these albums suck. This ain't OutKast but I'm calling for another retirement: Please Darryl and Joe promise me you'll stop recording individually and/or together and will not tarnish your musical legacy any further. I don't believe you will, but I had to ask.
P.S. In 1993, I interviewed Run and JMJ in a conference room at Profile Records for the album Down With the King. Thanks to Pete Rock, the title track was the group's last great song. Back then I was sent an advance cassette and was distraught that none of the album equaled the power of the single. After some small talk, Run dressed in a black Dickies suit with a giant black cross around his neck, asked me what I thought of the new music. I didn't have the heart to tell him it sucked.
Now I do.