Friday, December 6, 2013

Hip Hop Nostalgia 101, Session 20: Run-DMC - Tougher Than Leather (1988)

Things had changed dramatically in hip hop since Run-DMC's third album, "Raising Hell," was released in 1986. Will they keep up with the ever changing landscape of the dominant culture of the day or will they get the lost in the shuffle? We'll explore that and more in today's session. This would mark their fourth album, and the movie of the same name was released on the same day as the album, which wasn't an official soundtrack.

Release date- September 16, 1988

Produced By: Run-DMC, Russell Simmons, Rick Rubin and Davey D

1. Run's House

Sample check

Classic track to begin this album. You would think that with the title of the song, this would be a full showcase, solo style, for Run, but DMC's verse is certainly not out of place.
Grade- A+

2. Mary, Mary

Sample check #1

Sample check #2

Another classic here. It's all about "Mary" obviously, lol, and you can tell Run and DMC were straight having fun on this track, nothing wrong with that.
Grade- A+

3. They Call Us Run-D.M.C.

Apply titled to be sure, but this is vintage Run-DMC. If you don't know there names by now, you'll never know!
Grade- A

4. Beats To The Rhyme

   Oh man, they were so aggressive and energetic on this one, with a tight, thumping beat to match. Their rhymes did match this beat.
Grade- A+

5. Radio Station

Sample check #1

Sample check #2

Kind of a "hip hop love letter" to the radio stations across the world. They certainly received their fair share radio (and video) play at the time.
Grade- B

6. Papa Crazy

Sample check

This is about what you would expect from Run-DMC, all in the name of saluting their papas, in their own way, definitely with a hip hop twist.
Grade- B

7. Tougher Than Leather

Run and DMC go back to something they pioneered, which would be the rock infused, hip hop sound, and on this title track, they certainly are as the name says, "tougher than leather".
Grade- B+

8. I'm Not Going Out Like That

This was the first single off the album and it was very good. The title speaks for itself.
Grade- B+

9. How'd Ya Do It Dee

Sort of a reprise from "Run's House". It wasn't on the level of that song, but it's still good.
Grade- B

10. Miss Elaine

It was a little hilarious listening to the guys talk about one of their teachers from back in the day, lol. I could've done without the rock vibe here, but as it stands there was nothing wrong with this song.
Grade- C+

11. Soul To Rock And Roll

I would definitely say this was an unofficial part 2 to "King Of Rock", but only this time they're still claiming that title.
Grade- B+

12. Ragtime

They ended this album on a somewhat hilarious note, even having a Slick Rick storytelling vibe for a brief moment during Run's opening verse.
Grade- C

Let's start with the positives about this album. While bearing no connection to the movie of the same name (more of that in a bit), this album has aged well in various spots, especially when it comes to "Run's House," "Mary Mary," and "Beats To The Rhyme." I also feel it gets some undeserved hate (more on this in a bit too). Run and DMC were still on top of their game, and while not as groundbreaking as their self titled debut and "Raising Hell" (it's a much better album than "King Of Rock"), it's still a very good album overall, possibly their most underrated album, and I believe it went platinum in terms of sales. Speaking of the movie and the "undeserved hate," this brings me to my next points, the unfortunate negative side.

Beginning with the movie, to this day I've only seen it once and even with the star power of Run-DMC, this movie was as forgettable as they come and it's one of the worst hip hop inspired movies I've ever seen. There's a reason why this movie is never mentioned when the subject of "best hip hop inspired films" are talked about and there's also a reason why Run, Jay and DMC never appeared in any additional films (outside of brief roles in 1993's "Who's The Man"). The acting and the plot, while a direct influence from Blaxploitation films of the 1970s, were also forgettable and it bombed at the box office, even for a hip hop film. Continuing on about the album itself, it received mixed reviews at the time of its release and many started to wonder if Run-DMC had peaked in terms of popularity and their sound. They still had a lot to offer hip hop (which was considerably changing around them each day), however, fans at large moved on and in a year which saw groundbreaking releases by the likes of Eric B. & Rakim (Follow The Leader), BDP (By All Means Necessary), Public Enemy (It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back), Big Daddy Kane (Long Live The Kane), N.W.A. (Straight Outta Compton), EPMD (Strictly Business) just to name a few, Run-DMC sounded tame and dare I say outdated in comparison. Their sound, while still largely very good, was in need of an update. Would we get that? We'll see as the years moved on and hip hop continued its evolution.

Final Grade- B+

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