Raising Hell

Originally released: 1986
Arista Records

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Some albums are classics because of their importance at a certain time, not because they kick butt. Run-D.M.C.'s Raising Hell is not one of those albums. Like, say, Meet the Beatles -- an album that solidified the importance of rock in 1964 as much as Raising Hell affirmed the power of hip-hop - Run D.M.C.'s third disc is a crucial record that will still rock your world.

By 1986, Run-D.M.C. had already put out two very respectable discs, Run-D.M.C. and King of Rock, in which they dabbled in loud guitars and served up spare beats with a new, more forceful style of rap delivery. But Raising Hell is the first great hip-hop album, a cohesive whole rather than a collection of a couple of hit singles plus filler. The tone is set by "Peter Piper," a track whose bell-ringing beat has become part of hip-hop's pantheon of greatest breaks. The rhymes, a riff on various fairy tales, are almost comically tame by today's rap standards, but Run and D.M.C. ride perfectly over the groove.

Run-D.M.C.'s guitars stopped being a gimmick on Raising Hell. The album's minimalist beats and simple but deft sampling and scratching allow plenty of space for the hard rock to really scream. And scream it does: The title track throws down an AC/DC-type riff that adds bombast to the boastful rhymes. "It's Tricky" cribs the guitar part from the Knack's "My Sharona," a fatuous New Wave song, and turns it into vital street art.

Most notoriously, Raising Hell upped the rap-rock ante when the Queens trio brought in Aerosmith to sing and play on an updated version of the Seventies rock anthem "Walk This Way." The song worked uncannily well -- rapper Run transformed singer Steven Tyler's arena-rock scat into totally convincing hip-hop, just as he transformed Mother Goose into hip-hop on "Peter Piper." The song catapulted Raising Hell into the Top Ten, and the album eventually sold more than 3 million copies, attracting white suburban kids by the busload to rap. (The song also served as a retirement plan for Run-D.M.C.; the trio is currently touring with Kid Rock and Aerosmith.) With Raising Hell, Run-D.M.C. also opened the doors for rappers and rockers who followed, from the audio assault of Public Enemy (as Chuck D once pointed out in song, "Run-D.M.C. first said a DJ could be a band") to the latter-day rap-metal fusion of artists like Limp Bizkit and beyond. Most important, though, Raising Hell still kicks butt.

(RS 904 - September 5, 2002)

Track List

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