I Cut The Head Off The Devil And I Throw It At You

Just listen while I’m dissin’ cause you’re pissin’ me off

You gotta love Run DMC.  No that’s not a figure of speech, it’s a command – I, 1537, do hereby decree that YOU have to love Run DMC on pain of excommunication from the flock.  The 7″ of Run DMC Walk This Way, was the third (and arguably the best ever) single I bought, back in September 1986, hell I’d never heard of Aerosmith then.  It was such a perfect hybrid of rock and rap, two great raw genres screwing with each other for kicks – not that I gave a shiny shit at the time, it had a great tune and made me want to freak out, dance and smash stuff up which was all I cared about.  I also loved the story that the band’s involvement came via Rick Rubin contacting them because he couldn’t decipher the lyrics.

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Run DMC’s Raising Hell was an album I got to hear early thanks to my dad being part of a postal tape lending library – it was my pick.; I only picked up my vinyl copy in 2001.  I can still remember hearing it for the first time, loving ‘It’s Tricky’ and loving all the extra bits on the album version of ‘Walk This Way’.  It sounded incredibly alien and exotic to me then, aged 14, listening to it in a farmhouse in rural Wales and totally unlike anything else I’d ever heard before.  It wasn’t just the beat boxes, beat boxing and the delivery, it was the words – I can remember puzzling over the various bits of New York hip-hop slang and American references, night and day for years with Run DMC and, slightly later on, The Beastie Boys and Public Enemy.  Bits of it fox me still.

Listening to Raising Hell today is interesting, there are bits of genius, mixed up with bits of the merely very good and straight filler.  What still comes over though is just how new and exciting this all was, how Run DMC were starting to add real substance and textures to all the beats and rhythms, to take the music further.  Russell Simmins and Rick Rubin (who also plays kick ass guitar on the title track) take a bow!  It’s well-documented how much of a rock nut Rubin was and just by mixing his own personal tastes together, he created such a damn exciting hybrid.  These early mixtures of rock and rap have always, and continue to, thrill me.

The closest I could get to a Run DMC hat
The closest I could get to a Run DMC hat

But Run DMC weren’t just formless dummies just waiting to be shaped by a pair of budding genius producers, their delivery is just absolutely flawless throughout.  The best example of this to my mind is ‘It’s Tricky’*, the flow is brilliant, the ‘My Sharona’ sample perfectly chosen; ever tried to rap along with this? I have and like countless sucker MC’s before me, I pretty much put myself in the larynx ward of the local hospital.  It’s just judged perfectly, the bragging never strays the wrong side of cuddly and you can hear them really enjoying themselves.  ‘My Adidas’ is still, 28 years later, the reason I always choose Adidas when it comes to trainers – although I keep the laces in mine.  ‘Walk This way’, as I may have mentioned and as I’m sure you don’t need telling, is a transcendent moment of cross-genre genius and the good news is that the LP version is even longer.

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After the filler that closes the first side we, umm, hit ‘Hit It Run’, which tempers more good-natured boasting with some hilarious beatboxing, again it just stops everything getting too serious; they get 1537 bonus points for rhyming ‘Every race, place, colour, country, county or creed’ with ‘Emceed’.

The track ‘Raising Hell’ used to be the heaviest 5 minutes of music I owned, by far; possibly until Queen II came my way.  I have to confess it elicited some spontaneous air guitaring from me just now too, much to my daughter’s alarm.  I love their anger on this track, when they threaten to decapitate Satan they mean it, man!  Much as I loved and lived, the later, Licensed To Ill it never had a track that could hold its head up to ‘Raising Hell’.

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Fond as I am of the goofy ‘You Be Illin’, it all goes a bit downhill again towards the end.  I love the sentiments and lyrics of ‘Proud To Be Black’ but just like Public Enemy’s later ‘Party For Your Right To Fight’, it’s a groove in need of a worthy tune.

You read about Malcolm X – in the history text
Jesse Owens broke records, Ali broke necks
What’s wrong with ya man?  How can you be so dumb?

Somewhere deep in a suitably super villain-esque lair THE MAN, thought ‘Hmm, this rap stuff, even white kids like it now, I can make tons of cash from it’ and popular music shifted a little on its’ axis.

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Raising Hell doesn’t quite stand up the way slightly later LPs like It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back and 3 Feet High And Rising do, but as the artists concerned always admitted, Run DMC built the foundations for it all**.  It’s value isn’t just as a historical artefact though, it’s a joyous, slightly padded out delight – just like me.

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350 Down.

*I never liked opener ‘Peter Piper’.

**I know I’m simplifying grossly, but it’s broadly true in a late 80’s context.  Eric B and Rakim will be dealt with later.

38 thoughts on “I Cut The Head Off The Devil And I Throw It At You

  1. Really wonderful essay and such a fun album to listen and groove along to. For me Walk This Way sort of worked the other way around than its original purpose – I was a big hip-hop fan and it introduced me to Aerosmith’s 70’s work. I love both versions of the song now, albeit in different ways.

  2. Big shout-out for the DMC from here. Oh baby they are the greatest.

    Agreed on the Beasties too, Mike. Simply cannot go wrong with either of them…

    Looking forward to the Eric B and Rakim. 😉

      1. What got me to change my mind about a lot of rap music was when guys like the Beasties and the Roots demonstrated how much musicality goes into those records. As a young jaded rock fan I assumed they all just took other people’s songs and rapped over them. MC Hammer didn’t help that assumption, since he took entire Prince songs.

      2. Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E also kicked considerable amounts of ass during that period too. They remain my fave American-Samoan rappers, to date. They had a couple of seriously heavy tunes.

      3. I think too many is when you find yourself sizing up objects in your house and thinking ‘if I got rid of this sofa/fridge/fireplace I could put some more shelving in there’.


      4. Oh Dude. You cannot use MC Hammer as a measuring stick for anything. Not haircuts, not pants, and certainly not rap music.

        I’d also recommend A Tribe Called Quest, which I think was on 1537 not long ago. They’re great.

        I’d also recommend about half of 2Pac’s career. Not the half where he was posturing about rolling with his homies and guns and generally being a douchebag. No, I mean the other half, where he actually had rel things to say, and respect for women and a more positive outlook and message.

        As for furniture, Dudes, seriously. I look at at our stuff all the time and consider shelving in all sorts of configurations. My thinking goes like this: more shelves = more space for new tunes = increased potential for enlightenment.

      5. One more and then I’ll stop, I swear… we canot forget US3. I bought a couple of their records fro the 3-for-$10 bin in Taranna on our last trip (I think I own 3 of their albums now), and they’re fantastic. It’s jazz and hip-hop together. Great flow, really creative stuff. I could listen to that anytime.

      6. I don’t know US3 at all, but you’ve made them sound like Digable Planets who I used to like a lot.

        I’d also recommend Goats, their Tricks of the Shade LP was immense and I saw them play with Bad Brains hundreds of years ago.

  3. I’m fairly new to the rap game. Rap was the enemy when I was young, but more recently some friends have shown me the way and I have started to buy things like classic Beastie Boys albums. This sounds right up my alley, too.

    I was exactly the opposite to you. I knew Aerosmith, because they had that video (Let the Music Do the Talking) where the guitar player (Joe Perry) has that clear plexiglass guitar, and I had never seen anything cooler than that in my life. So basically, that guitar was what made me an Aerosmith fan. Thank God it wasn’t CC Deville holding that guitar.

    But back to this one, I recognize the names of many of the cuts, so that has to be a good sign.

    1. Find the track ‘Raising Hell’ on whatever you Canadians use instead of Spotify! I guarantee you’ll like it – honest!

      You gotta love the guitar Joe Perry uses in the video for Walk This Way too – it couldn’t be more 80’s if it came with a free Cyndi Lauper!

      Trivia fact – you know who the rest of the band are in the video for Walk This Way?

      1. No I don’t have a clue? I know only Tyler and Perry from Aerosmith were in it, with the 3 dudes from DMC…

        Canadians use two tin cans with string. Sometimes, because of the amount of beer we consume, we only have aluminum cans. They don’t have the bass that tin has.

      2. They couldn’t afford the whole of Aerosmith so they ‘borrowed’ three members from 1/2 Canadian glam rockers and 1537-faves, Smashed Gladys.

        I might do Smashed Gladys’ LP ‘Social Intercourse’ next.

      3. Once you have listened to AC/DC’s ‘Let There Be Rock’ 47 times without ceasing, whilst chanting ‘Rickenbacker, Les Paul, Gibson Firebird’ without making a single slip-up – the Gods of Rock can grant you great insight.

        That and Wikipedia.

      1. In my dreams, I own one of those.

        Forgive my sodden memory, but I think there was a point where the mighty Flag had a drum set in the same clear material. Guitar and drums. So awesome.

      2. Wow. Ego Sensation of White Hills uses a clear bass and that rocks too – drums as well? quick invent a clear microphone and 1537 & The See-Thrus will take the charts by storm!

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