Run-D.M.C.'s status as one of the most iconic acts in the history of Hip-Hop is well-documented and undeniably cemented. But when most fans reference the legendary group's body of work, the focus tends to stay squarely on their classic 80s run.
That is completely understandable; no one was bigger in the Reagan era than the groundbreaking trio from Hollis, Queens who stormed the charts with hits like "King of Rock" and "It's Tricky." But, although it was undeniably uneven, Run-D.M.C.'s 90s work merits a revisit.
Throughout the 1990s and early 00s, Run-D.M.C. worked with a litany of fellow legends, from Jermaine Dupri to Naughty By Nature to the Bomb Squad and Jagged Edge. So here are ten songs from Run-D.M.C.'s latter years that any fan needs to add to their playlist.
If you ain't got 'em already.
No one is going to confuse 1990s Back From Hell for a lost classic; but the oft-maligned album has some bright spots. One of which is this party anthem, which features the rap vets getting raucous without the rock riffs that made them famous in the mid-80s. Same energy, different sound.
The Kings of Queens found themselves on the soundtrack to Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (released as a companion CD called The Beavis and Butt-Head Experience) and decided to deliver a quasi G-Funk slow-roller. It works a lot better than you may think it would, even if the intro drops you right back into Beavis-and-Butt-Head mania of the mid-90s. Do you need TP for your bunghole?
Crown Royal may have had it's fair share of difficulties getting made (D.M.C.'s vocal problems; a period of creative disunity between he and Run; and a bevy of guest stars) but the album's best moments are truly inspired. The title track is a great example: it's a bombastic, operatic and the perfect final call for Run-D.M.C.'s discography.
"Ooooh Whatcha Gonna Do"
After the critical and commercial disappointment of Back From Hell, Run, Dee and Jam-Master Jay decided to go in a different direction three years later. Adopting a more explicitly hardcore image, the Down With the King album erased the bad taste of ...Hell with tracks like this street-focused banger.
"It's Over" feat. Jermaine Dupri
Another highlight from Crown Royal, Jermaine Dupri's slick production deftly merges the classic thump of 80s Run-D.M.C. with Y2K gloss, as Run gets verbose over the beat and J.D. plays hypeman. Their combined energy pushes the song into the group's upper echelon of latter-day cuts.
"Hit 'Em Hard"
The legends collaborated with Naughty By Nature on this album cut from Down With the King and that Jersey's trio can be felt throughout the track. Kay Gee's piano-driven brand of hardcore production fit Run-D.M.C. so well, you kind of wish they'd done more together.
"What's It All About?"
One of Run-D.M.C.'s most explicitly topical songs (and thanks to Run-D.M.C.'s F-bomb laced outro, one of their most explicit, period), this rollicking track from Back From Hell is carried by an all-time great sample of "Fools' Gold" by the Stone Roses.
"Queens Day" feat. Nas, Prodigy
Queens is in the building! Nas and Prodigy drop by to help Run lay it down for the borough where it all began. It's a Queensbridge/Hollis collaboration that should get way more love. Everybody shines here.
"Let's Stay Together (Together Forever)" feat. Jagged Edge
Take a little smooth R&B, add a dash of "It's Like That," and you've got a beautifully sentimental ode to the group's legacy. This ballad didn't sound anything like what Run-D.M.C. was famous for, but it captures the group paying homage to its history and the bonds of three men who changed the world. After the senseless murder of Jam-Master Jay in 2002, it became a sort of elegy for a group that gave us so much.
"Down With the King"
Some songs are just undeniable. Run-D.M.C. got the proverbial shot in the arm their career needed when Pete Rock laced the legends with one of his best beats. Boasting a reverential guest appearance from Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth and bursting with religious references and bravado, it's the crown jewel of latter-day Run-D.M.C. and arguably their last bonafide classic single--not to mention the second biggest chart hit of their career.