As we start this new journey on 7-Day Music Club, I felt the best place to start was at the beginning. For me, the true joy of music, discovery, and finding my own taste started with Run-DMC’s Raising Hell.
Not only was was Raising Hell the first cassette I bought with my own (10th birthday) money – purchased at K-Mart in Lockport, NY shortly after release in 1986 – but it was the first album I listened to repeatedly, memorizing all of the lyrics. It was also the first record I bonded with friends over: my friend Alex and I would listen repeatedly in his bedroom or while playing Sega Genesis – we’d each take turns being Run or DMC, nailing our parts as we went through each song.
The love of Run-DMC evolved creatively as well – we eventually started writing our own raps as Run-PVD (as creative a name as you could expect from a 10-year old) with our friend Eric. We even performed in the hall for our 5th grade student teacher the following school year.
The discovery of Hip-Hop was universe expanding for me in many ways – especially after a childhood of exposure to classic and yacht rock via my parents. Run-DMC led me to LL Cool J’s Bigger and Deffer, the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill, and the Fat Boys’ Crushin’. From there: Public Enemy, Slick Rick, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Erik B. & Rakim, Nas, BDP, 3rd Bass, Black Sheep, Digital Underground, the D.O.C., Geto Boys, Ice Cube, Young MC, and Digable Planets. I was hooked.
My love for Hip-Hop has only grown over time. Today my faves include: Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Jay-Z, Run the Jewels, Joey Bada$$, Saba, Schoolboy Q, Earl Sweatshirt, A$AP Rocky, and many more.
Raising Hell Facts
Released: May 15, 1986 in the U.S.
Album peaked at #6 in US Billboard 200 in 1986 and #1 in US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.
US Billboard Singles: 'Walk this Way' peaked at #4 (1986), You Be Illin' at #29 (1986), and It's Tricky at #57 (1987)
The first platinum and multi-platinum rap album.
Highlights From My Focused Listen & Reflection
1. "Peter Piper" – 3:23
Wow, that drum and cowbell combo, sampled from Take Me To The Mardi Gras by Bob James, is so iconic. The lyrics, relying so heavily on nursery rhymes and fairy tales, made for a relatable introduction (for a 10-year old, at least) to the album.
2. "It's Tricky" – 3:03
We are not thugs (we don't use drugs) but you assume (on your own)
They offer coke (and lots of dope) but we just leave it alone
It's like that y'all (y'all), but we don't quit
You keep on (rock!) shock! cause this is it...
As a ten year old, drugs and alcohol weren't really a thing yet, but these lyrics did influence me as a young person. I didn't drink alcohol until I was 21 and I've (still) never done drugs. Hardcore music and straight edge helped me get through the teenage years, but hearing this early on definitely had an impact.
Easily identifiable samples: Mickey by Toni Basil and My Sharona by The Knack
3. "My Adidas" – 2:47
One of my favorites. This song definitely sparked my desire for Adidas in elementary school. For the record, I had black with white stripes.
Got a pair that I wear when I'm playin ball
With the heel inside, make me 10 feet tall
4. "Walk This Way" – 5:09
Given my childhood to date, I was obviously familiar with Aerosmith, so this song was a weird mix of familiarity and something so new.
The Walk this Way video sums up my relationship with music and Run-DMC as a whole for me at that point in time: my parents were obviously Aerosmith playing their music loud and I was rebelling against it, experimenting with my own tastes, and putting my own spin on things. Such a good video.
5. "Is It Live" – 3:07
6. "Perfection" – 2:52
7. "Hit It Run" – 3:10
Now how devastating can an MC be?
My name is Darryl, but you can call me D
Hit it Run!
One of the hardest/toughest songs on the album. Run kicks it with some fast, aggressive beat boxing, while DMC’s rhymes don’t hold anything back… it’s certainly a precursor for modern day Hip-Hop music.
8. "Raising Hell" – 5:32
The title track continues the momentum started on Hit it Run — this time with an awesome metal-influenced guitar riff. Had Walk this Way not been a single, this track would have gotten way more attention.
The lyrics to start the track were some of my favorites:
Kings from Queens from Queens come Kings
We're raisin hell like a class when the lunchbell rings
The king will be praised, and hell will be raised
S-s-s-suckers try to faze him but D won't be fazed
So what's your name? D.M.C.! The King is me!
Your High-ness, or His Majesty!
Now you can debate, you c-c-c-concentrate
But you can't imitate D.M.C. the Great!
9. "You Be Illin'" – 3:26
Man, this song! I vividly remember doing this song with Alex in his dining room area. Such fun, corny lyrics… how can you not enjoy this song?
(To)day you won a ticket to see Doctor J
Front row seat (in free!) no pay
Radio in hand, snacks by feet
Game's about to start, you kickin' popcorn to the beat
You finally wake up, Doc's gone to town
Round his back, through the hoop, then you scream "Touchdown!"
You be illin'
10. "Dumb Girl" – 3:31
This song could easily be a Beastie Boys song on Licensed to Ill. The Rick Rubin and tour connection certainly could have influenced the writing and production.
11. "Son of Byford" – 0:27
12. "Proud to Be Black" – 3:15
Listen to Raising Hell
On Apple Music
Buy the Vinyl
Support your local record shop! But if not, here are a few online options:
What was your first record, cassette, or CD?
— Jason (@endonend)