Still got the rhyme after all this time

By John Russell

Even the oldest hip-hop cliches can come undone.

"Yo, yo, yo, it's Run D.M.C. in the place to be," says Darryl McDaniels (aka D. M.C.), one-third of the legendary New York rap group, by way of introduction.

And that place is?

"Uh, right now I'm on the Brooklyn/Queens expressway talkin' to you on my cellular phone, and the traffic is crazy. I've been stuck for a half-hour.

"But that's okay, 'cause I'll be seeing some wide open spaces real soon. I like New Zealand, it's a nice island. We'll be out there for Sweetwaters - Run D.M.C. is gonna make it very exciting."

In the mid-80s, Run D.M.C. - McDaniels, Joseph Simmons (Run) and Jason Mizell (Jam Master Jay) - were doing just that.

The trio released three invigorating albums - Run D.M.C., King of Rock and Raising Hell - and were the first rap outfit to be embraced on a major scale by a rock audience after recording Walk This Way with Aerosmith.

Knocked off their rap throne in the late 80s by artists such as Public Enemy and Eric B. & Rakim, Run D.M.C. have struggled to maintain any sort of profile in the past 10 years, becoming something akin to the Spinal Tap of hip-hop.

The trio were returned to the public eye midway through last year, when house music producer Jason Nevins recorded a remix of Run D.M.C's debut single It's Like That, which topped singles charts worldwide.

"I didn't even have to open my mouth to have a No 1 record," says McDaniels.

"When that record came out, we were on the road doing 15 shows a month. Now we can ask for more money and do 25 shows a month. It was a good set-up to introduce Run D.M.C. to a new crop of fans."

Although McDaniels considers Run D.M.C. to be "back in the game," he has no time for today's most popular rappers and listens to "nothin' but Public Enemy."

The rappers of the late 90s place too much emphasis on profit and too little on making music, he says.

"Rappers today have to understand, they weren't born with skills just to make money, they were blessed with the skills of creativity.

"When we came out it wasn't about makin' money and buyin' fancy cars, it was about who had the best rhymes and the best DJ. Right now, the competition is about who is gonna sell the most records.

"That's one of the reasons why Run D.M.C. is still one of the groups from the early 80s that is still around, because we're not rhyming for the money, the fortune or the fame. We do rap the way it was done before rappers started selling records."

Back from obscurity they may be, but it's difficult to equate McDaniel's bravado with Run D.M.C.'s present situation. The group are without a record deal and haven't released an album in several years.

McDaniels has a simple if rather odd explanation.

"Any artist that is in the game seven years or more, they don't have to do nothin' because they have got the right formula and they are just bein' themselves.

"We might not have a record label but right now is the most exciting time of our career because we're doing 25 shows a month and we're going all over the world.

"It shows me that Run D.M.C. made our mark by not being a rap group that conformed to the ways of the industry. We stayed true to what we was doing back in the day and we hope to carry that feeling on forever."

Who: Run D.M.C.

Where: Sweetwaters Festival

When: Monday, January 25

Pictured: Run D.M.C

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