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Old School Archives

How Run DMC's debut album changed America forever

Sometimes albums can reverberate around the social consciousness for years. Sometimes, they can even transcend generations. Other times, on very rare occasions, those albums can change the very fabric of their society. Run DMC‘s self-titled debut album is one of those LPs.

But how do you quantify the greatness of an album? Do you measure the strength of the songwriting; the use of new and pioneering technology; the number of hit singles it produced? Or, perhaps you examine the impact the album had on other musicians; tracing the DNA of an album and seeing what it morphs into.

Combined, all of these methods of measurement are bound to lead us in the right direction. But there is another important and unignorable parameter: the impact music can have on a nation.

Since the 1920s, America has been one of the most important breeding grounds for musical innovation anywhere in the world. At the same time, it has absorbed a wide variety of music from elsewhere, music which has gone on to redefine the country’s image of itself. There’s no greater vision of this definition than in the real of hip hop, arguably the country’s greatest musical export.

The late 1970s and early ’80s saw the arrival of a new era-defining genre: hip-hop. At the vanguard of this revolutionary blend of beats and creative MCing was the Godfather himself, Grandmaster Flash. But it wasn’t until Run DMC‘s self-titled debut that the genre really hit the mainstream, sparking a craze that endures to this day.

Both musically adventurous and lyrically dexterous, Run DMC bought the poverty and crime at the urban heart of modern American life front and centre. Not only were the group’s verses intoxicatingly catchy, but they also confronted some of the most pressing issues plaguing the US’s inner cities.

With lines like: “Unemployment at a record high/ People coming, people going, people born to die,” Run DMC lay the foundations for a whole generation of political rappers, Including Public Enemy and NWA.