Before hip-hop was a billion-dollar industry, there were many obstacles it had to overcome. In the late-1970s and early-80s, rap music was the most popular genre among the youth of America’s inner cities. However, the establishment refused to accept it.
Hip-hop DJs got banned from playing at clubs, and MCs couldn’t get spins on the radio. However, slowly but surely, the culture began to overcome the hurdles put in place by the gatekeepers of the mainstream.
In 1982, John ‘Mr. Magic’ Rivas. Rivas, a member of Queensbridge crew Juice Crew, became the first DJ to host a hip-hop show on commercial radio. Named Rap Attack, the segment was a staple of WBLS, a wide-reaching station New York City station. However, during this period, there was a slew of legends getting doors slammed in their faces by clubs and mainstream radio stations.
Although hip-hop was popular among youth, they bought and listened to rap tapes on their boom boxes. Very few people of importance kept an eye on the sales of hip-hop vinyl and tapes. However, they were increasing at an unfathomable rate, and as the culture began to bleed out of just New York and Jersey, tastemakers began to account for sales.
When the establishment began to see the official sales of hip-hop tracks, it became apparent that the once-disregarded genre would have to appear on the charts based on the immense volume of units being sold by hip-hop labels. One record label in particular was dominating during the 1980s.
Founded in Rick Rubin’s NYU dormitory, Def Jam was the most potent label of the 1980s. Boasting artists such as LL Cool J, The Beastie Boys and Run-DMC, its roster was unstoppable. Rubin had a talent that knew no limits, and his rock-rap fusion production style brought hip-hop to a broader audience.
Run-DMC was the most significant collective of the 1980s and was a force to be reckoned with. Comprised of Rev Run, DMC and Jam Master Jay, the Queens-based trio took an underground movement to the mainstream. MCs such as Ice Cube, Nas, and Eminem have praised the group for their groundbreaking work.
One of Run-DMC’s biggest hits was ‘Walk This Way’, featuring Aerosmith. Produced by Rick Rubin, the trio didn’t initially want to record the track. However, the beatmaker knew that in order to bring hip-hop to the masses, it would be a good idea for the two groups to collaborate.
The 1986 track received critical acclaim and debuted at number four on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Run-DMC’s biggest hit. However, it wasn’t just a big moment for the trio. It was a huge moment for hip-hop as it was the first time a rap song had ever made an appearance in the top 10, and meant the dawn of a new era for the genre. You can hear the iconic song below.