The story of Run-DMC anthem ‘It’s Tricky’
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The story of Run-DMC anthem 'It's Tricky'

Run-DMC was one of hip-hop’s most beloved crews. Rising to prominence in the 1980s alongside crews such as Public Enemy and The Beastie Boys, Run-DMC were loved for their ability to fuse hip-hop with other genres and were ultimately responsible for crossing hip hop into the mainstream. Known as hip hop’s first mainstream group, Run-DMC were definitely ahead of the curve with their music.

With the crew’s rise to fame commencing during the mid-1980s boom-bap era, Run-DMC’s mainstream commercial success was almost instant when they released their debut single ‘It’s Like That/Sucker MCs’ and from there, continued to grow with their Aerosmith collaboration remaining legendary unto this day.

The crew’s first and second albums would lay the foundation for artists and crews alike to start experimenting with hip-hop more and breaking free of the creative restrictions placed upon artists by hip-hop purists. 

One of the crew’s most legendary hits is ‘It’s Tricky.’ Released in 1987, the Rick Rubin-produced track was released as the fourth single for the trio’s third album, Raising Hell. Although the track only peaked at number 57 on the Billboard Hot 100, it became an anthem in the culture.

In an interview with Consequence Of Sound, DMC (real name Darryl McDaniels) spoke about the making of the song. “[Whilst] making the Raising Hell album, we always tried to stay unique, which was easy because all of the things Run-DMC did, we did all of those things before we were signed to a record deal. You know, sometimes a band comes out a certain way, but when they get on a label, they sound different, and there’s a different look there.”

He continued, “But we said when we get this record deal, we’re not gonna change; we’re gonna do everything we were doing in the park when we were 15. So ‘Tricky’ was basically a rhyme routine we had! It was one of the rhymes I wrote in my basement. The reason why it became a record is ’cause when we came out with our album, everybody was saying, ‘This ain’t no real music. They don’t compose. They don’t write’, and I took it personally!”

Revealing the inspiration, McDaniels concluded, “I wanted to write a rap that a 54-year-old white lady in Wisconsin could sing, so part of the inspiration came from…there was this song out by Toni Basil called ‘Mickey.’ What she was doing fit my phrase ‘It’s Tricky,’ so we wrote a record to let people know yeah, we’re not singing like Freddie [Mercury], we’re not composing like Beethoven, but this ain’t easy!”

You can hear the full story of ‘It’s Tricky’ by Run-DMC below.