Credentials: "It's Like That / Sucker MCs"
It's difficult to overstate the impact of Run-DMC on the trajectory of hip-hop. Put it like this: The release of the 12-inch single "It's Like That" / "Sucker MCs" on Profile Records completely changed the game. The A side picked up where "The Message" left off, talking about real life struggles of real people. But where Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five's story ended in tragedy, with a body used and abused and hanging dead in a cell—the artists themselves being harassed by cops—"It's Like That" was defiant and resilient.
War, crime, poverty, prejudice, ignorance, the bum eating out of a garbage can who once was your man? Run's response was as cold and hard as the streets of Hollis, Queens: "Don't ask me because I don't know why." And what about a solution? "Money is the key to end all your woes your ups your downs your highs and your lows/Won't you tell me last time love bought your clothes?"
These words defined rap's new world order, a cold hard cash philosophy that would prevail through Puffy's "All About The Benjamins" moment and remains unabated in this era of Young Money Cash Money Business. But Run-DMC also tempered this approach with advice to get educated, motivated, and avoid prejudice and bias. These were big ideas for a rap record, but side B of this epic single was arguably more significant.
"Sucker MCs (Krush Groove 1)" was a stylistic broadside against all forms of wackness. "Two years ago a friend of mine asked me to say some MC rhymes," Joseph "Run" Simmons intoned and suddenly the entire old school was swept away. Before long he was enjoying "Champagne, caviar, and bubble bath" even though he'd prefer to "Cold chill at a party in a B-boy stance." Run dispensed with all sucker MCs remorselessly: "So take that and move back catch a heart attack." And while Darryl "DMC" McDaniels and Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell were indisputably dope, there was also no disputing the fact that at the end of the day this was Run's house.
Honorable Mentions: Melle Mel, Jimmy Spicer, Rammellzee
Call him old school if you must, but Melle Mel was still handling his business in '83. The Furious Five's "New York New York" was a streetwise classic while "White Lines" remains the group's most modern-sounding record. Spitting cautionary tales of cocaine addiction over the beat from Liquid Liquid's "Cavern," Mel's booming baritone made a powerful case for his continued relevance.
Meanwhile, as Run-DMC proclaimed the cash money gospel, another Rush Management client, BK's own Jimmy Spicer rapped about the power of "Money (Dollar Bill Y'all)" and scored the biggest hit of his career, as well as one of the year's freshest records.
Rammellzee was more of a graf legend than an MC, but in 1983 he and K-Rob created "the holy grail of rap records." Rammellzee had a bone to pick with Jean-Michel Basquiat, who was a much more celebrated artist at the time. "Beat Bop" was originally planned to be cathartic a battle on wax, but in the end Basquiat did not rhyme on the record (although he did pay for the studio time and created the cover art). The far-out limited-edition single became an underground sensation and set the stage for the futuristic avant-garde expressions of hip-hop artists ranging from The Beastie Boys to Dr Octagon and MF Doom. —Rob Kenner (@boomshots)