Complex: Run-DMC’s Darryl McDaniels Reflects on ‘Raising Hell’ and Intimidating Music Buyers in ’86

BY CHAZ KANGAS

This week, Run-DMC​’s groundbreaking classic album Raising Hell turns 30. An important moment for everyone with even a passing interest in hip-hop, it’s a milestone DMC himself nearly forgot about. It’s understandable, since he’s having a busy 2016. He’ll be releasing a new book, Ten Ways to Not Commit Suicide; a new comic book from his Darryl Makes Comics imprint; a new single entitled “Flames” with Myles Kennedy and Disturbed’s John Moyer; and somehow making time to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Felix Organization, a non-profit he co-founded that helps send foster children to the arts-inclusive Camp Felix.

Still, the Devastating Mic Controller found time to speak with Complex about Raising Hell’s legacy.

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It’s hard to underestimate the way Raising Hell influenced hip-hop since its release in 1986. But most visible is the crossover success of “Walk This Way.” Were there any other potential unexpected reinterpretations on the table?
It was Rick Rubin’s suggestion to do “Walk This Way” as the version that y’all hear on the record. Me and Run’s version of “Walk This Way” would have been with a typical hip-hop sample and talk about how good we were. We didn’t even know the song was called “Walk This Way.” We would say, “Pull out Toys in the Attic and play four.” Rick walked in the studio while we were already sampling it during an early session at Chung King Studios, and he suggested it might be cool if [we] did the record over as is. Me and Run hated the idea. Jay, rest in peace, said it might be dope. It was hillbilly gibberish country bumpkin rap, and so far from us even to understand it would work for MCs. Me and Run were crying, “Y’all are taking this rap-rock shit too far.” But it was Jay who said, “Slow down, don’t perform these lyrics the way Steven Tyler performed them. If y’all do those lyrics the way Run-DMC would do them with the signature switch-off/emphasis/overdub thing that you do.” Me and Run did it that way and it worked.

Remember, on Raising Hell, we had a rock song called “Raising Hell.” That was supposed to be the one following in the steps of “Rock Box” and “King of Rock.” I never wanted the b-boy thing to die. Remember, before “Rappers Delight,” before Sugar Hill and Enjoy Records, the only thing in existence were the live tapes of Grandmaster Flash, Treacherous Three, Lovebug and the Crash Crew. Those were the only thing in existence and “Funky Drummer,” “Apache,” “Good Times,” “Heartbeat”—these were the jams the DJs were playing while the MCs were running their mouths using the echo-chamber. You can go to YouTube right now and find Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel, and Scorpio killing it in 1978, rapping over “Walk This Way” while Grandmaster Flash mixes it. When we were doing Raising Hell, the same way we did “Live at the Funhouse,” we knew we needed to have a routine with Jay spinning a beat and Run and D spitting like we would spit at the park. Jay was like, “We got to keep it b-boy. We need to make a record using one of the beats you like to run your mouths over.”[[

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