Indeed, the harder the beats and attitude the deadly trio laced in the grooves, the more suburbia wanted to be down with these kings. Managed by Run’s brother and main supporter Russell Simmons, the awe-inspiring Run-DMC defined a new level of Black cool for the world. With a sonic canon that includes their self-titled debut disc, as well as King of Rock, Raising Hell and Tougher Than Leather, the illustrious group stayed at the top of the pop charts for most of the ‘80s. Although these brothers from separate mothers stopped recording in 1999 with the release of their last disc Crown Royal, Run-DMC has never become irrelevant in the eyes of the Hip-Hop Nation.
The first release on the newly formed Russell Simmons Music Group (RSMG), Run says, “I didn’t play anything for Russ until I recorded eight songs. When he did finally hear the tracks, he started sweating and almost fainted. Then he screamed, ‘My brother’s still got it. ’ He couldn’t believe how crazy the tracks and flow were on the album. Russell knew that Rev had struck gold. God has allowed me to recapture those yesterdays on Distortion.”
“Run-DMC knocked open the doors to commercial freedom for the rap generation,” stated Russell Simmons. “Their very best efforts were big in the streets and were ahead of their time when it came to the mainstream. The music from Rev Run on Distortion is honest; it’s creative, special and refreshing. He’s being true to himself.”
While Run now spends the majority of his time with building the foundations of his church and family, working closely with big bro Rush at Phat Farm and taping his television show Run’s House, he started feeling the urge to once again verbalize in the studio.
Though Run could have surrounded himself with a posse of popular sideman (i.e. Carlos Santana on Supernatural), he boldly chose to roll alone in front of the microphone. Beginning with conceiving a concept for Distortion, he knew he wanted to do his own thing and sound like himself. He made a point of being true to Run. “After checking out a bunch of producers, I did a lot of soul searching and finally settled on a direction.” says Run. “I decided to let go of any new school sounds. There is no Tim or Pharrell, just me and producer Whiteboy. I was not listening to any A&R person; I just waited for God to show me a sign of which route to take.
Producer Whiteboy, a virtual unknown, was recruited to work with Run. “I really wanted to create something hot for a man who was one of my rap heroes,” says Whiteboy, who produced the majority of Distortion. “Watching Run work in the studio was an amazing experience. There was not a lot of fooling around, because Run knew exactly what he wanted. Run and I would be in the studio from 11 to 4. Run would come in, do his job well, then leave.”
Citing the raw dawg track “Boom Ditty” as his favorite, Whiteboy adds, “I call the sound of this record Tough Fun, because we used a lot of big drum loops and aggressive sounds, but one can hear in Run’s vocals he was having the time of his life.”
Breathing fire as though bringing 1988 back, Distortion is a towering inferno of funky drummers, blazing guitars and quirky vocal styling that ranges from fierce to furious to a whole lot of fun. As Run informs the listeners on “Boom Ditty,” a big beat boast that instantly restores the faith any naysayer might be feeling, “I got rhymes so def and rhymes galore, rhymes you never even heard before.”
Dropping textual jewels about his late friend Jam Master Jay on the touching “ Home Sweet Home,” brother Run samples the country bumpkin funk of Lynyrd Skynyrd to create a beautiful autobiographical song of their life together. “Jay was the kind of dude who would give you his last dime,” Run says. “I was determined to create a song that would enrich the man’s legacy.”
Working on Distortion, Run put himself and producer Whiteboy on a tight timetable. “I would go to the office in the morning and then be in the studio by 11 a.m. and out by 4 p.m.,” Run recalls. “Whiteboy and I worked so fast, sometimes I was running to the booth while he was still looping the track.”
Another track that harks back to the days of Cazel frames and shell-toe sneakers while firmly grounded in 2005 is the head nodding “I Used to Think.” Filled with verbal images of beepers scattered on the floor after a show, battling the rap competition with nothing but words and “making money just to throw in the air,” Run acknowledges that though he was “the greatest,” none of that really mattered once the real King stepped into his life.
It’s a subject Run revisits on the bombastic “The Way,” perhaps the hardest track on a disc that makes Black Sabbath sound soft. “I got a way with my lady and a way with the wino/preaching like a preacher, healing people with the vinyl,” Run proclaims, his boisterous voice a dope mixture of compassion and brimstone.
In an era of soft soul samples and electro music, Run has come back to the game bearing one of the hardest rap records ever made. On Distortion, Run has not lost the musical passion or verbal chops that once made him the most popular rapper in the world. For those sitting in the hip-hop con gregation, this is the disc you have been waiting for. Once again, brothers and sisters, Hollis is in the house.