With so much of modern music consisting of sounds and styles that have been done before, it’s a rarity that we get to see a live concert by a group that was responsible for putting an entire genre of music on the map. But with Run-DMC — which heads to Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City for a one-off show 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30 — that is exactly what Atlantic City is going to get.
While the roots of rap music go back to the early ‘70s, it wasn’t until Run-DMC emerged in 1983 with their in-your-face style of new-school hip-hop that the world began to catch on. Tracks such as “She’s Tricky,” “My Adidas” and their legendary version of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” drove them to superstardom. Ultimately, the group that consisted of Joseph “Run” Simmons, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels and the late Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell would go on to be one of the most important and influential acts in the history of hip-hop, racking up various awards and honors along the way, including being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
We spoke with Simmons in advance of the big show.
A.C. Weekly: I know you guys aren’t touring right now, so how did this show at Hard Rock come to be?
Run: Well, you know every once in a while Darryl will say, “Let’s do something,” and, you know, if the offer comes and it’s right, we’ll take it. So we’ll do a couple of shows a year.
ACW: I would imagine with this just being a one-off show that makes it more special.
Run: It is a special show. My daughter is coming and she is bringing my grandson. I’ll get calls (about it) from my neighbors and a bunch of people that are around. I’ll run into people at the gym saying, “I heard you guys are going to be at the Hard Rock! Can I get tickets?” So it’s really exciting for everyone. It’s fun laughing with Darryl backstage, it’s fun saying, “What’s up D?” Cause we’re not kids anymore. I don’t go ring his bell anymore on 197th Street in Hollis (Queens) like I did when we were 18. But we were in London a couple weeks ago and it was great. I could feel the mischief of Run-DMC that is still there. D is still D.
ACW: You guys are one of the few hip-hop acts that regularly gets recognized for your contributions to the specific genre and to music in general. You are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and have won Grammys. How does it feel to be in that position as an artist?
RUN: It’s a great honor to be decorated like that. It’s a great feeling to know that what we did matters. Although I was watching a Jimi Hendrix documentary on Netflix and he said that (for him) all of those accolades and things like that were a distraction. That blew my mind, but I understood it on a certain level because ultimately stuff like that has nothing to do with your music. When I’m in the studio I’m supposed to be focused on the craft, scratching and writing rhymes and not thinking about being in the Library of Congress or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I just love that he called it “distracting!”
ACW: Does modern hip-hop still inspire you?
RUN: Yes! Drake — I love his sound. This artist Lizzo blew my mind too. I get inspired (by all kinds of things). I saw the movie “The Joker” and I loved him dancing on the steps. That touched me. There is this guy (actor Joaquin Phoenix) who has been acting all these years and there he is still taking it so seriously. And he had to fill some big shoes there in that role. And critics loved it and I loved it and I went home and picked up a pen and started writing rhymes because of the way he danced on the steps.
ACW: How much has the onstage vibe been affected over the years since to the absence of Jam Master Jay?
Run: It’s a different feeling. DMC and I both do solo things and for this show I am bringing my DJ and he is bringing his, so that adds something, but without Jay you feel it. We’re sad that we don’t have him. His presence was so huge and you hear the records and you remember Jay scratching on “Peter Piper.” He’s still there because the records that we dropped he made them with us, so that is really cool.
ACW: What can fans expect from the show at Hard Rock?
Run: It will be very energetic; we are still a very energetic band. And it will be full of the classics, you’ll hear “Peter Piper” and “My Adidas” and “Walk This Way.” You can jam to “It’s Tricky.” I mean the records carry us. The record comes on and it’s gonna do its thing even if we were doing karaoke (laughs). When “Tricky” drops, the crowd goes nuts!