King of Rock

Album: King of Rock (1985)
Charted: 80 108
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Songfacts®:

  • The title track to Run-D.M.C.'s second album, "King of Rock" bubbled under on the Billboard Hot 100 at #108, marking their first appearance on the chart (their next single, "You Talk Too Much," made it to #107). It's impact, however, was far greater than the meager chart position suggests.

    With the first line, the group calls out the Sucker MCs they rapped about on their previous album and declares themselves the "King of Rock." Blondie's "Rapture" and The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" popularized the genre as "rap," but what they were doing was based on disco. Run-D.M.C. considered what they did to be rock, and they were the kings (with a nod to Afrika Bambaataa, who released "Planet Rock" in 1982). A song on their first album, "Rock Box," was the first popular song to combine rock guitar with rap. That one featured the session guitarist Eddie Martinez, who also played on "King of Rock."

    In an ironic twist, the next year the group's rappers had to be dragged kicking and screaming into a session to record a new version of "Walk This Way" with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith. Even though they had rhymed over the breaks from the song for years, they thought very little of it, with Run calling it "Hillbilly S--t" before producer Rick Rubin and their DJ, Jam Master Jay, convinced them of its merits. The resulting single was wildly successful, hitting #4 in the US and providing the template for future rock/rap collaborations.
  • There are no samples here. The music was created by Run (Joseph Simmons) and the group's producer, Larry Smith. Run was a drummer and could handle the DMX programming, while Smith was the mastermind behind the melodic hip-hop sounds of Kurtis Blow and Whodini. D.M.C. (Darryl McDaniels) also got a songwriting credit on this one, as he came up with the concept of the song and contributed lyrics.
  • The first video Run-D.M.C. made was for "Rock Box," which became the first rap video on MTV. For "King of Rock," the group shows up at the "Museum of Rock n Roll," where they are met by a security guard who tells them, "you guys don't belong in here." They storm past him and proceed to desecrate the place, pulling the plug on a TV showing Jerry Lee Lewis, and stepping on Michael Jackson's glove before coming to an exhibit they approve of: their video for "Rock Box." The group made the video because they felt disrespected and wanted to make a brazen statement to answer the constant question they kept answering: "Is rap a fad?"

    The video proved remarkably prescient, as The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum opened in 1995. In 2009, Run-D.M.C. were inducted.
  • The security guard in the video was played by Calvert DeForest, who was doing a character he portrayed on Late Night with David Letterman: Larry "Bud" Melman.
  • The line, "It's not Michael Jackson and this is not Thriller" coincides with stepping on the Jackson glove in the video. Run-D.M.C. took some heat for disrespecting Jackson, but according to Darryl McDaniels, they met Michael a few times and he was fine with it.
  • Run-D.M.C. performs this in the beginning of the 1985 movie Krush Groove. Other films to feature the song include CB4 (1993) and Cop Out (2010).

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